It seems the latest trend of enterprise IT is to adopt whatever’s hot in consumer tech, although usually because of necessity and security rather than by choice. The latest spinoff of the should-we/shouldn’t-we debate over mobile gadgets is the question of online or cloud storage. Google made it a household name with Google Docs and its array of Office-like applications, and more recently pushing it further with Google Music. With similar offerings from Amazon and Apple, the idea of the public cloud is losing its mystery and gaining a more everyday reputation.
Companies such as Dropbox, Box.net, and Mozy are getting in on the online storage trend, gaining attention from the New York Times Technology section, highlighted for their successful foray into the storage industry. As Verne G. Kopytoff reports, “Aaron Levie, chief executive of Box.net, an early online storage company based in Palo Alto, Calif., said that the increased adoption of mobile devices and ubiquity of online connections had created a bigger need for companies like this.” The article cites the decrease in cost of hardware such as servers and data storage devices as one of the main benefits these companies have experienced in the past years. Box.net’s server space leasing cost has decreased about five to eight times since 2005 when the company started.
But these online storage companies are no strangers to the number one deterrent for all things “cloud”: Security concerns. Even casual consumers understand that their photos of last week’s BBQ are at risk, let alone images of their passport or social security card. With the recent horrible stretch for cloud computing, it’s not hard to see why experts urge users to only store non-sensitive information to these platforms. Newer companies are using this skepticism to their advantage. Chief executive of Cx.com Brad Richardson told the New York Times he “was not intimidated by all the competition. Focusing on security will help set his company apart from rivals.” Aside from being a thorn in the IT department’s side, consumer cloud services often serve as a catalyst for innovation in enterprise IT. With Amazon’s Cloud Drive and Apple’s iCloud (announced today and compared here), it definitely seems that further improvements could be headed for enterprise data storage.
The next step up from consumer acceptance? Small- and medium-sized businesses. And as Ron Miller points out, cloud storage seems the most obvious option for SMBs:
Small businesses today are being built for a fraction of the cost of even 5 years ago precisely because these businesses don’t have to make huge investments in hardware infrastructure. By passing off these costs to infrastructure providers, small businesses can concentrate on building the business and not worrying about keeping the Exchange server up and running or adding a new drive to the network to handle increased usage.
So it seems the dividing line between trusting your data to online storage and not falls right where most other IT concerns do: Budget. The bottom line for now seems to be, if you’re just starting your business, taking advantage of cloud storage can diminish your costs and keep you afloat. If you’re a company with enough to invest in the hardware (or something to hide) to host your own data storage, use that to your advantage and keep track of your most sensitive data that way. Unless you’re Sony, then you might just want to bury your head in the sand.