7 steps to a storage assessment

Find a sponsor. Industry executives say an assessment project needs a champion from fairly high up in an organization. In addition to underscoring commitment to the project, a senior manager provides a view-from-the-top perspective. An assessment that fails to take into account an organization's goals runs the risk of irrelevancy.

Get support. Having friends in high places is a good start, but an assessment also needs to achieve support from different levels in an organization. EMC Corp. officials use a kickoff meeting to involve a variety of employees, said Jon Wehse, business continuity practice manager for EMC's federal division. Such a meeting may include systems, network and storage administrators and business unit executives.

Scope out high-level needs. At this stage, senior managers can help define basic storage needs, based on an organization's evolving mission and growth prospects. Dan Smith, enterprise technology consultant for GTSI Corp.'s storage technology team, refers to this step as executive-level requirements.

Assess the as-is state. This discovery phase takes an inventory of data and the devices on which it is stored. At this point, an organization can gain insight into storage utilization, backup and recovery capabilities, and storage management policies, or the lack thereof.

Envision the to-be environment. Here, officials determine the idealized future state of storage. This step will likely involve a compilation of detailed storage requirements, taking into account the performance and protection requirements of various data types and applications.

Analyze the gap. To avoid shelfware status, an assessment must provide a clear path to implementation. Analyzing the difference between the current and future states is a good place to start.

Generate recommendations. Specific recommendations are the ultimate product of a storage assessment. Here, executives advise against a one-fell-swoop approach. A phased implementation is the preferred approach in most cases.

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