This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Cloud Computing Magazine.
Let’s face it: Choosing a cloud storage service can be a tedious process, and certainly not all cloud storage services are created equal. Companies are turning to cloud storage for the economic advantage of utility storage instead of the higher capital and operational costs of building and managing remote data centers.
Cloud backup and disaster recovery service providers are the companies both consumers and businesses trust with valuable, often irreplaceable data. Although more businesses are looking to the cloud for their storage needs, the industry is challenged with addressing the hurdles that delay widespread adoption.
As the volume of data grows at an exponential rate – with IDC (News - Alert) predicting a growth rate of nearly 60 percent per year – storing your company’s most valuable data on a server somewhere doesn’t cut it. The resulting trend is a growing number of enterprises building their own private cloud for storage needs, and small and medium-sized businesses putting their data in a public cloud. There is also a shift toward hybrid models, which leverage the best of both worlds. Each model offers enterprises large-scale, better planning capabilities and more flexibility to meet unique user demands.
While public cloud storage models are perhaps best-suited for SMBs that do not have their own internal IT infrastructure and have more cost constraints, enterprises are adopting private cloud storage to ensure their data is safe, accessible and redundant.
In fact, Gartner (News - Alert) predicts that Global 1000 IT organizations will spend more money building private cloud computing services through 2012 than they will on offerings from public cloud-computing service providers.Furthermore, by 2015, combined spending for public and private cloud storage will be $22.6 billion worldwide, IDC forecasts.
Predictions aside, what businesses and consumers alike are realizing is that with such vast amounts of data to store – whether for operational or compliance needs – the status quo of yesterday’s storage model is not only unsuitable – it’s a ticking time bomb.
“People store their most priceless, precious data on a hard drive and that’s a ticking time bomb,” saysErik Zamkoff, CEO of MiMedia, a cloud storage company similar to Dropbox (News - Alert).
Certainly security is a very important piece of the storage equation, and remains one of the hurdles standing in the way of widespread cloud storage adoption. But with therising number of utility-like cloud storage vendorsemerging,they are enabling companies to grow on demand, allowing them tohandle massive amounts of data from anywhere, at any time.
At this point in the market, businesses are starting to realize that they don’t need to hold on to certain pieces of data, and have become more strategic to ensure business continuity by backing up their data in the cloud – it’s the fundamental idea that not not only will their data be kept safe, backed up and it will be readily available in the case of a disaster.
Besides the obvious capabilities and benefits cloud storage can bring, there is an emerging trend affecting cloud storage growth– it’s the notion that Big Data is driving demand, lighting a fire under vendors to expand their services and help companies leverage masses of data by making more intelligent business decisions. The term Big Data is getting almost as much play as “cloud computing” did when it was the hot button buzz-term five years ago.
Big Data will earn its place as the next “must have” competency in 2012, according to IDC. IDC predicts that 2.43 zettabytes of data will need to be created in 2012. These data storage demand will be used mostly for social media like videos, photos and music files.
Big Data developments will likely be the most critical new marketplace for storage solutions providers in the coming decade, according to IDC.
“Providing a strong portfolio of complete Big Data solutions – hardware, software, and implementation services – will be a high priority to succeed. Similarly, a strong portfolio of active archival storage solutions will be a critical differentiator for private content/archive cloud deployments,” says Richard Villars, vice president of storage systems and executive strategies at IDC.
However, size isn’t all that matters. Just because data is growing at unprecedented, astronomically astounding rates does not mean businesses are ready to offload all of that critical information into the cloud.While cloud storage has gained immense traction in the past 12 months, the lack of standards, portability and continuing security concerns inhibit widespread adoption, according to Rani Osnat, vice president of marketing for CTERA.
“When you look at cloud storage there are several obstacles to widespread adoption – security being one of them,” says Osnat.“Not security of the cloud structure itself; the issue is more around data security. Today if you want to upload your data to the cloud, you don’t get end-to-end encryption just like that if you are doing it yourself, especially for SMBs.”
While cloud storage is gaining momentum seemingly by the day, at the same time there is some confusion, or lack of knowledge in the market, in terms of how to not only use cloud storage, but also to leverage it to the fullest.
“SMBs really have a lot to gain from cloud in general and cloud storage especially. Their needs are less predictable than large enterprises, so the cloud can really help them,” explains Osnat. “Even more, we find that it gets them the kinds of level of service that until now that was really not accessible to them.”
Backup applications and features found in high end, enterprise-level applications and on-demandaccess to backup over the Web are now available to SMBs – which presents a very lucrative value proposition for service providers.
“A lot of SMBs need to do something but it’s not clear what to do and how we get it,” Osnat says, who suggests firms work with a single supplier or a handful of service providers for their cloud storage needs. “A lot of SMBs are stepping and doing that. And those that aren’t are going to miss out on this opportunity and really jeopardize their business. Over time we are going to see migration of more storage to the cloud.With enterprises, they prefer the control over the infrastructure and enjoy the cost reduction without paying for a service provider.”
Osnat describes growth of the market as an undercurrent in cloud storage. “It’s not a massive revolution yet but it’s happening slowly. We see this in very large enterprises investing in this and saving millions of dollars,” he says.
The proliferation of Bring Your Own Device into the workplace is also driving cloud storage needs, according to Michael Feil, director of cloud solutions at Logicalis (News - Alert), an international IT solutions and managed services provider.
“People are looking to have this storage somewhere and to access it from anywhere and they want to be able to access it form a variety of devices. They want to be able to get to this data – instead of trying to make all of those copies. They want a place to store their data that they can access from any device that they choose,” explains Feil.
Storing data on-premise is also becoming a very costly endeavor for businesses. Looking to the cloud not only gives them more space, but also lowers IT costs associated with legacy storage systems.
More IT decision makers are realizing the best way to get more storage is to work with a cloud provider to be able to move business-critical data into the cloud. Companies aren’t just looking for the data to get backed up, they are also looking for it to be copied and redundant via Tier 3 and Tier 4 storage providers.
“It’s getting expensive to hold onto the data. With the changes that came under legal compliance – as hard drives got bigger and more systems came online, all of the sudden, this data became very important,” Feilsays. “In the SMB market, we are seeing a big trend in clients that have data they want to hold onto and they are using back-up tapes for legal compliance. This gets expensive. More clients are taking that archived data and are starting to want a point of presence so they can dump this data. They don’t access the data a lot but it’s important to them – and it has to be a seamless interaction.”
Best Practices: Backing Up and Securing Data
Your cloud storage plan needs to be comprehensive. Don’t just back up your servers, back up your laptops and desktops. You never know what will be damaged. Back up at least once at day, preferably more. Make sure you have a least one copy
Automation is imperative. Manual intervention experience has proven back up is not reliable. Your storage system needs to be fully automated and monitored.
Time sensitivity: Remember how important your data is and determinehow much does that data change. Data always needs to be protected. Is it an hour old? 24 hours old? That’s going to determine how often it needs to be backed up.
Disaster recovery. How fast do you need that data back? A lot of people have a solid idea of how much they data they have but there is a time factor is associated. Most people don’t grasp it and they just come up with an arbitrary number.
Data security: What is the data actually comprised of? Companies know how much data they have, they know the business uses that information, but many CIOs can’tdetermine how the business uses the data it is storing. There is a big difference between documents the marketing team has to store (pictures and icons), versus HR and payroll and information where encryption is required. Type and context your data so you can apply the proper protection to prevent data theft.
Make sure the data is in a single unified capability. Multiple copies of data in multiple places – paying for it to be stored multiple times with no benefit of it having it in so many places just drives up the cost of storing it. There needs to be a value to it. Understand the difference between highly available data versus multiple copies of data that doesn’t change a lot that are accessible by one source.
Work with the right vendor. Partner with a service provider who can help you navigate the different storage options. Today, there is not a great deal of standardization and portability across providers. Ensure that your applications are portable. A good partner can help you achieve that.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi