Storage choices are expanding almost as fast as is our ability to fill them up. Due to the mission-critical nature of what law firms store, they require reliability, fault tolerance and scalability. However, the price tag to add a few more terabytes of storage to a system can be daunting to some.  


Adding additional SAN nodes is the first and, for me, most obvious answer. 


Installing new SAN nodes can be added to a storage cluster with no downtime, giving law firms a seamless expansion in storage capacity. This was, after all, one of the reasons you bought SAN storage in the first place, right?


There are other options, though.


Software Defined Storage allows you to build a SAN out of standard server hardware. A couple of Backup_Double.jpgoff-the-shelf solutions:


  • Microsoft includes Storage Spaces in its Server 2012 operating system, allowing you to configure storage pools across local disks and controllers, create an iSCSI target, cluster and efficiently utilize tiered storage. 
  • VMware’s Virtual SAN is helping law firms in creating shared internal and direct-attached storage on servers running the ESXi hypervisor. Further, with replication and high-availability features formerly found only on traditional SAN storage, you’re getting a good deal.


Adding a NAS device is another possibility. Law firms can’t expand an existing storage cluster with a NAS device, but they can add additional data stores to use. This solution will require data to be migrated between the storage systems, but can be more affordable for systems that don’t require the speed and reliability of SAN storage.


Direct storage is another option. Virtual hosts with SAN storage often have no hard drives installed because the data is stored on the SAN and the operating system can run from a SD card. Purchasing hard drives for your virtual host can be a quick and inexpensive path to increasing storage. Unfortunately, it has all the limitations of NAS storage with the added inability to be shared between multiple virtual hosts.


Many law firms lack the controls necessary to slow the increase in data, policies to remove data when it is no longer needed or simply underestimate the amount of data growth over the lifespan of their storage systems. Here are some strategies to stem the tide of data growth and plan for a more predictable future.


  • Mimecast is a must have for email protection and business continuity, but can also be used to copy Exchange folders to the cloud and implement retention policies that will reduce and maintain mailbox sizes.
  • Cloudberry Labs’ Cloudberry Explorer can present cloud storage as a drive letter on your workstation or server.
  • Amazon Web Services offers Lifecycle Management options for data stored in their Simple Storage Service. Lifecycle rules can automatically transition data to another storage class and delete the data when it is no longer needed.
  • Amazon Web Services offers enterprise class servers and storage that scale with a law firm’s needs. Law firms shouldn’t have to worry about predicting for future growth and purchasing more or less storage than needed. 


Make sure you have sufficient ports on your hosts and storage devices, power and cooling to support the new equipment. Finally, remember that adding storage and data to your network will increase the requirements of your backup and disaster recovery solutions.


Whatever solution you choose, planning ahead will give you the greatest chance of managing your data and expanding storage, if necessary, in a thoughtful manner. Choosing a solution from reputable vendors who stand behind their products and include support contracts that meet your needs is key.