With data volumes growing at an incredibly fast rate, managing cloud storage is becoming increasingly more complex. The high storage demands have made more and more businesses sign up for cloud hosting. According to survey conducted by the Global Digital Alliance which surveyed 647 IT professionals, it was found out that about 35% want cloud storage immediately. The survey respondents suggested within a couple of years their data storage in clouds will increase dramatically and almost one-third will be housed in public clouds or SaaS environments.
This growth can be attributed to many reasons, the most important being that the cloud is viewed as an economical alternative for storing archived and inactive data. Such data are not affected by security or latency issues. But, so far, the growth in cloud hosting has been mainly on a temporary basis. It has happened because organizations felt the need to store data in remote off-site servers. So, the cloud policies have also been designed in spurts. For instance in a SaaS environment, the IT staff is only concerned with security and there is hardly any interaction with infrastructure. Policy is not given much thought. So, the result has been a mix of reactive approaches as far as cloud storage is concerned.
Traditional businesses lack a definite strategy to manage growth and handle data in the cloud. While now only about 16% respondents have their data stored off-site, the numbers will rise to 26% in the next two years. This also means that the haphazard strategies for managing cloud storage need to be changed as more and more critical data makes its way into the clouds. Businesses have to come up with long-term strategies to assess cloud storage in regard to their broader business objectives. Seth Robinson of CompTIA argues that data and storage need to go hand-in-hand.
When you have a proper cloud strategy, you must assess your cloud storage requirements. It is advised that you should use a cloud storage tree for easy decision making. This will help you understand whether you should have data stored in the cloud, or on-site or in a combination of both. The decision depends on many factors, namely, the kind of application you support, the performance requirements for that application etc. If you can answer these questions, you will know whether to bring the data to application or vice versa.
The cloud strategy needs to be looked at also; while studies suggest that more than 90% of respondents in a 2016 survey have sought cloud computing for their enterprise needs, the cloud is still found to be lacking in some aspects. Senior analyst Hill recommends that businesses must choose the cloud when it is the right time. The advantages of a mixed cloud environment which offers public clouds, on-premise private clouds and many managed clouds should not be disregarded, according to Robinson. The trick is to understand which model is best suited for your architecture. For this reason, it is important to assess the factors like security, manageability, scalability, costs and performance.
- According to both Robinson and Hill, security is of utmost significance. Robinson is of the view that enterprises should rethink security of data storage. So, instead of just worrying about backups and data recovery, they should focus on business continuity. All data which has been backed up may not be vital. So a business has to understand which data is valuable and then deal with it accordingly. Businesses have to know what the cloud vendor can deploy to protect data. They must know who can access the data and who has the encryption key. They may also have to take actions on how vendors must protect the data. So, they have to verify whether the vendor gives in-house protection; else, they should look for another vendor.
- Integration is vital because only a few businesses will shift to the all-cloud storage. Cloud storage uses the object-based model while Network Attached Storage or NAS and Storage Area Network or SAN use block and file storage. This means that data may be lost in transfer between these two and so, you need software which can integrate the systems. Businesses which have experienced cloud growth will have applications that depend on data stored in many clouds. There are many access points and this can be risky for data movement. Hill argues that both clouds in this case must use the same architecture; else, data transfer may become complicated.
- Performance demands better speeds and lower latency. These two situations are necessary for getting the right performance benchmarks. So, data has to be stored such that latency is minimized when you access this data. So, users should be able to access the data seamlessly, regardless of the platform. Moreover, for some data, downtime may have less impact but, for some others, even a few seconds could turn out to be disastrous. Business owners have to understand the difference and they must deploy the measures needed accordingly to prevent downtimes.
- Cloud hosting leads to cost-saving but cloud storage may raise your expenses. The good thing is that most vendors have lowered costs and are likely to cut these down further in the coming days. So, you should assess what you are paying for and then enter into a contract.
- Finally, one cannot undermine the importance of scalability. Most respondents are of the opinion that scaling up SaaS services and cloud is easier than traditional services. Businesses will differ from one another in terms of scalability needs. When a business has steady storage needs, the power to scale resources up and down may not be the most important criterion for choosing a vendor. So, when you have the right strategy, you can deliver your products and cater to client needs better while innovating the business.