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Storage wars


Article Type: Feature          Published: 05-2016         Views: 979      

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How does Cloud storage really compare to more traditional physical storage? Kong Yang of SolarWinds explores the advantages and disadvantages of both, looking at how each can affect business processes and strategy.

Massive amounts of enterprise data is generated every day, and organisations are now faced with two choices: an on-premises storage system, or an external, hosted solution through cloud service providers. Although many companies continue to invest in traditional local storage, cloud based storage is quickly becoming a storage contender.

Look at Amazon's announcement of the storage appliance, Snowball, to securely transfer data from on-premises to the AWS cloud. Of course, while cloud storage may be an intriguing option, there are positives and negatives associated with each, including cost, control and security.

Sadly, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, organisations need to decide which approach - on-premises or cloud-based - provides the best fit based on individual needs. When evaluating which option is best suited, three key considerations must be kept in mind.

1. Management and control
For organisations that want or need more control over their storage, traditional on-premises infrastructures offer a wide range of options. On-premises storage hardware is often ideal for organisations looking to optimise performance for different types of applications, by offering greater support for file system replication, data tiering, snapshots and backup capabilities. On-premises hardware also provides organisations with more direct management of data security and compliance, whereas some cloud providers may not have the level of privacy needed to comply with specific data regulations such as the EU data protection law.

In contrast, businesses that choose to leverage the services of a cloud provider must comply with the terms laid out in the SLA. This means that the IT professionals don't have to manage as closely, but they also don't have the same level of control. If the current SLA does not have the sufficient services and capabilities, organisations must upgrade to the next, more expensive, tier.

Nevertheless, cloud storage can still outweigh physical hardware in terms of benefits. For example, SMEs with limited IT budgets may find cloud storage's built in data management extremely cost effective, despite the SLA.

2. Availability and latency
The ability to store and access data at any point in time is a critical component of data storage solutions and greatly influences whether on premises or cloud is the best for an organisation. In this case, cloud storage may exceed the benefits offered by traditional storage, as systems accessing data won't typically have a single point of failure in the way that one failure is unlikely to disable the whole system. Also, it means data can also be easily accessed from multiple locations.

However, an inherent challenge with off-premises cloud storage is latency, which is difficult to reduce without paying for a higher tier of service. IT professionals should make note of these potential drawbacks if inability to access data quickly is a serious problem for them.

On the other hand, traditional on-premises storage infrastructures can be configured for high availability, although it will often come with a hefty price tag. However, fast storage networking combined with SSDs can make it suitable for a number of different workloads that require high performance and low latency storage, such as server and desktop virtualisation or database applications.

3. Cost savings
With cloud based storage, the main advantage when it comes to cost is its scalability. An organisation can purchase the exact amount of storage needed on demand, rather than having to buy expensive hardware which carries a high initial investment cost - not to mention the added costs of space and power. The cloud's 'grow as you go' capability can help businesses with a smaller initial spend, whilst being prepared for future growth.

However, whilst cloud storage has smaller overall capital expenses, there can often be hidden expenditures which may increase operating costs such as charges per gigabyte of storage and for each data transfer. In order to efficiently determine whether cloud computing is an affordable option, businesses should conduct sufficient due diligence with regards to pricing structures and SLAs so there are no surprises.

SO, WHAT'S THE ANSWER?
Both solutions can support an organisation's application stack. So IT and the business need to decide on which criteria are the most important to their objectives. As long as businesses have a need for a range of storage availability, protection, services and compliance, both storage solutions will remain viable. IT professionals need to evaluate and understand the quality-of-service and compliance requirements of their applications in relation to the needs of the business before determining whether to keep their data on their grounds or up in the clouds.
More info: www.solarwinds.com

"With cloud based storage, the main advantage when it comes to cost is its scalability. An organisation can purchase the exact amount of storage needed on demand, rather than having to buy expensive hardware which carries a high initial investment cost - not to mention the added costs of space and power. The cloud's 'grow as you go' capability can help businesses with a smaller initial spend, whilst being prepared for future growth." - Kong Yang, Solarwinds

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