Let’s Talk About Storage

By Luke Bluma, IT Engagement Manager for the Campus Computing Infrastructure (CCI)

Data is a critical part of our lives here at UW-Madison. We collect, analyze, and share data every day to get our jobs done. Data comes in all shapes and sizes and it needs the right place to live. That’s where storage comes in.

However, storage can be a loaded term. It can mean a thumb drive, or your computer’s hard drive, or storage that is accessed via a server or cloud storage or a large campus-wide storage service. It is all of these things, but not all of these will fit your needs. Your needs are what matters and they will drive what solution(s) will work for you.

I am the Engagement Manager for the Campus Computing Infrastructure (CCI) initiative. I work with campus partners on their data center, server, storage and/or backup needs. Storage is currently a big focus for me, so I wanted to share some thoughts about evaluating potential storage solutions.

Storage Array in Data Center

Storage for CCI

The main areas to think about are:

  • What kinds of data are you working with?
  • What are your “must have’s”?
  • What storage options are available at UW-Madison?

What kinds of data are you working with?

This is the first big question you want to focus on because it drastically impacts what options are available to you. Are you working with FERPA data, sensitive data, restricted data, PCI data, etc.? Each of these will impact what service(s) you can or can’t utilize. For more information on Restricted Data see: https://www.cio.wisc.edu/security/about/campus-initiatives/restricted-data-security-standards/

What are your “must have’s”?

Once you have identified the types of data you are working with, then it is crucial to determine what are your must have requirements for a storage solution. Does it need to be secure? If so, how secure? Does it need to be accessed by people outside of UW-Madison? Does it need to be high performance storage? Does it need to scale to 20+ TB? Does it need to be accessible via the web? These are just example questions, and the key here is that there is no perfect storage solution. Some services do X, Y, Z and others do X, Y, A but not Z. So determining your “must have’s” will help you figure out which services you can work with, and which you can’t.

What storage options are available at UW-Madison?

Now that you have identified the kinds of data, and the “must have’s” for your solution the final step is to evaluate what storage options are available to you at UW-Madison. Storage is an evolving technology so specific services will change over time, but here are good places to start to learn more about what services are available to you:

  • Local IT – if you have a local IT group, then talk to them first about what local options may be available to you
  • Campus Computing Infrastructure (CCI) – if you need network storage or server storage that isn’t focused on high performance computing then CCI has several options that could work depending on your needs
  • Advanced Computing Initiative (ACI) – if you need to do high performance or high throughput computing then ACI has several options that could work depending on your needs
  • Division of Information Technology (DoIT) – if you need cloud storage, like Box.com, or local storage, like an external hard drive, then DoIT has solutions that could work for you as well

This can seem like a lot to think about, and to be honest it can be quite confusing at times. The good news is that you have help! Research Data Services (RDS) can be a great starting point for your storage needs. We can focus on the key question: what are you looking to do? Then we can help you evaluate some potential options for moving forward based on your needs.

To get started contact RDS at http://researchdata.wisc.edu/help/contact-us/ or contact me at cci@cio.wisc.edu