The Economic Angle
A credit crunch can make it more difficult for businesses to finance the capitalized costs associated with adding more data center storage on site. Economic uncertainty can mean businesses will have to keep their costs variable and non-capitalized – using on-demand storage solutions – and they may be encouraged to consider outsourced storage solutions in the cloud. In addition, many businesses with highly variable storage needs do not want to have to pay for storage which is often unused. The latest online backup and storage services are cost-effective compared to most internal solutions, and provide the added benefit of offsite disaster recovery. From a business point of view, the ability to access your files from anywhere, from any computer and cost effectively ensure business continuity has clear advantages. Cheaper costs per GB (for the same functionality) and true site disaster recovery are key business drivers. The flexibility of cloud storage is very appealing to customers. Cloud storage products should provide elasticity, with capacity that grows as a business requires and scales back as soon as this excess capacity is no longer needed – you should only pay for what you use. A cloud storage service provider should base its pricing on how much storage capacity a business has used, how much bandwidth was used to access its data, and the value-added services performed in the cloud such as security and deduplication. Unfortunately there are many service providers that offer "low price" but fail to include basic services, so that hidden fees can add up very quickly. Some common hidden fees to watch out for are connecting fees, account maintenance charges, and data access charges. To make sure service providers aren't including additional fees cloud platforms should offer clear and predictable monthly bills allowing customers to manage costs more accurately.
In terms of security, cloud-based services must be managed and operated at equivalent levels to enterprise systems. The data must be properly encrypted both in motion and at rest, the physical locations of the cloud must be secure, and the business processes must be appropriate to the data and usage. Once those constraints are satisfied, cloud storage is no more or less secure than physical storage and the chance of data leakage by using cloud computing is no higher than that of physical on-premises storage. Although cloud computing standards are still being developed, existing standards, such as SAS 70 compliance and tier levels, are key indicators. Another major issue facing cloud storage is where the customer's data is actually kept. Many cloud products may not offer specific locations for where customer's data will reside or actually offer "location-less" clouds as a benefit. The actual physical location of a customer's data can be very important (for EU Data Protection Directive compliance, for example) and, if you are utilizing cloud storage for your disaster recovery plan or attempting to pass strict security audits, then the location of the data and the mechanisms defined to make that data accessible can be critical. If you live in a hurricane zone, for example, you wouldn't want to risk that your cloud is in the same area.
Easier All Around
Cloud storage can address many challenges that physical storage doesn't:
• Customers are not dependent on a single server.
• There is no direct hardware dependency.
• Customers don't have to buy more disk space than they initially need to accommodate future data growth.
• Business continuity is provided in the event of a site disaster.
• A virtual storage container can be provisioned that is larger than the physical space available.
• Customers can drastically reduce over-provisioning in a pay-as-you-go model.
• Cloud storage allows customers to access the entire storage pool from a single point.
All of these benefits make the administrator's job easier with a single administrative interface and a unified view of the data storage.