There's A Lot To Love About A 'SAN-In-A-Box' - InformationWeek

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6/10/2010
07:13 PM
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There's A Lot To Love About A 'SAN-In-A-Box'

The idea of a "SAN in a box" might sound crazy. But a lot of vendors are making it a very practical approach for budget-minded SMBs.

The idea of a "SAN in a box" might sound crazy. But a lot of vendors are making it a very practical approach for budget-minded SMBs.Now, this is all a matter of perspective. It's not like you're going to walk into Best Buy and come out with a fully-functional SAN tucked under your arm. But given realistic expectations and a modest IT budget, you might be surprised at what you'll get.

First, you're wondering, "how modest a budget?" Right now, the answer is usually between $15,000 and $25,000 -- quite reasonable for a storage-area network solution.

The next question is what you'll get for the money. A typical SAN-in-a-box includes a SAN switch, host bust adapters, cables, and setup software. The higher-end offerings will also include an array and drives. And while companies offer both Fibre Channel and iSCSI solutions, the latter tend to be less expensive and more flexible -- and thus a better choice for SMBs.

According to this SAN-in-a-box guide, the wizard-based software setup process is designed to be simple -- to a point. If you or a staff member is comfortable working with other types of server hardware, you can probably handle this job, even without special storage networking experience.

Don't Miss: NEW! Storage How-To Center

A few caveats come to mind, though. First, understand that plugging an iSCSI SAN into an existing business network is a bad idea. You'll get lousy SAN performance, annoy your employees, and slow your file servers to a crawl. Be prepared to reconfigure your network accordingly -- a process that isn't necessarily expensive but could require additional time and effort to do right.

Second, lots of vendors now offer SAN-in-a-box solutions. Some of them are relatively open in terms of supporting other vendors' servers or storage arrays; some are not. Know what you're buying and what your options are for future expansion.

Finally, if you need a SAN but lack the in-house expertise to install one (or even think you lack it), why not pay a little more for a reseller to do it for you? For a minimal additional investment, you'll be sure the job is getting done right.

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