Storage Workers of the World, Unite

Storage Supersite Editor David Morgenstern has a modest proposal for addressing storage-based security problems in the enterprise: a union for storage IT workers.

Over at the Security Supersite last week, my colleagues sounded a variety of alarms over the potential for mischief from vendor personnel and disgruntled employees. While the personnel roster is one place to commence enterprise security, better employee relationships rather than investigations may get the job done right, especially for your storage concerns.

Certainly, I dont discount the experience of any company thats ever had a problem employee, one whos sabotaged work or created a backdoor into the network. Still, I found it odd that everyone I spoke with about this issue seemed to have heard of a such company but couldnt remember the exact circumstances.

The real question is: Whats the greater threat to your business? The chance that a vendor or disgruntled employee will screw you? Or that your company will fall short in one of the storage basics: guarding against outside attacks, the proper backup and archive of corporate resources and individual files, and creating a rock-solid disaster plan?

Or maybe its the possibility that someone in your organization will lose a notebook computer. Ask Senator John Kerry, whos on the road in the early days of his campaign. I bet he wishes he had a secure hard drive in the notebook.

I wager that most of us can point to failings on this list. Focusing inwards on personnel is much like looking under a streetlight for lost keys—thats where its easiest to search. Yet it may distract management from dealing with these practical and essential issues.

Then again, finding the right storage support personnel is tough, even without the extra filtering for homeland security. According to a Cisco Systems white paper, IT managers in a series of focus groups last year identified five major "pain points" when asked about their storage under management. Number four was the "shortage of qualified storage professionals to manage storage resources effectively."

So whats the answer to finding highly trained and loyal storage personnel, who have the requisite experience in SAN configuration and management? Should companies perhaps develop these skills in-house, given the "painful" shortage?

Some might point to training, such as available from the Storage Networking Industry Association. Others might simply call in a consultant.

Instead, I offer what for most readers will seem a radical suggestion: a trade union for storage IT workers. Perhaps the International SAN Workers Guild. This is no idle suggestion; I speak from my experience as a manager and as a rank-and-file stiff under a union contract (and a couple of years as a shop steward).

Working with industry associations, this union could help guarantee a certain level of training and perhaps certification from members. It would also provide a primary employment screening, saving employers the time and money of extensive background checks.

For members, the union could negotiate employment contracts, giving them a set of standard working conditions.

In addition, a formal complaint procedure could mitigate some of the grunts of disgruntled IT workers.

Of course, the union is a pipe dream. Management has successfully fought unionization since the beginning of the high tech industry. Furthermore, most IT workers have internalized the goals and values of their companies. The IT staff with which Ive worked were the most loyal employees of the organization, much more so than those in sales or marketing. They were more management than management.

Perhaps the widespread layoffs over the past couple of years will change the labor scene.

David Morgenstern is a longtime reporter of the storage industry as well as a veteran of the dotcom boom in the storage-rich fields of professional content creation and digital video.