Summary

As data volumes continue to increase, business growth hinges on having the ability to leverage all of this data. A cost-effective, flexible data storage solution is even more critical, enabling organizations to keep up with change and thrive.

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Imagine that you and your small family live in a town going through its first years of drought. Water is in such short supply that your municipal water rate goes up 20%. So you manage costs and conserve water by doing things like taking shorter showers and not watering the lawn.

Over the next three years, your family grows and the drought drags on. 

You’re in a pickle because your family needs more water and water is getting more expensive. So, you install water-saving fixtures and set up a rainwater harvesting system to supplement your supply. 

A few years later, the drought is so severe that the city is rationing water usage per household. You invest in larger storage tanks and develop a way to reuse greywater for non-potable applications like gardening. Without taking such measures, you risk running out of water or incurring high municipal water costs.

Just as you can’t adapt to changing conditions without developing a more sophisticated system, the same is true in data storage. 

As your data footprint grows, and how the business uses data becomes more complex, IT must adopt a more sophisticated data storage solution. One that is sustainable, scalable, cost-effective, and allows the business to access and process any data as fast as it needs.

What Worked in the Past Isn’t Enough Anymore

Managing the challenges of data growth isn’t new. What’s new is that data is now growing exponentially as new workloads like AI call for ever larger data sets. And the high costs, complexity, and latency of legacy storage means your existing infrastructure can no longer keep up with the needs of the business.

Just when your IT staff is asked to do more with less, you’re being hit from both sides. This makes typical cost-cutting solutions less effective. Consider these examples:

Moving from on Premises to the Public Cloud

In the past, you could reduce CAPEX by moving some of the costly on-premises storage to the cloud. But cloud storage has escalated so much that going hybrid no longer stretches budgets as much as it once did. In fact, 51% of global IT leaders say the cost of public cloud storage impacts their on-premises storage budgets, according to a report from 451 Research.

business growth

Changing to Lower-cost Vendors

Moving to lower-cost vendors may save you money in the beginning, but the solution has its downsides. For starters, moving large amounts of data is a time-consuming and complex process. Data integrity, security, and accessibility could be compromised during the migration.

What’s more, you may later discover that the new vendor isn’t fully compatible with your existing systems and workflows. And less expensive vendors may not offer the same level of service, performance, operational simplicity, and data security as your original vendor.

Adding onto Legacy Systems

Using existing equipment is great in that you avoid buying new hardware and software systems. You may save money short-term, but the long-term drawbacks often outweigh the benefits. Legacy systems will struggle to keep up with modern data demands, may not be compatible with newer apps and data formats, are prone to failure and disruption, and limit scalability since they’re designed with specific capacity limits.

If your system doesn’t have updated security features and patches, the business becomes more vulnerable to malware, hacking, and other cybersecurity threats. And older hardware is less energy efficient than its modern counterparts. The best case scenario: You end up paying higher power and cooling costs than if you were using modern equipment. The worst case scenario: You may find you have insufficient kilowatt-hours (kWh) available to support strategic new AI projects.

Reducing Data Under Management

Deleting redundant, obsolete, or unnecessary data may lower your maintenance and management costs. And having less data could help you put off buying new hardware. Then again, how can you be sure you may not need that old data again? Making a mistake could negatively impact the business’s ability to make critical decisions.

Reducing data is a complex and time-consuming effort that requires careful planning. What little you save may not be worth the effort in the end.

Get the Report: “Storage Budgets Rise in 2023, as Price Increases Highlight Need for Change

How to Adapt and Manage Costs

All of these solutions have their benefits, yet none are a realistic strategy for scaling data while managing costs. A more effective strategy may be to go hybrid with a custom mix of on-premises, public, and private clouds. 

The hybrid IT architecture can facilitate flexibility and speed. So much so that you’re able to optimize performance, reduce costs, increase capacity, and prevent outages by quickly moving or spreading workloads to various execution venues. 

How well you harness the benefits of going hybrid depends on where you fall in the data storage maturity ladder.

4 Stages of Data Storage Maturity

The four stages of data storage maturity are determined by how much a business adopts cloud storage technologies and services. Note that this model may adjust slightly as technology continues to evolve. These stages serve as a guide to help you identify where the business sits and what it’ll take to move up to the next level.

Traditional

Most of your data is stored on premises. If you’re using public cloud storage, you’re doing so to evaluate the services. However, you acknowledge that as costs increase, you may explore storage-as-a-service (STaaS) options in the future.

Maturing

You use all of the cloud storage services but for specific use cases like long-term backup retention. You often silo use cases with no ability to switch workloads between on premises and public cloud. You’re likely evaluating and deploying cloud gateways and cloud tiering. And you may be looking into cloud storage colocation to facilitate multi-cloud environments.

Modern

You’ve adopted a true hybrid IT strategy. You’re always seeking ways to reduce costs by improving reliability and efficiency, which includes using disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS). For the last few years, you’ve been using all types of infrastructure as a service (IaaS). You regularly look for optimization and automation services.

Future

This is the goal for how data is stored and managed. In this ideal state, you’re leveraging most as-a-service enablers to optimize compliance, performance, and cost. For instance, resource consumption adjusts automatically to the changing needs of a workload and data set. You’re an early adopter of emerging offerings, such as cloud-to-ground. You know that as good as things are, they can always be better. So when you learn about a new technology that may transform next-gen applications, you’re quick to evaluate it.

Data Storage Maturity

Data Storage Maturity Isn’t Just an IT Issue

Data storage maturity may seem like an IT conversation since the business will rely heavily on IT to move up the ladder. But this is really a business conversation because how you store data enables the entire business to keep up with change.

Consider how innovation is accelerating in all verticals. Macroeconomic issues are putting unprecedented pressure on businesses to adapt, change, and respond to those influences much faster than they’ve ever had to in the past. All of this creates an internal demand for technology to be extremely flexible. 

Technology can’t provide that level of flexibility unless it’s consumed as a service.

Put another way: Your data storage maturity directly impacts how the business transforms, and therefore, meets its goals.

Focus on Flexibility as Much as Finance

Our report shows that, on average, businesses predict their data volumes will grow 30% within a year. And most expect the price of the services used to store and maintain data will also rise.

business growth

Understandably, cost is a major driver of data storage solutions. Data storage, however, is as much a flexibility decision as it is financial.

That’s why the traditional way of planning for storage doesn’t work in a modern business environment. The old way of planning relied on long-term forecasts, but these forecasts are becoming unreliable as data storage gets more complex. So how can you make a good long-term financial decision from a questionable forecast?

What’s more, if you purchase tech the traditional way, you must amortize the acquisition over a specific number of years. During that time, you’re locked into that fixed, on-premises configuration. So, you won’t be able to respond to business changes fast enough.

Sure, when data requirements change, you could invest in something different. And that creates a new set of challenges like disrupting workflows, downtime, and compatibility issues—or worse, forklift upgrades.

If budgets don’t allow for a new investment, then the business is hamstrung by its limited data capabilities and capacity. In the meantime, the business may miss opportunities that it can’t recover from.

As-a-service solutions enable you to flex with changing business environments by mitigating risk, managing uncertainty, and optimizing costs. To what degree the business realizes those value-adds depends on its stage in data storage maturity.

However, moving to the cloud isn’t the sort of promised land that many people imagine it is.

Use the Cloud as an Advantage, Not a Destination

Going back to the drought analogy, saving money by using less water isn’t an effective survival tactic. Instead, you must reduce costs by developing more reliable ways to capture, store, and use water from alternative sources.

In much the same way, businesses that thrive in a quickly evolving data-driven world must look at alternative storage options. One that enables them to store and access data in a way that’s reliable, efficient, and fast—and doesn’t cost them an arm and a leg. 

The thing is, moving to the cloud isn’t as affordable as businesses were led to believe. In addition to potential integration issues, you’re also hit with various service fees and data management costs—which can add up quickly.

Yes, the cloud has its place and usages. But it’s more useful to think of the cloud as an advantage as opposed to a destination.

What I mean by this is that business growth comes down to having the agility and flexibility to use data the way the business needs. As you move up the data maturity ladder, think of cloud solutions as a way to create your ideal operating model. One where you can make course corrections, change your strategy, and change your mind about things without penalty or delay.

In fact, that’s what we hold as our North Star when we designed our Evergreen® portfolio, and as we continue to innovate and evolve our offerings.

Open the Business Conversation around Storage

So here’s what I suggest you do next: Check out the report, Rising Storage Costs Drive a Need for Change. Use it to think about your storage maturity. For each of your current solutions, ask yourself:

  • Does it create value for my business?
  • Does it help me optimize costs?
  • Does it help me mitigate risk?

And then open the conversation with stakeholders, so that they see how as-a-service solutions are the keys to unlocking business growth.