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Avoid Exchange 2013 storage snags with the right disks

Choosing the right disks for your Exchange 2013 setup is a battle between cost and performance. How do you decide what's more important?

Most email platforms depend on storage and the wrong storage options can wreak havoc on your organization. Learn how to choose the right disks to implement into your Exchange 2013 storage setup.

Understanding common issues and how to avoid or fix them can improve mailbox server performance, among other tasks. IT professionals can optimize an Exchange 2013 hardware infrastructure by selecting underlying disk technologies that provide a balance between storage cost, capacity and performance. Choices include Serial ATA (SATA), Serial-Attached SCSI (SAS), Fibre Channel (FC) and solid state drive (SSD) devices.

Chart to be inserted here giving comparables among these disk technologies per previous graf.

Using SATA disks for Exchange 2013 Storage

These disks represent the commodity end of the disk spectrum. SATA is known for extremely high per-disk storage capacities and overall low cost. However, SATA input/output (I/O) performance is only mediocre at 5,400 and 7,200 RPM, and an enterprise usually opts for 10,000 RPM SATA disks to achieve fair I/O performance results.

Select enterprise-class SATA disks for superior reliability characteristics, such as heat and vibration tolerance. Exchange 2013 mailbox storage supports SATA disks, but use of huge disks with SATA technology can pose a higher risk of data loss and exceptionally long rebuild times for RAID group members.

Using disks for Exchange 2013 Storage

Many enterprise Exchange deployments opt for SAS disks. This technology typically sacrifices some storage capacity for superior I/O performance, especially when 15,000 RPM SAS disks replace 7,200 and 10,000 RPM disks. These factors are often more accommodating to RAID groups where performance -- which is further enhanced through the use of multiple spindles -- is more important for busy Exchange traffic than raw capacity.

Exchange administrators and storage architects can generally find more enterprise-class SAS disks available with higher reliability and tolerance to physical stress than commodity SATA disks -- though this also means SAS disks can be more costly per GB than SATA equivalents.

Using FC disks for Exchange 2013 Storage

Fibre Channel disks are known for modest storage capacity and excellent I/O performance using a dedicated storage area network (SAN). FC disks are available in 7,200, 10,000 and 15,000 RPM versions for a mix of capacity and I/O capabilities. These disks are generally organized into logical RAID groups within the SAN array. Exchange 2013 may also share its FC SAN with other enterprise workloads and servers.

Using SSDs for Exchange 2013 Storage

IT teams may deploy SSDs for Exchange mailbox storage; however, SSDs have extremely high I/O performance and only modest storage capacity. Cost continues to decline, but SSDs remain a high cost per GB compared to other disk types. While SSDs are supported by Exchange 2013, their performance is often not justified by the cost-to-capacity tradeoff.

Next Steps

Common Exchange 2013 storage sizing issues

Choose the right RAID level in Exchange 2013

Exchange 2013 storage options with Hyper-V virtualization

This was last published in August 2015

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