The Cloud and You, A Practical Guide: Storage

Eighty one percent of businesses now use the cloud in some form, and moving from local server stack to cloud provider is no longer so daunting. But signing a sensible cloud contract is only half the battle; the next step is finding networked services that make sense. First and foremost, you need to address storage.

This Should Fit, Right?

Storage is the first thing a company needs once they land on the cloud. While agility and cost reduction are always touted as cloud benefits, they only provide a return on investment (ROI) if data gets a safe place to call home.

Thanks to the increasing commoditization of IT, there are now a wide variety of storage options, though all operate on the same underlying concept. Instead of keeping data in a single server stack, information is spread across multiple servers (and in the case of a public cloud, stored alongside other companies’ data) in order to improve redundancy. The other notable advantage of cloud storage comes from its scalability; a company needs only purchase more room for its data, rather than shelling out for new servers.

All this choice leaves many companies lost, despite best IT efforts. A recent study, for example, found that business units are increasingly responsible for cloud decisions, and may soon overtake IT as the main drivers of cloud adoption. As a result, the role of storage and what route to take for maximum profitability is often muddled.

Choosing the Right Fit

Some cloud providers come with a built-in storage option, especially if they’re big industry players; startups, meanwhile, may offer you a wide open field. Some of the most popular choices include Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google’s Drive, which are currently competing to see who can offer the lowest price for storage. HP, IBM. Microsoft and Rackspace also offer cloud storage but with a focus on whole-cloud rather than storage-as-a-service.

That “as-a-service” is the real trick to cloud computing, and to getting the right kind of storage. Everything is available as-a-service – essentially a la carte. As a result, taking the first storage solution offered isn’t necessarily the most cost-effective option, even if it’s what a provider recommends.

It’s also worth considering what should stay and what should go from a local server stack. Moving everything to a cloud before the ink dries on your contract limits your options if things go sour; slow and steady is the best mantra for solid cloud storage. Of course, storing data is just the first step in realizing cloud benefits. Analyzing all that data comes next.

Doug Bonderud is a freelance writer, cloud proponent, business technology analyst and a contributor on the Dataprise website, a leading provider of Virginia IT support.