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Expand your storage options

If you're looking for another choice for your growing storage needs, now you can reconsider network-attached storage.

When it comes to storage options, you have a handful to choose from. The choices increased by one in April 2004 when Microsoft released the Windows Storage Server 2003 Feature Pack.

The Feature Pack gives you the option of network-attached storage (NAS), which Microsoft previously did not support for Exchange data.

The Feature Pack requires that you have an Exchange Server and a Storage Server 2003. A dedicated gigabit Ethernet line -- to allow for high-speed data transfer between the two -- should connect the two, according to Microsoft.

There are other requirements and recommendations. For example, you should make sure that the database files and the transaction logs are separated on physical volumes in your storage setup, as Microsoft has long recommended. But with the Option Pack, the company goes a step further, suggesting that the logs be stored locally on the Exchange server, while the database is on the Storage server.

But the net of all this is that if you're running a shop with some requirement that precludes using a storage area network (SAN) for Exchange storage, then you might want to look into the feasibility of using the Storage Server with the Feature Pack. Microsoft uses, as an example, a branch office, or a branch retail store, where the cost and the management requirements for setting up and maintaining a SAN would be prohibitive. In such cases, using the Storage Server with the Feature Pack and a NAS, or several of them, could be the way out of severe restrictions on message store max size.

Granted, SANs can be expensive and may not make sense for your organization. Certainly, you have other options on how to deal with your growing Exchange storage needs. One is enforcing mail-store size limits on your users, which will help in containing the growth of the storage requirement. But that approach is limited: Soon enough you'll add enough users that the storage requirements will again be banging against the magnetic ceiling. Another option is adding storage in the form of directly accessed local storage, but this option can run out quickly.

If you are interested in learning more about the Storage Server 2003 Feature Pack, you can download a white paper from Microsoft and also see Knowledge Base article 839686.

David Gabel has been testing and writing about computers for more than 25 years.

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