Dear Everyone: Best Buy Does Not Sell Business Class Storage

I just read an article that made me fear for the state of our nation. It doesn’t have to do with citizen’s rights, backroom deals, or big corporations. It has to do with storage systems.

In the story “Charges dropped against fugitive doctor, because evidence is using too much space on federal servers” it is exposed that the US government has so much “evidence” against a suspect that it’s taking up 5% of the DEA’s entire storage system. Not knowing what constitutes the DEA’s “storage system” makes me wonder what they’re working with, but the whole thing seems patently absurd.

However, the bureaucratic wound is bathed in the saline of a common technological misperception. Note what the reporter says in the midst of the article:

Part of that limited storage capacity stems from the fact that the DEA has not recently upgraded its storage capacity. An external hard drive with a terabyte of storage can be easily purchased online at outlets like Best Buyfor around $100.

So because Best Buy sells 1TB of storage for $100, then it must be a comparable price for a major agency. I’m not going to get into the deep debate on the true cost of storage or write at length on cloud services. However the confusion around the true cost of storage does get monotonous after some time.

Mention the cost of storage at Best Buy in this article is a bit like saying “Hey, I can get a car for $300 on Craigslist, so what’s the deal with Formula 1 cars being so darned expensive?!”

The topic has been beaten pretty hard on ServerFault too. The Q/A “Why is business-class storage so expensive?” is a good example of that. What one doesn’t see in that Q/A is the original furor that the topic brought up. Originally it was a well trafficked question from a software developer asking why he can’t get storage from the operations side of his department without getting either heavy pushback or heavy chargeback.

The response was a bit heated with some snarky jabs made which caused a canonical answer to be made that was heavier on facts and lighter on diatribe. The point that impressed me was that, even within the ranks of professional IT workers, the topic of storage and its real price is scarcely understood.

So here’s a suggestion: Let’s never assume that people understand that storage is expensive. Let’s always be ready with simple facts and bullet points to illuminate people to the true cost of storage. Let’s never be afraid to expose the true cost of storage. Certainly you can do some amazing things with free OSs, ZFS, and commodity hardware. However, even that, if done properly, is going to cost more than I think many people are expecting to hear for a few TBs of storage.

Oh, and if any one of my readers who work at Yahoo know reporter Eric Pfeiffer, take him out to lunch and help him realize that Best Buy is no indicator of the true cost of business class storage.


  1. cyberbofh

    August 21, 2012 at 4:04 am

    After reading this, I can only say this: Well said Wesley!


  2. Ryan Ries

    August 21, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    I usually just daisy-chain a shitload of USB hubs on all my servers so I can get as many of those sweet Best Buy specials attached to my servers as possible! The only problem then is I have to also daisy-chain dozens of powerstrips together to support all those AC adapters. My racks are a bloody mess!


    • Wesley David

      August 21, 2012 at 8:38 pm

      Is nice. I like.


  3. boethius

    August 21, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    Well, Amazon’s Glacier is $0.01 per gig per month and should qualify as “enterprise storage.” Of course, I doubt the DEA can store its evidence on Amazon.


    • Wesley David

      August 21, 2012 at 10:15 pm

      Strange. I’ve never heard of Glacier until today, and you’re the second person to mention it.


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