As the volume of data that needs to be stored and backed up continues to grow for most organizations at an exponential rate, data storage has become an increasing focus for most IT Managers. Here are some of the key reasons that the support of data storage systems is increasingly strategic in the break-fix equipment service market:

• Many buyers now require “one throat to choke” for all hardware and software within the four walls of the corporate data center. To be competitive, service vendors can no longer cherry-pick the equipment list for solely the types of systems that they prefer to maintain. They must accept the entire bid, and sub-contract those areas in which they do not have a core competency. The management of data storage equipment is an area that most Third Party Service Providers prefer to sub-contract.

• Recent legislation such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) have raised the bar in terms of what data must now be retained and for how long. For example, under HIPAA, electronic medical records must be retained for 6 years. This increase in data retention has outpaced the decrease in data storage costs afforded by ongoing advances in technology. Accordingly, while the cost-per-byte-stored has been dramatically reduced in the last ten years, the total quantity of data stored has increased at a far greater rate.

• Data backup windows are now more critical due to the increased amount of data to be backed-up; a system failure during backup is impacting a greater amount of data today.

• Terrorist acts such as Sept 11, 2001 in New York City heightened the need for Business Continuity (Disaster Recovery) plans and the increase in data retention that is a cornerstone of such plans.

• Data storage equipment is inherently electro-mechanical (vs. the solid-state nature of servers and peripherals.) Its electro-mechanical nature, with corresponding moving parts, means that the equipment is more prone to failure. Recognizing the higher failure rate of electro-mechanical systems, IT Managers are more willing to put storage equipment under a service contract. Enterprise data storage systems are rarely supported on a Time & Materials basis.

• Electro-mechanical systems are complex and typically require specialized support by a ‘Field Engineer’ vs. a ‘parts replacer’. For effective support, most tape libraries and disk arrays require Field Engineers that are trained and knowledgeable on the specific model being supported.

• Purchasers of tape libraries have invested significantly in both tape drives and media. Unlike servers, where purchasers routinely amortize the equipment in 3 years and then retire the servers for brand-new equipment, the life-cycle of tape libraries is much longer (5-10 year average). Therefore the average tape library’s lifespan almost always extends well beyond the Manufacturer’s Warranty coverage.