My previous two commentaries briefly described the features and functionality of Microsoft's optimized file server OS. In this column, I focus on some common uses for Windows Storage Server 2003 and show you how your company can benefit from Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices based on Windows Storage Server.

The most obvious use for Windows Storage Server is for file serving because Windows Storage Server is a highly optimized file server. In fact, some companies have replaced as many as seven Windows NT file servers with one Windows-based NAS device. I have written before about how file server consolidation provides one of the highest Returns on Investment (ROIs) for IT expenditures today. Using Windows Storage Server for a file server consolidation project will result in significant performance gains, improved availability, improved storage manageability, and easier migration to Windows Server 2003. If you use a Windows Storage Server NAS head/gateway in front of a Storage Area Network (SAN), you can consolidate application and file data onto the combination SAN/NAS device. Based on the configurations I've seen, payback for a file consolidation project can occur in less than a year. So, if you need to consolidate file services or add new file server storage, seriously consider Windows Storage Server in your IT planning.

The next area in which Windows Storage Server can confer benefits is backup and restoration. As the cost of hard disks continues to fall, using Windows Storage Server as a secondary storage device makes sense. For example, to use Windows Storage Server for backup and recovery, you can employ replication technology to make real-time copies of your remote office data in a centralized location, rather than use tape drives at your remote offices. The remote office data replicates to Windows Storage Server in a central location. Because the replicated files are in a closed state, you can perform a backup at any time during the day--without having to wait for a backup window. And because the data replicates to a central site, IT professionals are available to assist in any necessary restore process.

Windows Storage Server is also an ideal solution for backing up files on individual users' workstations and laptops. Many leading backup software companies feature client-based agents that are configured to back up business-critical files stored on client PCs. Storing business-critical files on a Windows Storage Server device lets users initiate their own restore process, when necessary, by using the client-based agent. Windows Storage Server lets IT configure regular snapshots of user datasets and back up the datasets to tape devices or other Windows Storage Server devices. Windows Storage Server can back up files stored on client PCs quickly, efficiently, and with very little need for ongoing intervention by onsite IT administrators.

In my next commentary, Windows Storage Server, Part 4, I'll discuss other uses for Windows Storage Server and look at the future of Windows-based storage. The first NAS devices based on Windows Storage Server 2003 should be ready for release in September 2003, so keep that date in mind as you plan your fourth quarter infrastructure deployments.

Read more about Storage Server 2003 features:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/storage/productinformation/overview/future.mspx

Microsoft/Dell Webcast: Using NAS for Reliable Backup and Recovery http://www.microsoft.com/usa/webcasts/ondemand/1981.asp

Windows Storage Server, Part 1: http://www.winnetmag.com/windowsserver2003/index.cfm?articleid=39263

Windows Storage Server, Part 2: http://www.winnetmag.com/windowsserver2003/index.cfm?articleid=39359