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5 things to consider when selecting your next online storage provider

online storage provider
(Image credit: Photo by Taylor Vick on Unsplash)

Managed cloud storage services are getting more popular every day, meaning more of us than ever are relying on cloud storage providers to protect our data and keep mission-critical business applications running. This makes finding the right cloud storage service extremely important. Not all are created equal, and a range of factors determine whether a particular operator will do a good job of keeping your information safe and your files accessible when you need them.

Although most data centers purchase brand new technology when starting up, equipment goes out of date fast, so a good cloud storage service is always advancing to stay ahead of the competition. The best providers need to implement changes all the time to deal with new regulations, protect servers from hackers, and speed up data transfers. 

Using a cloud storage provider that’s not on top of their game can expose your data to security vulnerabilities and cause significant performance headaches. Because many business operations are now reliant on cloud storage, this can lead to major impacts in terms of reputation and revenue. 

Today, we’re here to present the five most important factors you should think about before signing up with a particular cloud storage provider. By focusing on these elements, you’ll be able to find the right option for you.

1. Location, location, location 

Although the name implies otherwise, it’s important to remember that every piece of information in the cloud is actually stored in a brick-and-mortar data center. And the location of that center really matters. For one thing, you need to know about where your data will be held for legal reasons as local laws will determine who has access to it. Also, if you host client data from customers in the European Union, you’ll need to be compliant with GDPR legislation which governs where and how the personal information of EU citizens is kept. 

But beyond the legal implications of data storage location, there are physical risks to take into account. Some areas are more prone to natural disasters such as wildfires and earthquakes than others. It’s important to check that a cloud storage provider has adequate protection from these and a continuity plan in place to deal with unexpected hazards.

Remote data storage facilities are often the best protected from sudden outages, but there are also downsides to using such a center in terms of latency, potentially making them inadequate for stock trading or Internet of Things applications where every millisecond counts. That’s why there’s no one single best data storage location—it’s all about finding the option that best suits your use case.

2. Security

The global cybercrime industry is now worth hundreds of billions of dollars and continues to grow every year. The rise in the popularity of cloud storage services has caused them to become an important target for hackers, leading to frequent cloud storage breaches. Consequently, security isn’t a factor you can afford to ignore when searching for your next cloud storage service provider. 

It’s important to take into account both physical and digital protective systems when assessing the level of security provided by a cloud provider. Start out by verifying that their data center employs an around-the-clock security team, restricts server room access to key personnel only, and has a CCTV system. On the digital side of things, any worthwhile cloud storage service will take a proactive approach to data security. That means not only keeping firewalls up to date but monitoring for unusual network activity and using an event management system to remove any threats.

3. Power & efficiency

Powering a data center full of servers operating near to capacity requires an incredible amount of energy, making cloud-reliant operations highly dependent on a consistent power supply. Although a well-maintained and adequately regulated regional energy infrastructure makes a big difference here, nowhere in the world is completely immune from power outages or brownouts.

Because of this, you should only ever use a cloud storage operator with a proper energy back-up system to host mission-critical services. Emergency on-site power generators are invaluable in the event of power failure, and cloud providers can also demonstrate their preparedness by certifying N+1 redundancy on all components and using an uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

As cloud services consume a large amount of energy, they also leave a significant carbon footprint on the planet. If you care about being eco-friendly, you should partner with a provider that purchases electricity from renewable sources and is committed to reducing its power usage. To find your best option in this regard, search for the effective power usage ratio (PUE) of a cloud services provider. The lower this number, the more efficient the facility.

4. Connectivity

One of the most significant differences between inadequate and top-tier colocation services is connectivity. The best cloud providers will clone your data and host it at multiple data centers within a region. This adds a level of redundancy in case of blackouts or emergencies but also improves latencies as your team can connect to the nearest suitable data hub. Secondary data replication effectively provides the best insurance from downtime during even the most extreme events.

But there are other connectivity considerations to consider too. Most businesses prefer cloud providers that operate through a carrier-neutral network, which is to say their data center is entirely independent of network providers. With a carrier-neutral service, you aren’t locked into a particular ISP and are free to choose one that meets your financial and bandwidth needs.

5. Expertise

Even if a cloud provider’s tech specs look great on paper, you shouldn’t pay them much attention unless they are backed up by experienced professionals. Over 70% of all downtime problems are created by human error, so you’ll receive a far better level of service from a colocation host that employs a truly expert staff versus one that skimps on HR costs.

The world is facing a shortage of adequately skilled tech workers, so always ask a potential cloud provider what they do to train up new hires and attract the best talent. If they can’t point you to a concrete strategy, you’ll know to look elsewhere.

But even if a provider offers an adequate response, working out if they really follow through on staff training is easier said than done. To help you figure that one out, check to see if a provider holds management qualifications from respectable bodies and if their uptime rate has been certified by an independent auditor.

Although many cloud storage providers appear to offer the same service, if you look closely you’ll find major differences between them in terms of expertise, efficiency, and capacity. To work out which is the right service for you, keep this fact in mind and remember that choosing the best service is all about finding a trade-off between resources and price that works for you.