By Alexander Negrash, Director of Marketing, CloudBerry Lab
Mostorganizations are seeing their data volumes increase exponentially. According to IDC, the world’s data already exceeds available storage space – and demand for storage capacity is growing nearly 60 percent a year. Businesses are struggling with the volume and evolving nature of the data being collected. They’re under huge pressure to turn this data into insight, and wrestling with how they’re going to store it all, securely and cost-effectively.
Fortunately, cloud-based storage offers businesses an attractive alternative to on-prem storage approaches. In the battle for marketshare, the major cloud service providers are expanding their offerings to include free tiers, varied storage types for different data and use cases, and tools to make it easier to migrate data storage to their platforms. This can result in even more cost-savings for businesses, but it is important to understand which types of storage are ideal for which types of data, as well as the wide range of options available to facilitate an easier, smoother move to the cloud.
Take Your Data’s Temperature
Currently there are three “multi-temperature” cloud-based storage options – hot storage, which is suited to frequently accessed data requiring fast, high-performing storage; warm storage (also known as reduced redundancy storage), designed for data that is accessed less frequently and can be supported by slightly slower storage; and cold storage, which is the slowest option and ideal for infrequently accessed data.
Hot Storage is typically reserved for business-critical information that needs to be accessed quickly and is often leveraged for quick decision making. Examples include customer transactional data, or ATM and securities transactions in financial services. Hot storage offers high capacity and low latency, combined with superior reliability and availability. In many cases, the cloud service provider provides compensation if SLAs are not met.
Warm Storage is a rapidly growing category. Businesses often use hot storage to support data that must be readily on hand to support near-term tactical decision-making and analysis, but certain types of data used for long-term strategic analysis (ERP transactional, for example), can be cost-effectively supported by warm storage. Consider financial services firms, which must comply with regulatory demands requiring retention of several years’ worth of detailed historical records. These data sets can be too costly to maintain in a performance-oriented hot system. Warm storage provides a middle ground, helping financial services firms to strike a balance between compliance and cost-efficiency.
Cold Storage is ideal for data that is expected to be accessed very infrequently (if ever), but requires long-term archiving and preservation. Data types often relegated to cold storage include digital images (such as photos) and surveillance camera video. Cold Storage can cost as little as a penny per gigabyte to store for a month, and the option of setting up lifecycle rules gives businesses the ability to optimize costs even further. Stored data can be scheduled for discard after a defined period of time, reducing the cloud storage footprint.
While the growing range of cloud storage options can be quite helpful, businesses
still have to carefully consider the following in order to maximize the benefits of a multi-tiered cloud-based storage model:
Initial data transfer – Even if a business wants to move their storage to the cloud, initial data transfers can be time-consuming and costly – often causing a business to re-think their decision to move to the cloud in the first place. Certain cloud service providers now offer convenient, affordable devices (AWS Snowball is one example) that make the initial data seed much easier, minimizing the impact on IT productivity.
Leverage Existing Storage Resources – Many businesses have tried and true on-site storage resources, such as NAS which offers convenience and affordability for small organizations. As small businesses consider adopting cloud-based storage, they shouldn’t assume this will require them to scrap their NAS investments. NAS can continue to play a valuable role. For example, once data stored in NAS reaches a certain point in its lifecycle, it can be scheduled for export to the cloud, directly from the NAS devices. Exports can automated, another way to preserve precious IT manpower and resources.
Keep Your Cloud Service Provider Options Open – Businesses must remember that future enterprise initiatives and plans (outside of the realm of storage) may make a service provider shift appealing. Therefore, organizations should consider cloud-based storage approaches that offer a wide degree of choice and long-term flexibility in picking and switching providers.
User Encryption – While data storage in the cloud offers many benefits, businesses may still be concerned over the possibility of cloud breaches. To allay these fears, look for cloud data storage solutions that offer user-side encryption, which can provide an added layer of confidence in cloud-based data security.
Instead of forcing all data into the highest-cost/best-performance solution just in case an organization might need it on-the-fly one data, data can now be stored in the cloud according to its “temperature.” There is no hard and fast rule of thumb here – what is warm data to one organization may be hot to another. The key is to set recovery performance expectations for particular data sets , and pick the lowest common denominator of cloud storage that can meet those performance needs.
Additional factors including the initial data seed, choice and flexibility among cloud service providers, the ability to leverage existing storage resources, IT productivity and data security are also important. Remember, when cloud service providers compete, businesses win, and these providers are making sure prospective users have everything they need to enable a smooth, seamless transition to data storage in the cloud. Taking advantage of these tools is another key part of maximizing the cost-savings and benefits of cloud-based storage.