Remote BLOB Storage – The Cost of Doing Nothing

The history of SharePoint is quite fascinating when you consider its roots as a departmental collaboration and document management tool.  In many organizations, SharePoint has grown up from literally an application running on a server under someone’s desk to an enterprise-wide, mission-critical system.  Even today, I am quite surprised at how often SharePoint growth is underestimated.

Because of this, organizations deploying SharePoint should consider Remote BLOB Storage (RBS) as a viable option for managing growth and reducing ongoing storage and management costs.  While there is a cost associated with deploying a third-party RBS solution, the cost of doing nothing could be much greater in the long run.

Before we explore the cost of doing nothing, let’s revisit the value that RBS brings to SharePoint.

  1. Enhances performance and scalability of SharePoint while reducing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
  2. Provides flexible storage options for storing unstructured SharePoint content.  Different storage options provide lower storage costs, lower overall TCO, and support for compliance scenarios that were previously not supported.
  3. Reduces management overhead by reducing the size of SharePoint content databases (SQL Server databases) and creating new options for backup, restore, disaster recovery, and high-availability scenarios.

Depending on the current state of your SharePoint deployment, RBS can provide immediate and often significant return on investment (ROI).  For organizations deploying new hardware in the form of storage infrastructure, the primary ROI will come from reduced up-front storage procurement costs. Consider the following scenario where we simply divert 90% of the storage from tier 1 (typically SAN or Direct Attached Storage) to tier 2 (primarily NAS storage).

Tier 1 Storage
StoragePoint Acquisition Cost  $ 29,990.00 Acquisition Cost/GB $ 5.00
Support & Maintenance  $ 5,398.20 Monthly Mgmt Cost/GB $ 2.00
Total Storage (GB) 3072GB Percentage of Total Storage 10%
Total Investment without StoragePoint  $ 15,360.00 Total Tier Storage(GB) $ 307.20
Total Investment with StoragePoint  $ 42,453.80 Total Acquisition Cost $1,536.00
Monthly Cost without StoragePoint  $  6,144.00 Total Monthly Cost $ 614.40
Monthly Cost with StoragePoint  $  1,996.80
Monthly Savings  $  4,147.20 Tier 2 Storage
  Acquisition Cost/GB             $2.00
Return on Investment (Months)                    6.5 Monthly Mgmt Cost/GB $ 0.50
Percentage of Total Storage 90%
Total Tier Storage(GB) 2764.8 GB
Total Acquisition Cost $ 5,529.60
Total Monthly Cost $1,382.40

As you can see, if you are planning for a capital expenditure for storage to support your new or growing SharePoint environment, complete ROI comes in only a few months and is often immediate – factors including per GB disk cost and ongoing management costs will impact ROI.  Deferring the use of RBS could have immediate, and in some cases, significant impacts on cost.

For organizations with expanding SharePoint environments, the cost of doing nothing can almost certainly have a negative impact.  With the understanding that the purchase of storage to support SharePoint may be a sunk cost for your organization, there are considerations for large SharePoint content databases.  Microsoft recently updated their guidance for large database support in SharePoint and I have previously posted a blog, Revisiting SharePoint Remote BLOB Storage, which provides detail on the new guidance.

The net of the new guidance is that supporting large content databases requires special consideration for disk IOPS (inputs/outputs per second).  For organizations choosing to store all unstructured content in SQL Server databases, the cost of doing so can be extremely high.  The reason is that the high number of IOPS required per GB (0.25 IOPS per GB minimum with 2 IOPS per GB recommended) result in overprovisioned, underutilized disks.  The amount of disks required to support a large SharePoint content database can be very large and result in significant costs, both in procurement and ongoing maintenance, for storage.  RBS alleviates this concern by storing unstructured content outside of the database, usually on a less expensive tier.

Beyond storage and ongoing maintenance costs, there are also soft costs that are more difficult to measure.  Consider that storing all SharePoint content in SQL Server databases will result in increased management costs for database maintenance including backup/restore processes.  Have you considered the costs for storing backups for the period of time dictated by your recovery point objectives (RPO)? How about the cost of data replication to support failover and nonproduction environments (Dev, Staging, QA, etc)? RBS allows organizations to leverage storage devices that facilitate backup/recovery scenarios and provide better ways to backup and/or replicate the unstructured SharePoint content, which can comprise up to 95% of your storage utilization.

Planning for deployment and ongoing management of your SharePoint environment is critical to controlling costs in the short and long term.  RBS can provide immediate costs savings in the short term with significant cost savings over the long term as your SharePoint environment continues to grow.  Often the fear of uncertainty that surrounds new technology will cause organizations to dismiss the technology altogether.  While RBS may fall into this category – you should take a second look. The cost of doing nothing may be higher that you think.

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