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Storage Service Providers (SSPs)

Each year, the demand for storage doubles, whereas the price of storage hardware falls up to 30%. So, although companies are hard-pressed to keep up with their data archive requirements, the storage industry is certainly doing its part to address the issue. The problem, however, is not the cost of equipment—it's the cost of managing it. Some experts claim that the cost of managing storage hardware is seven times the cost of the hardware itself. This problem is all the more onerous for ASPs that host multiple enterprise applications and vast repositories of customer data.

SSPs are a breed of hosted service provider that lease both storage infrastructure and personnel to companies that want to outsource storage equipment management and/or infrastructure. They design, implement, and operate the storage solution. Typically, it involves loading customer data onto a storage platform in a data center; periodically backing it up; and creating archive copies of data, and storing them in a secure environment like a fireproof safe.

SSPs almost always employ Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM) storage strategies that exploit different types of media (such as RAID, optical jukeboxes, and tape arrays), and migrate less-frequently-accessed data to media with slower retrieval times. Most SSPs also own Storage Area Networks and Network Attached Storage to more efficiently serve files, centrally manage different data repositories, and transport dense data across storage networks without congesting primary telecom networks.

SSPs tend to offer services in one of several ways. An SSP may own and maintain multiple data centers (sometimes called "storage centers") that contain its storage equipment. If so, the network connecting each storage center to its customers will likely feature fiber channel and be linked to a SAN, and customers will be located within the compass of the fiber channel network of each storage center. SSPs may also own a central storage facility and the equipment therein; and lease its network and alternate data centers from network service providers and infrastructure service providers, but perform their own storage infrastructure management. They might also lease the network and data centers, and let the infrastructure service provider help them manage the storage infrastructure. Some SSPs do any or all of this as well as manage customers' in-house storage infrastructures as in a traditional outsourcing arrangement. Some offer disaster-recovery services. Some even provide warehouses in which companies can store hard copy documents that legally must be retained for fixed periods.

ASPs use SSPs for several reasons. As businesses in a new industry, they may have limited funds and restricted infrastructure, so outsourcing storage for a manageable monthly fee is appealing—it's one less thing the ASP has to worry about. Otherwise, it would have to spend a lot of up-front capital to build advanced storage, hire expert personnel, and then spend more money maintaining it. They can implement storage faster using an SSP, and scale it more easily and more affordably because they don't have to build new infrastructure—just order more storage capacity. Also, because SSPs are specialists, they tend to optimize their business processes and leverage economies of scale that let them charge the lowest rates and still be profitable. For that reason alone, ASPs save money by using SSPs while their customers are guaranteed affordable, reliable, 24/7 data access.

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