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Hybrid cloud storage: is it right for you?

hybrid cloud storage
(Image credit: Photo by Massimo Botturi on Unsplash)

More and more businesses are turning towards cloud storage providers to manage their data, and it’s easy to see why: specialization has always brought technical and logistical advantages, and it’s no different for cloud storage. Rather than maintaining and cooling stacks of hard drives, hiring a team of IT technicians, and investing in costly infrastructure, businesses can outsource their storage needs to providers and reap the benefits of their expertise and economies of scale. 

However, not all businesses are ready to turn all their data over to cloud providers, be it for reasons of security, ease of access, or budget. As a result, so-called hybrid cloud storage, which entails splitting your data between the cloud and onsite storage, has become an increasingly popular option for small and midsize businesses. 

Security is chief among the elements to consider when adopting a hybrid cloud storage method, and should play into businesses’ considerations: how is your data being stored, transmitted, protected, and encrypted? You can save on time and money by using a single vendor for both cloud services and security, especially if its services include consultancy, but you’ll want to have a clear picture of how your data is used by the provider before committing your business. 

The strategy

De-duplication is the process of removing repeated data from a file or drive before transmission or storage. Because it reduces the overall volume of information being sent, it’s an effective way of speeding up transmission, reducing network loads, and saving on storage space. However, as Clive Longbottom, an analyst at Quocirca points out, “some vendors will offer cheap cloud storage … [by] using all of their customers as the feeds.” 

The advantage here for providers is that they have a greater volume of data from which to perform de-duplication, resulting in more efficient compression—well in excess of 80%. But not all businesses will want their data being mixed with that of others in this way. The alternative is to use a dedicated service; only your own data contributes to its de-duplication, but the cost is higher.

Furthermore, Longbottom recommends choosing a provider that de-duplicates your data before uploading it to the cloud. “You get the benefits of smaller data sizes, less traffic over the interconnection between you and the cloud,” says Longbottom, “and still get the option for the data to be encrypted before it is sent to the web.”

Changing perceptions

Many businesses, however, don’t make it to the de-duplication stage. The problem is that cloud storage still suffers from the somewhat outdated notion that on-premises storage is both more secure and more reliable. In the words of Tom Holmes, founder and managing director of Veran Performance, an HR cloud consulting firm, “Cloud vendors have to prove … [that] the security of the data is better and stronger than on-premises.”

But once again, the reality of specialization means that cloud providers are often better at securing data and safeguarding against loss. Despite the fact that cloud storage may feel intrinsically higher-risk, due in part to the transmission of your documents off-site, Holmes insists that for many businesses, cloud storage confers far less risk. 

Consultancy

There’s almost nothing more valuable to your company than its data. Before beginning the segmentation process, you’ll need to ensure a good marriage of technology and logistics, which usually means hiring a consultant. Once again, you can capitalize on specialization and look for a firm that offers both high-quality hardware and meaningful consultation. 

"I think this is where vendors and the channel can come in," says Longbottom. "They can provide corporate security services as part of putting in place a hybrid solution, making sure that the customer meets all its regulatory data and information requirements as part of the project."  For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), Longbottom recommends Ctera, whose services are available through the channel; and for high-end services, Nasuni, Nirvanix or StorSimple, a recent Microsoft acquisition.

When working with a consultant, there are a number of things to take into consideration, says Andrew Carr, CEO of Bull UK and Ireland, creators of the world's fastest x86 enterprise server. These include underlying business infrastructure, SLA management security, and advice and guidance.

As more and more SMBs are adopting hybrid cloud storage solutions, vendors are responding with tailor-made models where security takes front stage. As a result, says Carr, “Today we are seeing this kind of approach become increasingly popular with SMBs as issues around cloud security dissipate.”

Ensuring the security of your data, both on-site and in the cloud, plus safe exchange between the two, requires finding the right provider: one that combines robust hardware with excellence in consulting. Aim to find a provider with the knowhow and infrastructure to build a custom hybrid cloud solution for your business, and you’ll have an easier time both transitioning and in the long run.