Given the current state of the fibre channel market, the deployment of SANs is generally only recommended for large enterprise-class companies, though mid-size and smaller companies with proper support infrastructure can also derive benefits for various applications. Interoperability is still a problem facing early technology adopters and it will continue to be a problem as the standard continues to evolve to 2Gbps speeds and beyond.
"Custom SAN system manufacturers like EMC, IBM, and Compaq do extensive testing and compile lists of compatible hardware. However, companies that build fully integrated SANs are fully plug-and-play from the users perspective."
Small scale SANs can be deployed in workgroups that are trying to leverage fibre channels device sharing capabilities (ex. Using fibre channel to set up a shared LAN-free backup infrastructure--more on backup solutions later), but this scenario is highly discouraged for companies that dont have fibre channel expertise in house.
For the most part, for shared storage needs, we highly recommend that small companies use NAS (Network Attached Storage) appliances to centralize the storage needs of their workgroups. NAS can be installed into an existing Ethernet network in a matter of minutes, and although its performance will be somewhat less than that of a SAN, the performance degradation wont be noticeable to most clients. For a detailed comparison of these two technologies, please refer to the SAN vs NAS section of this article