Personal data storage drives are now more affordable than ever, but the cost of enterprise storage remains relatively high. Why? Because the way that businesses store and use their data places much higher demands on their systems. Enterprise storage systems are tailored to meet the demands of a business environment in which redundancy is necessary, data loss intolerable and high performance mandatory.

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Handling an Enterprise-Level Workload

A major reason why enterprise storage costs remain comparatively high is that they handle workloads that consumer or desktop-level storage drives can’t handle. If you think about it, a desktop computer’s hard drive spends only 40 to 50 hours a week in operation; it spends the majority of its time powered down.

By contrast, the hard drives in enterprise storage arrays typically stay operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That gives them a much larger workload — and failure isn’t an option. Workers need to be able to access the data in the enterprise storage array; if it fails, the results could be catastrophic for the workers and the business.

That’s why enterprise storage doesn’t consist of just one or two drives, but an entire array of drives organized in a RAID, or redundant array of independent disks. The computers on your business network recognize this collection of SSDs and HDDs as a single drive. Today’s RAIDs work by using a certain number of drives for operational tasks, while others are reserved for data storage.

Enterprise-Level Performance and Reliability

The RAID is designed to handle worker tasks and requests with a high level of performance every time. It offers a high level of speed and performance during peak hours and monitors itself for errors during off hours. It will also back itself up and perform routine system maintenance during those hours when users aren’t placing high demands on it.

If one drive in the RAID goes down for any reason, others will automatically pick up the slack, so that the whole system stays running. If a bad sector on a disk results in an error message from that disk, the RAID will use redundant data on other disks to remap the bad sector and try to make that disk operational again. Even as all this is going on, the other disks in the RAID are carrying on with the day-to-day tasks of the business and its workers.

Enterprise storage offers the best performance in terms of fast data retrieval. Many enterprise storage arrays, especially those that deal with large amounts of activity or information, like the ones found in government research facilities and universities, incorporate SSDs, or solid state drives. These drives use flash technology to store information in a non-volatile state and quickly retrieve it when needed.

Even the HDDs, or hard drive disks, in enterprise storage arrays are designed for optimum performance. They spin faster, have denser magnetic material and have more cache memory and higher micro-processor speeds.

Meeting the Need for Data Security

Because enterprise storage arrays use multiple disks, they can ensure data will not be lost. Many of today’s hybrid enterprise storage arrays rely on a combination of HDDs and SSDs that marry high performance with optimum data storage capacity. Multiple drives in an enterprise storage array mean that important and sensitive data can be safely stored on multiple disks and backed up.

One of the biggest data security features that enterprise storage HDDs offer is end-to-end error detection, which allows the disks to detect data errors during the transmission process. The process works by including checksums with the data at every point in the transmission path. As the data is transmitted, these checksums let the computer know that it’s not accidently altering or corrupting any of the information.

Many enterprise storage arrays can even correct data errors automatically if they occur. They do this by sending the corrupted bit of data back to the last transmission point to be checked and corrected. In this way, enterprise storage arrays go above and beyond in terms of protecting your business’s data.

The cost of enterprise storage may seem high when it’s compared to personal data storage, but that’s because enterprise storage must offer high levels of performance and reliability in a fast-paced business environment. Enterprise storage systems must remain operational pretty much all the time, while keeping your data secure and automatically compensating for errors on one or more disks in the system.

About the Author: Contributing blogger Allen Evans has worked for over 15 years to keep some of the largest enterprise storage arrays in the country running smoothly. He lives in California.

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