Setting a series of management policies is crucial for effective and secure administration of the system infrastructure. This must address both technical and business issues.

On the technical side these policies will aim to identify existing resources, configure them for optimisation and monitor the safe and secure operation of the system.

On the business side these management policies will relate to service levels (Is the system meeting the required response rates?) or practices and policies that will protect the data (Who has got approved access to the data and will I be able to retrieve the data if anything goes wrong?)

In the complex world that we live in, the IT manager must also look at the investments in systems and processes to ensure that they are cost-effective and that they deliver a real benefit to the business. He/she also knows that there are many issues that need to be addressed, some conflicting and some overlapping and some totally new.

It is with this in mind, that we need to consider the balance of priorities when managing the storage resources in order to get the most out of them. At the same time the systems must be secure, at mobile, workgroup as well as central site-level. And the more automated the processes are, the better - provided we understand what priorities and practices are required to support the users, the systems and the business.

Managing the resources
Storage resources include the disks, tapes, networks and the tools that allow data to be moved. Key priorities are, to know:

- What is present
- How it is configured
- What applications and databases are being linked together.

Discovery tools will identify the devices that are on a network, something you could easily assume an IT manager would know, but a challenge for many organisations, especially when questions such as “how many servers are there?”, or “how much storage is on the arrays?” are asked. Discovery tools are a feature of any array, network switch or server. Gathering basic data such as a list of devices under one umbrella will assist system administrators immensely.

Then there is the configuration of the disk arrays to make the most of the storage capacities. Volume management enables users to configure the disk arrays to meet with their application needs, matching the databases with their applications. Using these tools effectively will help to increase the utilisation of disk capacities within and across disk arrays. If you are not aware of what virtualisation offers within the storage world, then looking at the way that volume management operates is a good starting point. Databases can span physical boundaries of disk drives and disk arrays. Using this tool effectively will also enable the support team to reconfigure storage resources to meet with the changing needs of applications and workloads.

Tape management is often taken for granted. The key factor here is to know what file or data is being stored on which tape and to find the data as quickly as possible when this is needed. Tape management is often an integral part of the backup processes, keeping track of incremental and full backups. Operating this effectively will minimise human intervention and will maximise utilisation of tapes. It will also enable the tracking of the usage of a media which has a key role in data protection.

Measuring how a system is performing, knowing where the bottlenecks are is crucial to maintaining high service levels to all system users. System performance measurements can be applied in the network, on the server or applied to disk accesses to each array. By understanding where the system is under strain, discovering what is creating this pressure – additional traffic or component failure – will enable system administrators to react quickly, reconfigure the resources and minimise system outages.

Rationalising the management of storage resources, using the storage resource management tools that are available, will provide a stable and effective platform for all systems administrators. Bringing the various components together, under a single framework will assist users to be more effective and more confident in managing the changing environments. This confidence is required not only in discovering where a system may be failing, but at that critical stage when systems are being upgraded. This is the point in time when things must go smoothly.

Protecting the data and securing the business operations
Many users see storage management as backup and restore. However knowing how the system and storage resources are being utilised will enable users to extend their basic data protection practices to a more effective level. The pressure on backup windows means that disk-to-disk backups and snapshots are being introduced to speed up the process. Implementing these new and other sophisticated data protection routines must be done on a secure and stable network infrastructure. Storage resource management will support this.

Data protection practices are now spanning across networks and supporting disaster recovery practices. Sensitivity to building secure networks to deliver continuous systems operations for the business is increasing. Measuring, monitoring and managing how the resources are being utilised will enable the infrastructure teams to deliver secure and trusted system operations to the business. The right tools will enable the business to know and prove where the data is at any point in time and how it has been moved or changed. These are all basic elements that build into an overall strategy for sound information systems governance.