Things to Consider: Enterprise Cloud Storage Services

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When it comes to introducing cloud storage and collaboration for your enterprise, you have several choices of providers. At surface level, they all offer similar programs and features, and costing options. So, how do you know which one is best for your enterprise? There are a few important aspects that you can use to assess the most efficient service for your storage space purposes.

  • Security
  • Management
  • Cost
  • Performance

Security

The very nature of cloud storage is unfortunately what makes it vulnerable to hackers and other forms of corruption. Storage in the cloud provides access to files and backup software at any time and from anywhere. This essentially means that anyone with an Internet connection (and malicious intent) could theoretically gain access, even if they are not supposed to have it.

Fortunately, there are several steps a cloud storage service can take to secure the data they are hosting. Encryption is one of the most commonly used tools. A thorough service will have encryption at multiple stages of the storage process, including transit between servers and devices, as well as the generation and management of encryption keys.

Geo-fencing and data-aware filtering are two more security measures that can indicate the security level of the storage provider. Data-aware filtering analyzes anyone who accesses data (and when they access it) to establish a pattern of use. If there are deviations, the system can flag the access for further investigation. Likewise, geo-fencing analyzes geo-location data, such as an IP address, to create a virtual boundary. Any access that comes from outside of the boundary is flagged.

There are other security measures that can be evaluated, including the use of workload audits or access logs and strategic plans for handling a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack or malware infiltration among others. Research the storage providers policies on all of these to determine if their security is sufficient to store your data.

Management

Until recently, cloud storage has been used mostly by individuals. This is largely due to the complexity of enterprise data storage. However, current growth trends in storage solutions and cloud-based applications indicate that in the next five years, we will see major increases in cloud adoption by larger enterprises. Due to different regulations to which businesses must adhere, the management of the storage will be an important factor in the choice of provider.

There are essentially three choices for cloud management: private, public, and hybrid. Private is cloud storage that is hosted by the enterprise itself in a data center. Public is just what it sounds like—a cloud service that is utilized by the public, whereas hybrid is simply a combination of the two.

For many businesses, hybrid might be the best option. Private cloud storage can be utilized for more sensitive data while general files go to the public cloud. This is a great option as your enterprise has complete control over the sensitive information while freeing up storage by sending general files elsewhere. Having a hybrid system could also allow the easy transfer of data between the two.

If you choose public cloud storage, you should verify their storage processes, including general storage, application-specific storage, archiving, and backup and recovery. You will need to put those in place in your private cloud storage as well.

Cost

Prior to making a decision between the major cloud providers, enterprises will ask themselves the question; “how much is cloud storage going to cost our bottom line?” The simple answer to the cost of cloud storage is…there isn’t a simple answer. That’s because there are several factors that contribute to an overall cost analysis, and those factors depend on the specific needs of your enterprise.

Some of the basic features that you should look for when comparing cloud storage services for business cloud storage include, but are not limited to, the following: the data center, frequency of data access, volume capability, and support subscriptions. In addition, you should also ascertain whether there are additional—and sometimes hidden—fees for things such as data access and/or transfer and overage penalties. Cloud storage for individuals is riddled with hidden fees and, enterprise cloud storage—though not as widespread—is no different.

Some storage systems straight out charge for upgraded tiers while some offer incentives that you can take advantage of to achieve access to upgraded tiers. This is an important distinction because you should also find out what happens once you have entered a higher tier (i.e., is there a minimum threshold that must be maintained in order to stay at that tier).

For a well-informed decision, you should also research the costs of private or hybrid cloud storage. You might find that as expensive as public storage is, it is a drop in the bucket to what private cloud storage could cost you. Another factor in this decision is the cost—both in terms of money and manpower—of keeping up with regulations, patches, updates, and other aspects of data security.

Performance

In general, performance refers to the speed at which your data can be transferred, or environments to be provisioned. If you need quick access, you need to ensure that your cloud service can provide it. This probably should be part of your cost analysis as well; there is no point to saving money on cloud storage if it is going to take users five hours to retrieve a file, or a day to spin-up an environment.

Until recently, “cloud storage” and “high performance” were two terms that simply were not used together. However, with the projected increase in enterprise cloud usage, innovators and creators can see that there will be a need for latency-sensitive technology that is combined with an efficient infrastructure to provide a total package for enterprise users.

There is also another aspect of performance: file versioning. This refers to the ability to access, update, delete, and restore the files that you have sent to the cloud. Currently, some services have a limit on how much versioning you are allowed while others do not offer it at all. In the latter case, this means that you would have to evaluate each file individually before sending it to the cloud because you will not be able to retrieve it. This, obviously, could be a deal breaker for your enterprise.

As you can see, there are several things to consider when choosing an enterprise cloud storage service. Fortunately, it is a growing trend, and storage options are now being tailored specifically for enterprise usage. This could be a good time to get in on technology that is almost certainly going to expand rapidly.

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