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What You Need To Know About A Storage Area Network

What You Need To Know About A Storage Area Network

A storage area network (SAN) connects servers to shared storage devices using a specialized network protocol. Using a SAN can improve the performance, reliability, and scalability of a company’s data storage infrastructure. This article will provide a simple guide to what you need to know about SANs.

Components of a storage area network (SAN)

The main components of a storage area network (SAN) are hosts, switches, storage devices, and fiber channel cables. Here is a quick guide to each of these components.


The hosts in a SAN are the servers that require access to the shared storage devices. They initiate requests for data and receive the requested data from the storage devices. Hosts can be physical servers or virtual machines.


Switches are an integral part of a SAN. They provide the lines of communication between the hosts and the storage devices. Switches act as the intermediaries, forwarding requests for data and transmitting the requested data. They also help to manage the flow of data, ensuring that data is transmitted efficiently and securely.

Storage devices

The storage devices in a SAN are the disks and tape libraries that store the data. They provide centralized storage resources that can be shared by multiple servers. SAN storage devices typically use Fibre Channel or iSCSI protocols to communicate with the hosts and switches.

Fibre Channel (FC) Cables

Fibre Channel (FC) cables are the physical links that connect the hosts, switches, and storage devices in a SAN. They transmit the data between the components and are critical to the performance and reliability of the SAN. FC cables come in different lengths and speeds, with faster speeds enabling higher data transfer rates.

Types of storage area networks (SANs)

The three main types of storage area networks are:

  • Fiber Channel (FC) SAN – uses fiber channel technology for high-speed data transfer and is often used for mission-critical applications.
  • Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI) SAN – uses the iSCSI protocol over ethernet for cost-effective data transmission.
  • Network Attached Storage (NAS) SAN – uses standard ethernet for lower cost and is best suited for smaller storage needs with file-level access to data.
Storage area network (SAN) architecture

There are three main kinds of storage area network architecture. They are Point-to-Point (P2P), fabric, and hybrid. Here is a quick guide to each of these types and their pros and cons.

Point-to-Point architecture

In a Point-to-Point (P2P) architecture, each host is connected directly to each storage device, forming a separate path for data transmission. Small P2P SANs are straightforward and, hence, easy to manage. They do not, however, scale easily.

Fabric architecture

In a fabric architecture, all the hosts and storage devices are connected to a central switch, which manages the flow of data. The switch acts as a centralized point of management and control, making it easier to manage and scale the SAN. Fabric SANs are more flexible and scalable than P2P SANs but can be more expensive to implement.

Hybrid architecture

A hybrid architecture combines the strengths of both P2P and Fabric SANs, creating a SAN that is flexible, scalable, and easy to manage. In a hybrid SAN, some hosts and storage devices are connected directly to each other, while others are connected to a central switch. This allows for a balance of performance, scalability, and manageability.

Implementing and maintaining a storage area network (SAN)

Here are the five key points you need to consider when implementing and maintaining a storage area network.


The security of the data stored in a SAN is of utmost importance. It is essential to implement proper security measures, such as firewalls, encryption, and access controls, to ensure that the data is protected from unauthorized access.

Capacity planning

Proper capacity planning is crucial in ensuring that a SAN has the resources it needs to meet the demands of the organization. This involves forecasting the future growth of the organization’s storage needs and making sure that the SAN has the necessary capacity to meet those needs.

Performance monitoring

Monitoring the performance of a SAN is essential to ensure that it operates efficiently and effectively. Performance metrics, such as data transfer rates, response times, and utilization rates, should be monitored regularly to identify any potential bottlenecks or issues.

Backup and recovery

Data backup and recovery is a critical aspect of SAN management. Regular backups should be taken and stored off-site to protect against data loss due to equipment failure, natural disasters, or other types of data loss. A proper disaster recovery plan should also be in place to ensure that the SAN can be quickly and easily restored in the event of a disaster.

Managing upgrades

Keeping the software and firmware of a SAN up-to-date is important to ensure that it continues to operate optimally. Regular software upgrades should be planned and implemented to take advantage of new features, performance improvements, and bug fixes.

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