How much cloud storage do you really need?

The unlimited ability to store data in the cloud is something of a dream come true for organizations that previously struggled to meet capacity requirements and keep up with fast-growing data stores, but lately, some new questions have arisen: How much cloud storage space do you really need? What data should you keep, and what should you throw away?

How can you evaluate your existing storage infrastructure to estimate your cloud storage needs? Answering these questions doesn’t have to be complicated; you just have to ask yourself what your needs are and be honest about the answers.

There are some basic cloud storage capacity planning questions that need to be answered. Rick Cook, a TechTarget writer, outlines the available capacity planning tools available and talks at length about how to best estimate your needs. He recommends asking five simple questions.

·      What data storage capacity planning tools do you have to help you?

There are a number of capacity planning tools, both free and available for a fee. One of the most commonly used is PerfMon, a performance monitoring utility built into Windows operating systems that can show total disk space and how much disk space is being used.

You could also develop your own statistics by pulling together a simple Excel spreadsheet, but it’s easier to use some of the purpose-built tools for the job. In addition, check out your existing storage management software to see whether or not it includes a tracking module.

There are also specialized capacity calculators available from OEM vendors: Dell's Data Center Capacity Planner is one online example. There are also a number of specialized program like Aptare StorageConsole Capacity Manager or Uptime software's capacity management tool that will give you a more detailed look.

·      What are your present data storage requirements?

This includes planning for the total storage capacity needed, not just the amount your system reports as available. If you're using RAID 10, Cook points out, you need twice as much disk space as you have data to allow for RAID 10's mirroring. He adds that you must also take redundancy into account.

·      How fast are your data storage needs growing?

The next step is to figure out your data storage growth rate, either monthly or annually, using any of the tools mentioned above.

If you have more than one class of storage, you need to make the calculations for each class separately. Cook said it's not unusual to find that less expensive, slower data storage classes are growing quickly while the more expensive and faster storage for mission-critical applications is growing relatively slower. In this case you should be able to save money by adding less, or no, fast storage while increasing the amount of slower, cheaper storage.

·      Are you planning any major expansions or modifications to your IT system?

Ask yourself if you are planning any major initiatives that will affect storage needs in the next year. That includes items such as system or server upgrades, adding employees, business expansion, etc.. You will have to estimate the effect that these future events will have on your data storage needs.

·      Are there places you can save capacity?

Looking for ways you can save capacity is optional, but highly recommended, Cook said. Simply switching from RAID 10 to RAID 5, for example, can save significant array space. Storage virtualization and thin provisioning can also yield more capacity by letting you put under-utilized storage to more efficient use. Plus, data deduplication and archiving older data have the potential to produce major savings in storage capacity.

In the end, according to Cook, asking yourself these questions will better help you map out your data storage capacity plans. Knowing the tools at hand you can use, your immediate storage requirements, your data storage growth rate, your plans for the future and exploring where you can save capacity and reduce data will make the data storage capacity planning process much simpler.

By Sharon Florentine

Sharon Florentine is a freelance writer who covers everything from data center technology to holistic veterinary care and occasionally blogs for Rackspace Hosting.

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