Nov 01 2017

Why Your Business Should Consider Cloud as a Storage Option

Hybrid cloud storage harnesses the benefits of both public and private clouds.

Organizations pondering a migration to cloud storage face the choice of three different approaches: public, private or hybrid.

Moving to the public cloud means transferring all onsite files, and most management responsibilities, to one or more cloud storage service providers. A private storage cloud, on the other hand, is entirely dedicated to and managed by the organization itself. The private cloud may be located within the organization’s own data center or at a third-party provider’s facility.

To get the best out of both private and public strategies, a growing number of organizations are opting for the hybrid cloud approach. “Hybrid storage is a hot topic and trend because of the need and promise of seamlessly having access to data; be it in one or multiple public or private clouds,” says Michael Oros, executive director of the Storage Networking Industry Association, a trade organization for the storage industry.

Ross Turk, global director of product marketing for open-source software company Red Hat, feels that organizations that haven’t already considered migrating to hybrid cloud storage need to begin doing so now. “We believe modern enterprises should be evaluating a hybrid approach to infrastructure, deploying workloads across public and private clouds,” he says.

Determining the best way to work cloud storage into tiered options can help organizations lower expenses and improve management capabilities. “The public cloud offers agility and elasticity, but it’s not realistic to assume that it can meet each and every need,” Turk says. “That means it’s important to be able to operate across both public and private clouds, balancing capital and operational expenditures as needed.”

Cloud migration is understandable given the rapidly growing amount of data being stored and the cloud’s seemingly limitless storage capacity. According to a January 2017 Stratistics MRC report, global cloud storage spending is expected to grow from $18.9 billion in 2015 to $112.73 billion by 2022. One of the key drivers behind this massive growth is an increasing need for Big Data storage.

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The Benefits of Hybrid Cloud Storage

Hybrid storage is a good fit for organizations with frequently accessed structured data and those requiring backups and long-term archives of both structured and unstructured data.

Structured data uses patterns that are identifiable and predictable. Such information can be easily inserted into rational tables or tagged in important documents. With structured data designed for use by an application, such as a website or database, the application and the structured data should be positioned close together. Therefore, organizations tend to place them in the same location, either in a public or private cloud, whichever way makes the most sense from a cost-performance standpoint.

“With structured data, applications that need to interact with different kinds of Structured Query Language databases require a lot of power,” says Jan-Jaap Jager, chief revenue officer and former general manager of the cloud solutions unit at Acronis, a data protection solutions provider. “If you use that in the cloud, it’s an advantage because you can scale up, or scale down, very quickly because you have both cloud storage and cloud performance."

Unstructured data is based on unorganized types of information. Documents, metadata, video, audio, log files and email messages are all considered to be unstructured data types. Cloud storage generally provides a reliable, cost-effective method for handling unstructured data.

Assessing Cloud Storage Costs and Benefits

Private, on-premises storage services are typically more time-consuming and affect capital budgets more directly than their public-cloud counterparts. “Private clouds require greater operational expertise and are most cost-effective for long-running applications,” Turk says. “However, they offer greater compatibility with enterprise security policies and can be designed for much greater performance.”

Cloud storage pricing depends on several factors. “When using public cloud storage services, customers pay for the bandwidth and storage they use on an ongoing basis,” Turk says. Customers typically don’t pay to move data into the public cloud storage service, but pay to get it back out. “You might have heard the adage ‘data has gravity,’ and that’s because it’s often expensive to move data out of the public cloud,” Turk says. “On the other hand, though, these services avoid costly hardware purchasing and upkeep.”

When deploying cloud storage on-premises, customers pay for the hardware required and, in many cases, purchase a subscription for the storage software. “Over the long term, this can offer cost savings over public cloud storage services,” Turk says. However, this approach requires upfront capital and personnel investments.

Multiple Forms of Cloud Gateways

On-premises gateways, the most popular approach to cloud gateways, consist of an on-premises physical or virtual appliance that connects an organization’s local area network (LAN) to the cloud.

Cloud-integrated storage, another widely used gateway approach, provides a higher degree of integration between cloud and local storage. The technology regards cloud storage as one of several tiers, dynamically moving data to the most appropriate tier based on preset policies.

A cloud-resident gateway sits in the cloud as a virtual appliance. Public cloud providers often offer their own cloud-resident gateways to attract and retain customers. “Many times, the appliances are also optimized for specific usage models, and when a company’s cloud storage needs change, the appliance may or may not be adaptable to the new needs,” Oros warns.

The Bottom Line on Cloud Storage

Cost and performance considerations aside, cloud storage provides the same basic benefits whether it’s hosted with a provider or based on-premises: It is elastic, massively scalable and can be provisioned as necessary to meet demands.

“When storage is needed, it can be made immediately available in large quantities in many different forms through a variety of protocols,” Turk says. “When storage is no longer needed, it can be immediately deprovisioned and used for something else.”

Learn more about how CDW’s storage solutions and services can manage your organization’s evolving needs.

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