Ask the IT Consultant

Aug 12 2010   2:00AM GMT

The Cloud Attic – Leveraging Cloud Storage Solutions

Beth Cohen Beth Cohen Profile: Beth Cohen

Question: What are the benefits of using the cloud for my business’s storage requirements?  What technologies and solutions are available that addresses my needs for security, data integrity, elasticity and reduced costs?

There is no question that in today’s regulatory climate, businesses both large and small are data hungry.  Some industries, such as financial services, insurance and health care where preserving business or client records essentially forever is now common practice, storage needs can easily grow 50-100% per year.  Even a relatively small company could have 20-30 terabytes of data to store and protect.  For companies looking to reduce storage costs, the cloud offers some options.

Moving data storage to the cloud is both obvious and counter intuitive at the same time.  For mid-sized businesses and consumers, the appeal of using the cloud as a very large attic to throw all your archives is very appealing.  Consumer grade cloud backup services for relatively small data sets – under 20GB, are amazingly cheap.  However, for the enterprise, where the stakes for data loss and security are considerably higher, end user oriented products just will not do.  Most products in the enterprise cloud storage space break into four buckets:

Cloud Storage Management Tools – Software designed for the cloud providers and enterprises that want to take advantage of the cloud’s elasticity and need for a higher level of systems abstraction.  Software offerings from Bycast, Cleversafe and Parascale provide tools to slice and dice available SAN/NAS systems on the fly, multi-tenant secure partitioning, charge-back capabilities and virtual server support.

Cloud Ready Storage Hardware – Storage hardware with new software designed to handle the unique demands of cloud storage.  EMC, NetApp and IBM have all announced or are selling products with cloud enabled features.  Most are being pitched at nervous enterprises that are not willing to give up their overbuilt hardware and data center centric security blankets for the public cloud.

Wholesale Cloud Storage Services – These are true cloud storage services that are amazingly cheap (around $0.25/GB per month), but they are designed for either value added resellers or the enterprise that is looking for really cheap storage for archiving, data replication or short-term storage requirements.  Rackspace, Nirvanix, Amazon S3 and Ceedien all offer no-frills raw cloud storage services.  For very large data sets, watch out for bandwidth issues and extra charges for data movement that can quickly negate the low initial price.

Targeted Cloud Storage Services – Retail cloud storage offerings designed to appeal to specific market segments.  Nasumi and Egnyte are both companies that are selling file servers in the cloud to the small business market.  Their products are built on top of wholesale cloud storage services, essentially one more layer of abstraction.  Expect an explosion of products in this space as entrepreneurs dream up ingenious new ways to provide cloud storage services.

So far the enterprise has been dipping its toes in the cloud storage waters.  On-line backup, email archiving, Information Lifecycle Management (ILM), cloud bursting and replication are the most popular services so far, and there are real cost savings to be found.  Until WAN optimization becomes widespread in the public cloud, the shear size of the data sets involved will put a damper on rapid data movement and storage cloud bursting opportunities.

Cloud storage solutions are still a work in progress, but expect to see rapid improvements in data migration optimization, distributed data stores and multi-tenant security in the next 6-12 months as vendors start rolling out more sophisticated cloud storage services that meet the more complex requirements of the enterprise.

About the Author

Beth Cohen, Cloud Technology Partners, Inc.

2  Comments on this Post

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  • Jodiemicrosoftsmb
    A free option for online storage is Microsoft SkyDrive with 25 GB. Access anywhere from a PC or smart phone, drag and drop to put your info in the cloud and be in control of can see what files or docs. This link should help: Regards, Jodi E. Microsoft SMB Outreach Team
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  • Beth Cohen
    The MS skydrive is great, but it is strictly for the consumer market. For the enterprise, something far more robust is essential.
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