Compare Cloud Storage and Backup Solutions with Three Key Factors

Compare Cloud Storage and Backup Solutions with Three Key Factors

This is part of Solutions Review’s Premium Content Series, a collection of contributed columns written by industry experts in maturing software categories. In this submission, Scality Chief Product Officer Paul Speciale offers key factors for comparing cloud storage and backup solutions during vendor evaluation.

As the pandemic continues to play out, cloud services adoption is still rising – driven by accelerated digital transformation, remote work, and a demand for new services. IDC forecasts that “whole cloud” spending – which includes shared (public cloud) services and dedicated (private) cloud services – will surpass $1.3 trillion by 2025 while sustaining a compound annual growth rate of 16.9%.

This massive growth has another significant cause: big data and its needs. The unabating deluge that is big data requires new data storage and management solutions to scale, protect, ensure availability, simplify management and lower the cost of delivering this data to the business. As businesses have become increasingly reliant on cloud services, cloud storage is recognized as important for highly valuable data assets.

Leaders should focus on three areas of evaluation to help them determine what type of cloud storage and backup solution is best for their unique business needs and requirements: application support, cloud data lock-in, and speed and cost of access.

It’s also important to note that public cloud isn’t the only option. Enterprises should also consider on-premises “private clouds.” Private clouds offer many advantages in terms of localized control and access performance for applications that can also run on-premises, and most of today’s leading backup management solutions also offer the flexibility to be deployed in these environments.

Cloud Storage and Application Support

For most enterprises, their business applications and data are mission-critical. There have been increasing numbers of independent software vendors in domains such as data backup, collaboration, big data analytics, and even in vertical, industry-specific areas such as healthcare that now embrace cloud storage, including those that were previously wary of cloud due to security concerns.

A change is currently taking place within the application development section of the cloud technology stack. Traditional enterprise (monolithic) applications are being replaced by more modular and agile microservices and cloud-based applications, deployed in containers and on Kubernetes. Traditional applications are built for static storage systems, block arrays, and fixed-file system mount points accessed within the local proximity and latencies of the data center.

In contrast, the benefit of cloud-based applications is that they can run anywhere and anytime, and they benefit from a stateless storage architecture based on RESTful protocols on the internet. This architecture accesses cloud and object stores that house unstructured data as objects, consisting of data and metadata attributes. Organizations should carefully consider their applications based on how effectively they can be deployed in a flexible way, in the cloud or on bare-metal servers, and also how well they can integrate with cloud storage services.

Don’t Get Locked in with Cloud Storage

Enterprises rightly have concerns about vendor lock-in. The number of applications supporting the most popular cloud services has increased as the popularity of cloud storage has increased. It’s best to look for applications that have embraced a multi-cloud data strategy to ensure freedom is maintained. Multi-cloud data management solutions now exist that can separate applications from specific cloud storage services so that customers can choose to avoid cloud vendor lock-in.

This is another area where it may make sense to consider a private cloud instead. A private, on-premises cloud storage solution can provide better management control and at a lower cost. And that leads us into the next part.

Performance and Pricing are Crucial

Enterprises need to think about to primary components of data access to cloud services:

speed and cost. In terms of speed, it is key to understand the service-level agreements (SLAs) of cloud storage services. Usually, the lower the cost of storage, the more the storage service can relax its promises on speed of access. This is particularly true in very low-cost cloud archive storage, where the service level agreement (SLA) for data access is measured in hours.

As for the cost of cloud storage, services include not just how much data is stored in the cloud (capacity pricing), but the truly hidden fees that are related to accessing the data. Most cloud services will not charge for data writing “in” to the cloud but impose extensive fees for reading data “out” of the cloud. These “data egress” fees can often add significantly to the monthly costs of cloud storage.

Due Diligence Required

Enterprises today must find a way to manage the skyrocketing growth of petabytes of data and beyond. The task at hand is to solve data storage and management problems at large scale. Traditional Network Attached Storage (NAS) and Storage Area Networks (SAN) solutions were not designed with this level of scale in mind, nor were they built for the era of cloud and round-the-clock operations across the world.

Organizations need to scrutinize the above three criteria as they consider options for cloud storage and backup solutions. Vendors who may seem like a good match at first blush become less attractive as you find out they lack integration options and flexibility for applications. Or perhaps they require you to be locked into their services alone. Or their SLAs don’t guarantee the speed you need. Maybe their fee structure looks good until you factor in the hidden data egress fees. Due diligence is required to find the cloud storage and backup solutions that will best serve your organization’s unique needs.

Paul Speciale
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