Cloud Storage Solutions

For some computer owners, finding enough storage space to hold all their files and data they have acquired is a real challenge. While some people invest in larger hard drives, others seem to prefer external storage devices like compact discs or USB drives. Desperate computer owners might even delete entire folders worth of old files in order to make space for new information. However, others are choosing to rely on a growing trend which is called cloud storage.

Cloud Storage refers to saving data to an off-site storage system maintained by a third party. Instead of storing information to your computer's hard drive or other local storage device, you save it to a remote database. The internet provides the connection between your computer and the database. Cloud storage is a natural extension of SaaS (Software-as-a-Service; applications delivered over the web as a service) and cloud computing (CPU cycles available for rent over the web) which was made popular by Google and Amazon.

The emergence of cloud storage
The cloud concept migrated to storage in the form of a servicing offered by Amazon (S3). Behind the scenes Amazon is managing a cloud of storage where multiple commodity hardware devices are tied together by software to create a pool of storage. Emerging web companies have then embraced this offering, creating industry buzz around the terms and concepts of cloud storage. Today, cloud storage is considered one of the fastest-growing segments in the storage industry due to its potential for lowering costs and moving the burden of managing and protecting data to the cloud provider. It has also given rise to new innovative storage architectures.

On the surface, cloud storage today can let you store and manipulate any type of data on higher-performance, more scalable, more accessible, and cheaper storage. Moreover, it can free you from the costly management overhead that surrounds data storage by serving up file storage in a self-managed and easy-to-access manner. Cloud-based storage lets users not only provision and manage storage themselves, but also store data in XML files, text files, or many other data formats.

A customer can use cloud storage in 3 ways:

  1. Public Cloud Storage Service. A mid-size business (or consumer) may choose to rent storage by the month from a service provide.
  2. Private Cloud Storage Service. A larger business may want its data behind the firewall and managed by the IT team yet still want to leverage the flexibility and economics of cloud storage. In this situation the IT department may build a private cloud using technology, and deliver a cloud storage service to the internal community over the corporate intranet.
  3. Hybrid Cloud. A hybrid cloud environment consisting of multiple internal and/or external providers will be typical for most enterprises.

How Does It Work?
At its most basic level, a cloud storage system needs just one data server connected to the internet. A client (e.g., a computer user subscribing to a cloud storage service) sends copies of files over the internet to the data server, which then records the information. When the client wishes to retrieve the information, they can access the data server through a web-based interface. The server then either sends the files back to the client or allows the client to access and manipulate the files on the server itself.

Cloud storage systems generally rely on hundreds of data servers. Since computers occasionally require repair or maintenance, it is important to store the same information through multiple machines. This is called redundancy. Without redundancy, a cloud storage system couldn't ensure clients that they could access their information at any given time. Also most systems store the same data on servers that use different power supplies. This way, clients can access their data even if one power supply fails.

Not all cloud storage clients are worried about running out of storage space. This is because they use cloud storage as a way to create backups of data. If something happens to the client's computer system, the data survives off-site.

Concerns on cloud-based storage
The two biggest concerns about cloud storage are reliability and security. Clients aren't likely to entrust their important data to a company without a guarantee that they'll be able to access their information whenever they want and that no one else will be able to get at it.

To secure data, most systems use a combination of techniques, including:

  • Encryption, which means they use a complex algorithm to encode information. To decode the encrypted files, a user needs the encryption key.
  • Authentication processes, which is required to create a user name and password.
  • Authorization practices. The client lists the people who are authorized to access information stored on the cloud system. Many corporations have multiple levels of authorization.

Even with these protective measures in place, many people worry that data saved on a remote storage system is still very much vulnerable. So cloud storage companies invest a lot of money in security measures in order to limit the possibility of data theft and corruption.

The other big concern, reliability, is just as important as security. An unstable cloud storage system is a source of liability. No one wants to save data to a failure-prone system nor do they want to trust a company that is not financially stable. While most cloud storage systems try to address this concern through redundancy techniques, there's still the possibility that an entire system could crash and leave clients with no way to access their saved data.

Thus, you must carefully select a cloud storage provider and look for the following:

  • Security and reliability.
  • Automated and integrated set-up to provide quick response times to user demands.
  • Flexibility. Enterprise users have varying degrees of comfort when it comes to storing corporate data offsite, no matter how secure the storage service provider is or claims to be. The need to meet data security concerns and gain a level of comfort with the cloud storage model is driving three deployment models: public, private, and hybrid.
  • Innovative in organization and management. Cloud-based storage cannot grow to the scale necessary without innovative management, organization, and presentation of storage that removes semantics such as hostnames, directories, and permissions. When users turn to cloud-based storage, they will recognize enormous savings in the time and effort associated with administration of storage and data management. And developers can store and integrate data faster and with less administrative overhead.
  • Responsive and scalable. Users of cloud-based storage should assess the responsiveness, availability, and scalability of their hosting service. Users should minimize their risks through SLAs focused on performance, responsiveness and scalability, but also through an awareness of their service provider's storage capabilities. Cloud-based storage should demonstrate the ability to transparently move data across locations and potentially service providers, self-heal, and scale up in performance and capacity to meet rapidly changing customer demands.

Cloud storage companies live and die by their reputations alone. Thus, it is in each company's best interests to provide the most secure and reliable service possible. They must also provide flexible, innovative and scalable features to meet the client’s expectations. If a cloud storage company does not offer these basic client criteria, then they do not stand much of a chance. They can always choose another cloud storage provider since there are also many other options available on the market today.

We at Cloud Computing can help you select a cloud storage solution that suits both your budget and your organization’s needs using the best tools in the industry. Contact Cloud Computing Consultants today for a no obligation consultation.