Continuing an occasional feature
This just came over the transom. Vendors, take your best shot at configuring a good solution.

Non-vendors are welcome too. I’ll email him a customized StorageMojo take after the bulk of the comments come in.

Welcome to the real world, Neo.
Vendors often wax eloquent about the SMB market when enterprise IT dollars dry up. But this note is a good example of the problems vendors face – mostly resellers – in servicing this level of customer.

  • Budget. $20k won’t pay for a direct sales visit.
  • Mission. Backup, archive or both? Would you recommend a RAID system for either?
  • Education. How likely is it that the Major’s requirements can be met with a disk-based solution?
  • Integration. The writer is a busy guy who does sys admin work as a sideline to his real work. My sense is that most non-tech organizations with fewer than 300 employees don’t have full time sys admins. So it either needs to virtually install itself or come with someone to install it.
  • Service. This is a self-serve client. Hardware repair and upgrades must be simple. Software updates ditto.

Also, he doesn’t mention data retention and chain-of-evidence issues, but sometimes cases come back year later for judicial review or on appeal. Keep that in mind as well.

Here’s email in (mostly) his own words
I edited a bit for clarity.

We are a Sheriff’s Office with two-hundred sworn members. I run the CSI unit full time and supervise the Evidence Custoodian and Forensic Services Tech. I also process CCTV video and digital imaging for the county.

I have a digital photo room and a video processing room. The digital photo room has a stand-alone agency PC that is not plugged in to the internet/intranet. It is plugged in to the power outlet, that’s it. I have a 130 GB external hard drive for that system. I download digital images to the software on that PC and download the monthly folders to gold plated DVD’s. One DVD stays here at HQ, the second goes to the office at the courthouse.

The video processing room has a stand-alone Avid Adrenaline PC from Ocean Systems [ed. note: a leading vendor of forensic video analysis systems]. [The Avid] is also not on the intranet and the memory is all internal on it’s own drives.

My Major met with me this morning asking me about getting a RAID backup system. He has about 20k from a grant and wants us to get the best bang for the buck. He also does not want to get nickeled and dimes to death several years down the road when we ask him for more money to upgrade the RAID. He is worried about support for the RAID beyond the typical five year warranty/support period.

What advice can you provide me about using a back-up system for both PC’s? I told him that we are currently playing Russian roulette with the systems and that I do not want to be the person that has to tell the Sheriff that the system has failed and we do not have it backed up.

I can ask for more information if deemed essential, but I think there’s enough there to make informed estimates. This is why good resellers are worth their margin points, when our corporate overlords permit them.

The StorageMojo take
The only difference between this scenario and the issues I see here in Smallville is that the budget is larger and the writer is more sophisticated about storage than most small business owners. But as the generation and use of digital data becomes pervasive we have to have solutions that reach this level of problem for even lower cost.

After all, is this so different from where the average family will be in 5 years?

Courteous comments welcome, of course.