At Captain D`s and Shoney`s restaurants, data storage systems accessible through the web make it possible to not only capture and hold data from POS systems in hundreds of locations, but also provide reports that let the corporation know what is selling best where and when and other information such as that drinks and desserts provide the highest profit margins throughout the corporate chain.
"It all boils down to how this data can help us run our business better," says Chris Crabtree, senior director of information services for Captain D`s LLC, a division that handles technology systems for parent Shoney`s Inc. "The more effective we can be at how we access this data, the better."
Like other retailers, Shoney`s is planning to implement even more efficient ways to store and access all of its data, moving to a new Serial ATA storage system that offers more storage space for the money. "The big driver in storage investment is space, the available amount per dollar of cost," he says.
Analysts say the storage technology market has matured to the point where companies can be more flexible in their use of the servers and disks that make up data storage systems. In many cases, retailers are learning that they can do things with existing or lower-priced systems that would have been impossible a few years ago. "Retailers are making better use of the storage they have," says Phil Goodwin, a retail industry analyst at research and consulting firm Meta Group Inc.
ATA, or advanced technology attachment, is a relatively low-cost storage disk drive system that operates at slower speeds than more expensive systems for accessing stored data. While a retailer might still want to keep online transaction processing tied to a higher performance-oriented storage system, such as a storage attached network, or SAN, it could maintain a less critical data warehouse on a slower ATA storage disk, Goodwin says.
"We`re finding that you have can a high-performance storage system for data that is accessed regularly, but store the remaining 80% or so on lower-cost systems if the slower access times doesn’t make that much of a difference," Goodwin says.
ATA technology is narrowing the gap between it and higher-performance storage systems, Goodwin notes. Until recently, the upper speed limit for an ATA drive was 133 megabytes per second, a performance setting which could result in noise on data lines. At those speed restrictions, many users insisted on using the much faster SCSI interfaces built into higher-end storage systems like SANs.
But newer versions of serial ATA drives are available that operate at higher speeds than their predecessors. Their current speeds can hit 150 megabytes per second and are expected to double repeatedly, hitting 300 megabytes within two years then 600 megabytes not long after that.