Storage is important to growing businesses. As there is more buzz and indeed actual use of hosted applications more storage is being placed online, through hosted applications like Flickr, Google Apps, Office Live and hundreds of other services. However, traditional, disk based (local) storage is equally and possibly more important for businesses.

Database transactions, employee records, customer project files, video files, images, email message, their attachments , and more will continue to be created, need to be stored locally and made available on a company network. This is where network storage options come into play.

Many smaller businesses start out with a traditional file server which all employees can access. This file server often hosts email and shared applications as well. As your storage needs grow, it’s important to have a more robust network storage solution that can grow with your business. 

Storage options

Network storage options include three main storage options: Direct Attached Storage (DAS), Network Attached Storage (NAS) and Storage Attached Network (SAN).

DAS, commonly used by smaller businesses for its low cost and ease of use, is external storage directly attached to a server or individual’s computer. Adding an external hard disk is the most common type of DAS. This solution is good, however, it relies on the computer it is connected to being on and available.

NAS is a very good option for growing businesses, who need an economical and relatively easy to manage solution. NAS , which is an array of hard drives directly attached to the network, is cheaper than most SAN solutions, and unlike DAS can more easily grow with your businesses storage needs.

SAN is its own storage network and can grow from a few hard disks to hundreds. It’s more expensive and complex than other storage solutions, but is ideal for larger enterprises with very large storage needs.

Your business and storage

If you find that from quarter to quarter your storage needs are pretty consistent and not growing, you’re probably just fine using a traditional file server. Maybe you run a small consulting business, a law firm, or sell used car parts. Your data storage needs are minimal and probably limited to email, web browsing and creating small, mainly text documents such as invoices.

However, let’s say you’re another law firm, even similar in employee size to the one whose needs are met by a traditional file server, but your storage needs are growing by gigabytes every quarter. Maybe you find that your legal cases are increasingly relying on large images and audio files. In this scenario your storage needs are quite different than the other law firm. You would need a scalable storage solution that can grow with your business, is easily managed and secure.

In this case you should consider a Network Attached Storage solution which, while economical, is robust, scalable and secure.

When deciding what storage needs are best for you think about what kind of information your generating? How fast you have grown in the past year?

According to a Dell storage expert, you want to invest in a storage system which can scale with for the next 5 years – and then double the size you purchase.

No matter what solution you invest in ensure your data is also backed up and can be recovered. In the event of a disaster, accidental data loss or hack attack your data is one of your most important corporate assets. Many businesses, have gone out of business, not just because of losing their physical business in a disaster but because they could not resurrect critical pieces of information or reach out to their customers.

Ramon Ray is editor & technology evangelist for Smallbiztechnology.com