Ominous clouds

10 Things You Need to Know about Working with Providers of Data Storage in the Cloud

Here's what you need to know about the hidden costs, risks and other considerations that must be taken into account when using a provider for data storage in the cloud.

For many companies today, data storage is not one technology but rather a combination of many different products, processes and policies. 

Indeed, Forrester has said that effective utilization of cloud and enterprise storage can lead to business technology success: "Hybrid clouds are the future state of compute and storage for enterprises in the age of the customer," states a brief for an April 2017 Forrester report. "Hybrid cloud storage can now blend on-premises storage infrastructure with public and hosted cloud services. Advances in storage solutions are paving the way for more organizations to properly and more easily use the powerful hybrid combination." 

When it comes to the hosted cloud piece of the hybrid storage puzzle, it can be easy to become overwhelmed by the offerings, their prices, their safety, their availability and their guarantees. There are dozens if not hundreds of things you need to know before you trust any or all of your data to a hosting provider, but here are 10 to get you on the right track.

1. Data storage in the cloud does not guarantee protection against data loss.

One of the most common misconceptions about cloud storage is that the cloud somehow magically prevents data loss. Although cloud providers generally do provide various tools for protecting your data, those tools do not negate the need to perform regular backups. You can’t assume that the cloud provider is backing up your data.

2. There may be a cost associated with data transfers.

Each cloud service provider has its own way of billing customers, but storage is typically billed on a per-gigabyte/per-month basis. Even so, some providers also charge a data transfer fee for uploading, downloading or even accessing your data. Any applicable data transfer fees will need to be factored into your cloud storage budget.

3. Cost varies by storage tier.

Cloud providers typically offer a few different storage tiers, and storage cost can vary widely depending on which tier you choose. For example, a terabyte of high performance, solid state storage will almost always cost more to use than a tier that is based on commodity spinning disks.

4. You may pay more depending on where you live.

When you provision data storage in the cloud, you will typically be asked to choose a region. The region that you choose corresponds to the location of the data center where the storage physically resides. Storage costs can vary by region because the cost of power, bandwidth and other resources can be substantially higher or lower in other parts of the world.

5. Permissions are key to security.

Also during the provisioning process--whether it be provisioning for public, private or hybrid storage--it is critically important to pay attention to the applicable permissions. Failing to adequately secure the storage can mean that anyone who knows your storage URL or IP address will be able to gain access. There have been situations in which an organization’s data was left unprotected, simply because the organization forgot to block outside storage access.

6. There are multiple ways to manage cloud storage.

Once again, every cloud service provider has its own way of doing things, but when it comes to the major providers you may find that you have multiple options for managing your cloud storage resources. For example, it is relatively common for major cloud providers to provide a GUI interface as the primary storage management tool, but to also allow storage to be managed through a command line interface and/or an SDK.

7. Not all data storage in the cloud is created equally.

Just as there may be various tiers of storage available to you, some cloud providers also define multiple classes of storage. These storage classes essentially define how the storage is intended to be used. For example, a provider might offer one class of storage for general use, another class of storage for use by virtual machine instances, and yet another storage class for the long-term archival of data. Choosing to appropriate class of storage for a particular task ensures an optimal experience.

8. You may be able to replicate storage across availability zones.

Some cloud service providers will allow you to replicate your storage from one availability zone to another. This type of replication can help to speed up access to data for users in other parts of the world because it places a copy of the data in close geographic proximity to the users who need access to it. Storage replication can also be used to ensure high availability for your data.

9. You may be able to use preset limits to control cost.

One of the tricky things about using cloud storage is that, depending on the provider, there may be a cost associated with nearly every storage operation. You may, for example, be billed for uploading data, accessing data, and even for consuming space with data that nobody is using. Because cloud providers often use complex billing formulas, it can be tough to accurately estimate how much you are spending on storage. However, some cloud providers will allow you to set up limits that will prevent cloud storage use from exceeding your budget. These limits work by forcing a hard stop once your spending reaches a certain level.

10. You might be able to improve security by setting notifications.

Some providers will allow subscribers to set alarms that will notify an administrator to certain activities. For example, you might choose to be notified if someone accesses a certain file, or if someone attempts to modify data within your archives.

What else do organizations need to know before working with a provider of data storage in the cloud? Let us know in the comments section below.

TAGS: Hybrid Cloud
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