StoneFly IP SAN helps Southern Insurance Underwriters meet their growing storage demands!

Southern Insurance Underwriters, Inc. (SIU) which is one of the largest Managing General Agents (MGA’s) in the country offering property, casualty and transportation products is using StoneFly IP SAN to meet its growing storage demands due to implementation of a document imaging system to electronically manage, store and retrieve millions of insurance forms that are generated in the course of doing business.

The company needs to store and retrieve millions of electronic forms each month through database servers that are absolutely critical to our business. Therefore, its storage needs increase on a tremendously as its database servers reach full storage capacity on annual note.

Initially, the IT team of Southern Insurance Underwriters, Inc thought of using a NAS or a Fibre Channel SAN. But as soon as they realized how simple and affordable it was to implement an IP-based SAN, they went for a SAN solution from StoneFly.

After doing cost/benefits analysis, SIU realized that it could save 400% with StoneFly’s Storage Concentrator versus the same configuration on a NAS box.

StoneFly offers a complete line of IP-based storage provisioning appliances called Storage Concentrators that enable mid-sized to large enterprises to manage and optimize their storage assets in real-time. Combining the functionality of an iSCSI router and bridge with the power of a storage provisioning engine, Storage Concentrators are installed as a centralized appliance at the core of the network for logical volume management of cost effective IP SANs.

A key benefit of StoneFly’s enabling technology is that it allowed SIU to interface with their existing storage hardware arrays, so the company wasn’t required to duplicate costs or discard a prior storage investment.

To know more call 510.265.1616 or click on StoneFly Storage Concentrator IP SAN.

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What are the features to consider in small business NAS offerings?

Network attached storage appliances meant for Small to Medium sized businesses have become feature rich in recent years and so their adoption rate has increased to many folds. So, for those who are interested in knowing “What are the features to consider in small business NAS offerings, hope the following points help in taking a wise decision.

Solid-State Drive support – SSDs support NAS appliance vendors in many ways. This media can be used for normal data storage or for caching. Some vendors design their NAS appliance primarily for hard disk drives, but include a drive bay specifically designed to accommodate an SSD for caching purposes. The appliance automatically transfers hot data to the SSD so it can be read as quickly as possible. Some vendors also use part of the SSD storage for caching write operations.

Flexible storage support – When shopping for a NAS appliance, one should make sure that the appliance is flexible enough to grow with your business. This means you should be able to use whatever drives you want, assuming they are physically able to connect to the appliance’s storage controller. For example, if an IT department is buying a NAS for a small and medium scale business, they should go for an appliance that can be upgraded to larger capacity drives in future or make them switch to SSD storage.

Scalability – Obviously your enterprise data storage needs grow along with your business growth. So, after keeping in mind the enterprise storage needs of future, the IT head should shop for a NAS which supports the scalability term to a high point. Scale up NAS storage appliance are now past and scale out NAS storage appliances are future. So, go for a NAS appliance which delivers unprecedented performance and scalability. StoneFly Super Scale OUT NAS Storage appliances and StoneFly Twin Scale Out NAS storage appliances will be a good option to consider as they can support up to 1PB storage capacities.

Supported Protocols – Most NAS appliances which are aimed at small and medium scale businesses support CIFS or NFS protocols, while some support Server Message Block (SMB). Some NAS appliances support the Apple Filing Protocol and a few like StoneFly Unified Scale Out (USO™) Storage Appliances support iSCSI block storage. Thus, if the IT head is unsure which protocol will support his/her organizations future storage needs, they can go for a Unified Storage which supports CIFS NFS and iSCSI storage protocols making it to be a file storage and/or a block level storage.

Thin Provisioning – Depending on how you plan to use the NAS appliance, thin provisioning may or may not be an important feature to have. If you plan to configure a NAS appliance as a file server, it probably isn’t necessary to thin provision. But if you plan to create a number of different volumes on the appliance, than thin provisioning will prove as a necessity.

Flexible data protection – Most vendors offer NAS appliances with only few data storage protection abilities. Like RAID 1 or RAID 0 and at the most RAID 5. But go for only such appliance which offers the flexibility to choose storage architecture of your choice. Better to for NAS appliances which support RAID 0, RAID1, three-way mirroring, RAID 5, RAID 6 and RAID 10. Some provide the option of designating a disk as a hot spare that can take over in the event of a disk failure. Remember, the number of drive bays in the appliance plays a major role in the storage architectures supported.

In-built battery backup – Always go for a NAS appliances which has an in-built battery backup. The battery backup cuts down the risk if data is striped across multiple disks. Some vendors build a backup battery into their appliances as a way of preventing data loss during power outages. Note- If you’re NAS does not include a backup battery, you should make sure to budget for an uninterruptible power supply.

Alerting Mechanism – No matter what the purpose was to buy a NAS, it should have the software intelligence to gauge the status of the disks. This will help in providing storage redundancy to prevent data loss in the event of a disk failure. Coming to the reporting of disk health, vendors take a variety of approaches to give their best in this segment. It’s best to look for a product that conveys its health status through colored lights, email messages, or an integrated display. Some vendors offer web consoles which require periodic login to initiate alert mechanisms. But better to go for a vendor which offers an alerting mechanism which does not require admin effort.

So, there are a number of features that must be considered while shopping for a NAS appliance meant for a small business environment. At the same time there are also major differences between various NAS vendor offerings. Hence, it’s important to take time to choose an appliance that will meet your needs on a perfect note.

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StoneFly Cloud Business Center offers remote replication aspect!

StoneFly, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dynamic Network Factory offers remote replication feature through its Cloud Business Center. Thus, companies which are looking to add one or more disaster recovery sites for their business critical data can make use of this feature to achieve best.

By replicating data to Stonefly’s Cloud Business Center, enterprises can immediately save on the capital expenses that come with the purchase of a physical appliance, along with operating expenses such as power and cooling costs.

By replicating data to StoneFly Cloud Business Center, users can rest assured that your data is secure and protected against any natural disaster or man made error.

Financial institutions such as Banks and Insurance companies, educational institutes which offer online education can make the best use of this service.

StoneFly Cloud Business Center service is available to all customers with new or existing StoneFly SAN appliances along to those who install StoneFly SCVM Virtual Storage Appliance

Therefore, all those who are interested in knowing, what exclusive does StoneFly offer to its privileged customers…here’s a reason to rejoice.

StoneFly has been in the data storage business for almost 13 full years and has been serving Military, Finance, video surveillance and medical fields with timely products.

In order to offer redundant and top-class solutions, data storage industry all around the world is depending on cloud computing. And StoneFly is making use of cloud computing based cloud storage technology to offer high-end redundancy factor in all its storage product offerings.

To know more call 510.265.1616 or call StoneFly Cloud Business Center.

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Cloud overshadows purpose built backup appliance market!

Data Storage vendors offering only purpose built backup appliances may feel disappointed on seeing this news. According to the latest survey conducted by International Data Corporation, cloud computing is overshadowing the market for purpose built backup appliances.

Liz Conner, a senior research manager of IDC views that the focus is continuously shifting away from hardware centric, on-premises PBBA systems to hybrid backup appliance systems. In other words, Liz feels that the worldwide market for backup appliances will be bright to those who offer backup and disaster recovery appliances integrated to cloud making them hybrid systems.

But at the same time, he feels that security and privacy issues may hit strong at cloud based backup service offering companies.

According to IDCs Worldwide Quarterly Purpose Built Backup Appliance tracker, the Total PBBA open systems factory revenue decreased -9.0% years over year in 2Q15 with revenues totaling $654.4 million while the mainframe market experienced a growth of 1.8% for the same period.

Total worldwide PBBA capacity shipped for 2Q15 was just shy of 694 Petabytes, an increase of 18.0% year over year.

Note – IDC defines purpose built backup appliance as a standalone disk-based solution that utilizes software, disk arrays, server engines or nodes that are used as a target for backup data and specifically data coming from a backup application.

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LifeCare Assurance uses StoneFly IP SAN for its scalability and business continuity requirements!

LifeCare Assurance Company which develops administers and markets reinsurance programs in conjunction with the industry’s largest insurance companies, including Bankers United Life, John Alden Life of New York, Republic-Vanguard Life, ALLIED Life, Lincoln Benefit Life, State Life and MassMutual is using StoneFly IP SAN to cater to its scalability and business continuity needs.

Founded in 1988 and headquartered in Woodland Hills, Calif., LifeCare Assurance employs 250 professionals and supports more than 90,000 agents nationwide with a variety of underwriting, policy issue, claims and policy-holder services. According to the company’s financial status continues to grow at 28 percent per year and is expected to reach $2.6 billion in assets and $375 million in annual revenue by the end of 2015.

Since, LifeCare Assurance operates as an extension of its partners’ home offices; they need to be highly efficient, flexible and reliable

To keep pace with such aggressive business growth and ensure the delivery of high-quality service and back-office administrative support, the company relies heavily on technology to streamline and optimize operations.

Previously, the company’s storage environment used to suffer with network bottlenecks and storage capacity issues. Additionally, the company was interested to have a storage which could provide file-level storage as well as block level storage for databases like Microsoft Exchange.

Since LifeCare Assurance IT staff was familiar with IP and SCSI, they figured that an IP SAN could be added to the existing network more easily than other technologies. The StoneFly Unified Scale Out (USO™) Appliance – SAN + Scale Out NAS Storage met all company criteria including block-level support and centralized storage management at a much better price point than anything else.

Centralized storage management was a key advantage in using the same StoneFly IP SAN. And one of the benefits of the StoneFly IP SAN was that LifeCare Assurance could access and administer changes from any browser to save time and alleviate management headaches.

Data migration also went much faster than the team predicted. It took less than two hours to move 1TB of data to the StoneFly system. The team consolidated storage for three primary servers over a three-week period. The first server contained all LAN connectivity, security and operating system data along with end-user applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel. The second server contained mission-critical data and recorded messages from the VoIP system. The third server contained documents and data from an automated forms management and workflow system.

While the data migration and consolidation was completely transparent to end users, subsequent performance improvements for file downloads and uploads were definitely noticed. In fact, LifeCare Assurance has rated the performance of the system at least 30 percent faster than initially anticipated. The system is as fast as or even faster than copying files to a local drive.

With the StoneFly Unified IP SAN in place, LifeCare Assurance can turn on a dime knowing that they now have the capability to meet whatever their business demands.

To know more call 510.265.1616.

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Data Center design and maintenance risks and remedies!

Data Centers should offer resiliency and redundancy in any enterprise environment they operate, irrespective of the business vertical they are serving. Although, the Telecommunications Industry Association has given facility builders and managers a foundational process for evaluating risks involved in data center operations, there are far too broad to provide an accurate measure.

Here’s an article which serves as a reference point in offering a remedy to data center risks.

Data center design – The data center planning phase is a recommended point of entry for risk assessment. This includes selecting an optimal site location, identifying IT needs, evaluating what risks should be mitigated, eliminated or accepted and designing the infrastructure as per the available resources. Once the facility is built, maintenance and disaster recovery plans should be implemented.

Selecting a location – While evaluating a data center location, understanding and mitigating the geographic location, regional natural resources availability, and costs associated with maintenance will lessen the effects of downtime to a large extent. Climate, electricity rates, incentives and regulation should all be considered as well.

IT Needs
– In order to identify the IT needs; data center managers should first clarify the functions of a data center.

  • Will the facility be used for supporting critical transactions?
  • Or will it be used to store critical data?
  • Or will it act as a simple failover facility?

The above said categorizations will help operators determine the necessary level of IT infrastructure and understand what installed IT equipment requirements must be met to maintain uptime, including power and energy reliability.

Risk testing – By running operational failure tests, data center operators will be able to define what impact each scenario has on power and cooling to IT equipment. In most cases, the risk testing also helps in analyzing business continuity solutions such as disaster recovery.

Design – After figuring out what the data center will be serving for and where it has to be deployed, the designing phase gets simpler. Also by evaluating the above said factors, data center engineers can determine whether a traditional or prefabricated build will best suit their needs.

Maintaining a data center – If deploying a data center is a big issue, maintaining it will also be a tough task, as it has to balance IT requirements and risks with efficiency. Unlike commercial data centers, federal data center facilities must adhere to very specific regulations. Two such federal directives are the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and the more recent Executive Order 13514 that details sustainability goals.

For federal IT departments seeking ways to centralize and optimize their existing resources, technologies like server virtualization and storage consolidation will helping them in cutting down costs by achieving power reduction goals.

While saving money is important, downtime can be utterly unacceptable for many agencies. It is often significantly less expensive to commit upfront costs to mitigating the risk of downtime, than it is to spend resources recovering from an event.

At the same time, disaster preparedness plans are crucial to ensure optimal facility performance and avoid the costly results of downtime like financial strain, customer/user backlash, reputation damage and loss of productivity. Comprehensive disaster preparedness plans should consist of preparation and prevention, detection and incident classification, response, mitigation and recovery. These plans can be made effective, only when they are written and regularly updated as appropriate.

Now, if you have a company and need a data center without the above said risks approach Dynamic Network Factory. This company has deep knowledge in cabling and infrastructure, power and cooling, rack layout and design, security and management practices. All of these elements, put together in the right way, can make for long-lasting IT systems and offer true operational efficiency for your company.

Just give them a call to 510.265.1122 and start the conversation.

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Russian organizations are now showing more faith in Virtual backups than ever!

Russian enterprises are now showing more faith in Virtual Backups these days than ever. Over the past few years, as virtualization has led to major changes in the way data and servers are handled, the use of virtual machines has also pepped up.

Although, Russia might not be among the countries most advanced in virtualization, it is slowly learning to adopt this technology to full strength, due to a string of benefits. Virtualization helps manage resources more flexible, and provides more options for setting up failure-resistant solutions.

However, there are still systems in the market for which physical servers without hypervisors are more appropriate.

According to a survey taken up by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International, 81% of Russian Companies still use physical servers, 55% use server virtualization and 43% use a virtualized SAN environment.

Dixi, one of the Russia’s largest retail chains, says that 80% of their IT server infrastructure is virtualized. It only uses a small portion of physical servers for applications which require dedicated capacities and servers using functions that cannot be executed in virtual environments. This company uses Microsoft systems for virtualization, including a virtual server backup.

Kaspersky, a software security company also uses Microsoft DPM and Veeam for virtual server backup. However, it is expecting more control options such as role based access control for its future needs.

As per B2B International survey, Russian companies normally choose virtual server backup systems at hypervisor application programming interface (API) level, as opposed to those using agents installed in virtual machines. They term this practice as a more efficient, convenient and cheaper option.

The survey also recognized VMware as a leader in Russia’s virtualization market due to its wider product line for backup than those of its competitors. Its vSphere API for data protection is most popular as it offers the flexibility of consistent creation of VMs and transfer of VM data files directly to backup servers.

Companies which want to consolidate all their server, storage, and backup systems into one easy to manage appliance enriched with ease of control are going for products such as StoneFly DR365 which allow users to directly control their backup needs.

Coming to cloud systems for virtual server backup, progress in Russia is slow, compared with other countries. Though, cloud technology used for backup is growing like a wild fire in other regions of the world, Russian market for this segment is still cold. Lack of knowledge on this technology, its benefits and the payback for investment it offers is hindering the growth.

They survey taken up by B2B international and commissioned by Kaspersky also mentioned that not all Russian Companies use virtual server backup. Russia’s largest internet provider, Yandex, is one company that doesn’t require a virtual server for backup. This is because most of the data generated on its platform doesn’t have the need to be stored for long time.

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Amazon cloud storage service unveils new data storage tier!

Amazon cloud storage service has unveiled a new data storage tier called Standard –IA storage class. This new storage class can be used for infrequently accessed data and is offered with same high durability, low latency and high throughput of the S3 Standard.

Thus, Amazon web services customers now have the choice of using three S3 storage classes which are— Standard, Standard IA and Glacier. All these cloud storage services are designed to offer 99.9999% durability.

The new Standard IA cloud storage service tier has an availability SLA of 99% and has all existing S3 features including security and access management, data lifecycle policies, cross-region replication and event notifications.

Prices for Standard IA start at $0.0125/Gigabyte per month, with a 30 day minimum storage duration for billing and a $0.01/gigabyte charge for retrieval.

Further, for billing purposes, objects that are smaller than 128 kilobytes are charged for 128 kilobytes of storage.

Amazon web services said that its pricing model will make the new storage class economical for long term storage needs such as backups, disaster recovery and archives.

At the same time, Amazon Web Services has also reduced prices for its Glacier data storage service. Now, the price has been reduced from $0.01/GB to $0.007/GB on monthly basis.

The price reduction will take affect on an automated note and will only be applicable to US East (North Virginia), US West (Oregon) and Europe (Ireland) regions.

In the Frankfurt and Sydney zones, Glacier pricing is set at $0.0120 per GB, and costs $0.0114 per GB in AWS Tokyo region.

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When should a cloud integrated storage used?

Cloud integrated storage (CIS) systems are data storage systems such as SAN, NAS or unified storage appliances that tier and/or cache inactive/passive data to cloud storage platform. A CIS gives the user a feel that the integrated cloud platform is a primary storage and so represents Terabytes and Petabytes of cloud storage repository capacity as local data.

Mainly this form of storage is used to tackle passive, cold or inactive data problems. In practical, passive data represents as much as 90% of an enterprise data which requires resources such as rack space, the attention of the admin, floor space and power and cooling. This innovation of storage allows bringing down storage costs for rarely accessed data to the forefront of admins budget planning.

A CIS runs on software intelligence which caches or auto-tiers active data locally. Based on the access frequency of data, the one which is rarely accessed can be automatically placed on tier 3 storage (cloud storage) and the one which can be active access can be put on the faster storage such as a disk or SSD.

Those appliances which can be termed as Hybrid storage have SSD and HDD as storage media. If they need a tier 3 storage, instead of inducing tape media into the environment, the user can use a cloud storage platform, which works out economically and similar to that of a tape storage media.

While data is moved or migrated to a cloud storage repository based on policies (data value), it is presented as local storage to the user or application via a stub. CIS also moves and/or replicates snapshots to the cloud storage repository or repositories based on policy. No administrative intervention is required to move data from local storage to cloud storage as this whole service is automated.

Cloud integrated storage appliances enable content distribution to geographically dispersed sites without replication. Though, the data resides on one or more cloud storage repositories, it appears as a local storage to the user/app at multiple sites.

StoneFly, Inc. offers cloud storage integration to all its appliances. StoneFly Cloud Drive powered by Microsoft Azure platform helps the users of StoneFly storage appliances to smartly integrate their passive data to cloud storage platform. So, companies looking to ease the costs associated to passive data can take the help of cloud integrated storage of StoneFly.

StoneFly Cloud Drives driven by StoneFusion Operating System are ideal for protecting mission-critical information and include advanced business continuity features such as snapshots, asynchronous remote replication, multi geo-mirroring (one-to-many and many-to-one), data deduplication, volume encryption, and thin provisioning.

Thus, an enterprise which is looking to keep active data on its premises and shift all its passive data to a cloud platform can make use of StoneFly cloud drive platform. This helps not only save the available on-premises storage resources. But also helps in allocating those resources for more vital applications.

So, all those who are looking for a cloud integrated storage appliance can go for any StoneFly SAN or NAS appliance and use StoneFly Cloud Drive as a less expensive storage platform.

To know more call 510.265.1616 or click on StoneFly Cloud Drive.

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What is exactly Unified Storage?

Small and medium scale businesses grappling with data are showing a lot of interest in using a Unified Storage these days. This is due to the fact that Unified Storage systems often simplify the life of the storage administrators by converging storage protocols and storage media into the same system.

While big storage system vendors are promoting that their old systems can drape this ability with ease, smart storage system vendors like StoneFly, Inc. are developing a GUI that offers a unified look and feel.

However, some user’s who are hesitant to accept this concept are thinking that these systems are not designed from the ground-up with true unification features/capabilities in mind nor can they fully exploit them. So, to those who are in this myth, hope, this article serves as a source to open their mind in a positive way on Unified Storage.

First of all, Unified Storage systems work on converged storage protocols such as iSCSI, Fibre and NAS. So, a user who wants to make use of any of these or all of them can go for Unified Storage appliance.

These appliances actually start as one type of storage device (either SAN or NAS) and then add the missing components via external systems. Thus, some unified storage systems are either a SAN with a NAS gateway or a NAS with a SAN gateway.

The second advantage in using a Unified Storage systems is that these systems help converge storage media. So, an SSD and a Hard disk array can be smartly integrated to allow tiered storage advantages.

With the unifying GUI on board, many vendors will get the advantage of some sort of automated data movement function that will monitor data and then move it to the appropriate tier of storage depending on how frequently it’s being accessed.

Also these unified systems will have the software efficiency features like deduplication, thin provisioning and snapshots to aid the storage administrators in better allocating storage resources. They can also leverage these capabilities to provide better data protection and a faster return to operation after an outage

Finally, to those who are looking for one storage system that supports a mixed workload of applications, environments, protocols and media; Unified Storage system concept can server them with best. These systems often accomplish it by bolting on modern data features to legacy storage systems. The end result is to reduce, or at least keep a check on IT administration costs.

StoneFly, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dynamic Network Factory offers Unified Storage products in its product catalog.

Its Unified Scale out SAN + Scale Out NAS storage appliance and Unified Scale out High availability cluster SAN + Scale out NAS storage appliances deliver unprecedented performance, scalability, and high availability as a scale out NAS and fully featured SAN, in all in one easy to manage modular appliance.

StoneFly USO family of SAN + Scale Out NAS products offer large storage capacities at a low price and are available in 6Gb SATA, SAS or SSD combinations of 4, 8, 12, 16, 24, or 36 drives per base appliance.

Additionally, StoneFly USO SAN + Scale Out NAS appliances offer the industry’s most cost-effective expansion via 12, 16 or 24 drive expansion units for USO appliance configurations up to 256 drives per scale out node.

To know more call 510.265.1616.

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