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Connectivity: The Risk Multiplier

When networking was introduced, the risks associated with it were relatively low. Most networks were small, with only a handful of computers linked. The Internet started as a network of only four mainframes. Local-area networks (LANs) did not become widely deployed until the late 1980s. Access to these networks was very limited, and the number of assets involved was low.

As the networks grew, both in size and complexity, security problems became more prevalent, and the risk involved in using a network became higher. There were more devices of different types, with many more access points. Whereas in the past, disasters or hackers could be contained to one computer, networking allowed problems to spread throughout a large number of machines. There is now network access to more computers than at any time before. Many homes now have several linked computers and network devices, and have become susceptible to the same security and network problems that have plagued the corporate world for years.

Network Attached Storage and Storage Area Network technology have had a similar effect on storage. Data storage devices have traditionally been isolated behind a server. Secure the server, and you secure the storage as well. That is no longer the case, and storage devices are experiencing many of the same problems that other network devices do. Some people would argue that the ability to get unauthorized access to a Fibre Channel SAN is low. However, if a malicious hacker does get through system defenses, he or she now has a greater number of devices to wreak havoc on. Connectivity increases risk because it gives more access to more resources that can be damaged.

Because risk is outcome based, the outcome of a successful intrusion or data corruption in a networked storage environment can be much more devastating than with an equal number of isolated, directly connected storage devices.

Even when system security is not the issue, connectivity can magnify other problems. Previously, one server could access only a small number of storage devices. If something went wrong, and the server caused data to become corrupted, it could do so to only a small amount of data held on its local resources. Servers can now potentially access hundreds or even thousands of storage devices and can corrupt data on a scale that was not possible before.

Networked storage also has increased the complexity of the storage system, which can introduce more problems. The complexity of the storage infrastructure has increased dramatically, with switches, hubs, cables, appliances, management software, and very complicated switch-based disk array controllers. The opportunity to introduce errors into the data stream and corrupt or destroy it is much higher with so many devices in the mix.

In the networked storage environment, there are many servers and many storage devices. More servers can damage or provide unauthorized access to data. Even a single server can affect many data storage devices. The potential harm is multiplied by the high degree of connectivity that a modern storage infrastructure allows for.

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