Network attached storage presents a world of possibilities

The storage market in an SMB context

The storage market is as saturated as any other in IT. The SMB customer can often be overlooked in the quest to grab large enterprise deals. SMBs have very different storage needs from their enterprise counterparts but the majority of offerings are suited to organisations with a minimum of 20 seats.

This effectively excludes the vast number Australian companies. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in June 2014, 61 per cent of actively trading businesses in Australia had no employees, 27 per cent had one to four, 10 per cent had five to 19, two per cent had 20-199, and less than one per cent had 200 or more.

Many of these sub-20 seat businesses are deploying Cloud solutions, most of them public Cloud. Companies such as Google and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have made tidy profits servicing this end of the market. There remains a large portion of the SMB market that has a need for on-premise infrastructure to act as a solitary storage solution or to augment other deployments such as public Cloud.

There are a number of on-premise solutions on the market that are targeted to SMBs. Most are designed for home use or are scaled-back enterprise grade solutions. SMBs need a storage solution that’s primed for use in high-bandwidth, high-capacity situations. This will ensure that as their business grows, they have a storage solution that can cope with increasing demand.

This is where the new breed network attached storage (NAS) from vendors like Seagate come in.

Depending on the level of requirement of each individual customer, resellers should look to deploy a solution that will suit the needs of the client now and offer them room to grow in the future. Seagate aims to equip them with just that on this journey.

The beauty of NAS is that it is designed from the ground up to be a scalable solution. If a client needs access by a limited number of users, then they are best to choose an entry level solution that will service all their backup and storage needs while allowing them to scale up the size or number of drives at any point with ease.

Alternatively if the storage needs move beyond simple backup, a system with more powerful compute capability will allow multiple users to access the drive at any one time. This is particularly important for collaboration and off site file sharing.

The Cloud,
on-premise and hybrid solutions how to find the best mix

IT deployments never operate in solitude. They form part of a much broader IT services solution and work in conjunction with other deployments either naturally or via third party applications or plug-ins.

For storage, this means on-premise deployments are used to complement other deployments such as Cloud. This trend first appeared in the enterprise space and

has been adopted quickly by the SMB market.

In a recent ARN Storage Roundtable, Netapp technical manager A/NZ, Matthew Swinbourne, commented that hybrid Clouds will become the dominant vision for enterprise IT.

This trend will certainly be mirrored in the SMB market due to the flexibility that hybrid offers for secure, on-premise backup and Cloud-based solutions that allow users access to their data anywhere they have an Internet connection.

A modern NAS solution, such as the Seagate NAS and NAS Pro series, acts as a customer’s own private Cloud. It allows users access to backups while they are on the move, with the assurance that it will be secure in their own environment, but available anywhere at any time.

Channel Dynamics senior consultant, Ian McLean, said in many instances SMB customers may not be comfortable enough with Cloud deployments to utilise the technology exclusively without any form of on-premise backup. For these companies NAS offerings are an ideal solution.

“From a channel insights perspective there are two key areas I would focus on.”

“Firstly is security versus ease of deployment, scalability and use. Most of the players in the SMB space want this stuff to be very easy. The challenge of attaining that ease is often that the security aspect of data and the privacy of data can be compromised. That’s particularly true when you start to look at some of the things that are happening around the Cloud as well.”

“That’s one aspect and an opportunity for resellers to get involved and make sure security issues aren’t missed.”

“The other issue is that storage is getting cheaper and devices are getting larger. It has become increasingly easy to add more storage as needed. The challenge becomes that as you get so much data as a business, how do you manage it?”

“I think there are definitely opportunities for the channel to manage that data, not just adding to it in duplicate or triplicate. In that manner of doing things, we are all guilty of storing more and more because storage is so easy to get a hold of,” he said.

Mclean agreed that for certain customers, especially those in rural or regional areas, Cloud solutions are not viable due to internet connection speeds. This is not necessarily due to the time it takes to backup a system, but rather the time it would take to recover lost data.

In such a scenario, if a customer had a drive failure they would have to contact their backup provider, the provider would then have to transfer the data to a disk and physically mail that disk to the customer. This could take in excess of a week in some areas, a scenario that would be unacceptable to many businesses.

“In the SMB space there is a lot of excitement around what the Cloud offers.

However, the traditional way of doing things is still valid and you have a lot of SMBs that don’t trust the Cloud and would prefer to work locally.”

“From that side of things it is going back to the traditional NAS side of things that are out there. The beauty of those devices these days is that they are a lot simpler. You’ve got a lot more security, you have RAID type security in some fairly base level devices.”

“I think that is the solution for many businesses and I think it will continue to be because for certain people, there is a hesitance in moving to Cloud.”

The benefits of NAS as a stand-alone or complementary storage solution.

NAS offers the end user an on-premise storage that is always on. The benefit is that it can act alone as a storage, backup or private Cloud.

The real benefit for many end users will be that a NAS solution will serve to augment existing or future Cloud deployments.

Certain customers may look to deploy an entry-level NAS product purely for backup and use public Cloud for collaboration such as file sharing. Others may choose to use their device as their private Cloud.

The real benefit of NAS is that, in most cases, it will fit seamlessly into existing architecture and help an organisation centralise its storage, backup or Cloud deployments. Anything that can run on a public Cloud will run on NAS.

This functionality was not possible even two years ago for all but the highest priced solutions.

Seagate Technology senior field applications engineer, Sam Zavaglia, has said all the latest Seagate NAS offerings feature the ability to download applications. This enables the NAS to become so much more than a backup and storage device.

“You can run a surveillance manager, antivirus, any third party apps that you can download from an app store. The more apps you have running, the more important it is to have a powerful processor.”

That’s why Seagate has scaled processor power throughout its range, to allow resellers to deploy the perfect solution no matter the workload.

Reseller opportunities and benefits for offering NAS solutions

As more of your SMB clients look to implement virtualised applications and stock up on storage, there has never been a better time to sing the virtues of a centralised network attached storage (NAS) solution from Seagate.

Fast performance is the key to any network storage device. The bottom line is, of course, affordability without missing out on scalability, reliability and high-performance – the power to deliver and store data securely.

EMC senior presales manager, James Sillence, said at a recent ARN Storage Roundtable that every technology, every architecture tends to have a superpower, but also tends to have a kryptonite.

“There is this concept that customers need choice. Fundamentally, one architecture doesn’t suit every opportunity; it doesn’t suit requirement and actually the customer has to be able to choose what architecture is going to suit their requirements.”

“IT’s about giving the customer choice so they can put their workloads on a platform which is going to meet their economic needs, their compliance needs, their scalability needs and their dollar per gig needs. It is about customer choice.”

Telsyte senior analyst, Rodney Gedda, said that resellers need to transition to a services-led play with a focus on annuity revenue in order to embrace the change in the storage market.

“We’ve got a situation where we have a growing amount of choice in how we procure our storage. It can be pure Cloud through a managed service, or it could be an on premise that’s delivered as a managed service in terms of the cost per service storage unit like a leasing arrangement.”

“Tomorrow’s reseller needs to balance the project work and the system integration work they’re used to (and built the business on) with a managed services approach and annuity revenue model.”

Sillence went on to say that the criteria for selecting storage can be simplified into two key continuums.

“One has performance at one end and capacity at the other. This generally leads to a discussion around $/IO versus $/GB.”

“The other continuum relates to the service level required, with continuous availability at one end and traditional backup and archive at the other.”

Sillence said that once an application has been plotted along these axes, it is much easier to map the requirements to a specific technology and can enable an informed discussion about the suitability of on-premise or off-premise provisioning.

It is for these reasons that vendors like Seagate offer service and support to partners to help optimise solutions for clients and maximise stickiness with the customer.

Key to a successful Channel

The key to all of this is a dialogue with the customer. The reason the channel has been a successful go-to-market strategy for so many vendors for such a long time is that resellers understand their market better than any multinational vendor ever could.

Each end user will have different needs depending on their type of business, the applications they deploy, backup requirements and availability needs. As we have seen, location is also a key factor in deploying a solution. If a user is metro-based but has staff or services in remote areas, Cloud deployments may be less effective.

Similarly if the user has concerns over Cloud for security or productivity reasons, an on-premise solution may still be very much the best way forward.

Resellers should take the time to investigate these individual needs in order to find the best solution that meets immediate needs and lays the groundwork for recurring revenue through managed services or value add.

By choosing to deploy a class-leading NAS offering like those from Seagate, resellers can be assured they are providing the best possible hardware and software combination to take their clients business to new levels of productivity, security and convenience.

The age of the box-dropper is well and truly behind us. No longer can resellers rely on proving themselves every time a refresh cycle comes around. They now need to do this on a daily basis as the solutions they deploy are under constant scrutiny.