Planning Server Storage for Windows Server 2016: Methods & Tools

Instructor: Conor O'Nolan

Conor has been programming since 1981 and created games, apps and websites. He used computers as complex AV systems and tweaks every device he owns.

Planning server storage is vital to ensure that applications continue to run and databases and files are accessible when needed. Windows Server 2016 offers options on preventing data loss. This lesson will look at the issues involved in planning the storage needs for a system.

Server Storage

Server Storage is critical to successful implementation of Windows server 2016. One of the main tasks for a server is to host files and databases for use by the applications and users on the network. Servers also store emails and their attachments. Overall a server might host many terabytes of data for a large organization.

A server will have some internal drives and also be attached to external storage, such as NAS (Network Attached Storage) or SAN (Storage Area network). The external storage may be shared by more than one server, which has implications for speed of access.

Tiered Storage

In any organization, some data is constantly needed and some is rarely accessed. This provides an opportunity to use tiered storage, with different storage types used for different data requirements. Typically, faster drives are used for frequently accessed or critical data and slower, less expensive drives are used for backups, other non-critical data or infrequently accessed data.

Planning Storage

Planning storage requirements can be done manually or by using specific tools. For any organization large or small the same guidelines apply:

  • Enough storage is needed to allow for an unexpected spike in demand
  • Enough storage is required to allow for growth in the future
  • Not so much storage that expensive hardware lies unused for long periods

A server that is using 80% of capacity may run into trouble, which means there is a risk of applications crashing.

Estimating storage requirements must take into account data backups, RAID mirroring and shadow copies if enabled.

Storage for servers can be arranged in many configurations
Storage for servers can be arranged in many configurations

Manual estimate

For smaller organizations, a manual approach may suffice for working out requirements. Examining log files on an existing server will reveal how much data storage was required over a period. Additional factors such as expected business growth, especially of employees who will use the system will need to be taken into account. Even a business that isn't growing will have data growth as they store emails and files that are generated daily.

Looking at previous backups can also be a guide to data growth, for example 2 backups several months apart will give an approximate monthly growth rate.

Software Tools

Storage Resource Management (SRM) tools can be useful for organizations that have many servers. These are typically supplied by sellers of data storage systems.

SRM tools can track data use and growth. The tools can also produce detailed reports on the data requirements. SRM will help a business predict future upgrade requirements.

Storage Spaces

Storage Spaces is a Microsoft technology designed to protect data during a drive failure. It has similarities to how RAID systems work. Storage Spaces group 3 or more drives together to form a storage pool. Typically, additional copies of files are stored on a different drive than the original.

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