Cloud Storage Gateways: Three Key Considerations

Eric Thacker
As an emerging data protection alternative, cloud storage is quickly becoming a popular option for backup and archiving. Although disk-based backup provides faster backup and data recovery, it comes at a high cost in terms of price and the infrastructure and storage management it requires. Additionally, tape backup and archiving is time consuming, prone to loss or data corruption and complex to manage. Because of these disadvantages, disk-based backup and archiving solutions are not typically considered as a viable long-term data protection strategy, making cloud storage an attractive option for backup and archiving.

Cloud storage provides advantages such as flexible capacity and increased business agility. And another major benefit driving the consideration of cloud storage is the dramatic cost savings it can generate. Whereas disk and tape systems entail high capital costs, challenging forecasting and complex management, cloud storage providers like Amazon S3, AT&T Synaptic Storage as a Service and Nirvanix SDN charge for only the storage customers use, while leveraging economies of scale to reach compelling price points - approximately 15 - 25 cents per gigabyte per month. Shifting to public cloud storage also can generate cost savings in system management, power, cooling and space costs due to the reduction in customer-owned and managed infrastructure.

Clearly, cloud storage is a very cost-effective data protection medium. However, there remain valid concerns about embracing the cloud. Before moving to the cloud, organizations should take into account the risks such as data performance, availability and security.

Performance is a significant concern regarding cloud storage adoption. Data protection operations can slow responses to other critical applications running over the wide area network (WAN). IT managers can mitigate this by scheduling backups at off-peak times, but this may not always be possible - whether due to continuous data replication or the need for an emergency restore. Different processes simultaneously contending for limited WAN bandwidth can slow networks for all IT functions, including the ability to quickly replicate data.

Lastly, security is considered another major concern regarding cloud storage. IT managers need to identify optimal choices for issues like data encryption, data segregation and privileged user access. In addition, IT managers should demand cloud service providers make data available on demand, outline required elements for service-level agreement (SLA) guarantees, as well as consider how to integrate the cloud into their disaster recovery (DR) strategies.

To address these challenges, organizations are turning to cloud storage gateways, a new breed of solutions purpose-built to address the unique challenges of cloud storage environments. The best cloud storage gateways optimize data protection by deduplicating, compressing and encrypting backup and archive data sets before storing them in a local cache and then securely accelerating them over the network and into the cloud. This not only frees IT staff from labor-intensive tape backup and infrastructure management, but in a disaster, the data can be restored to any location on the Internet.

Cloud storage gateways are enabling the public cloud to quickly become a viable storage tier by addressing problems like performance and security associated with storage in the cloud. But not all cloud storage gateway solutions are alike. Before moving forward, organizations should take into account three key considerations when evaluating a cloud storage gateway solution:

1. Enable Performance Optimization: It is clear that without sufficient overall network performance, the benefits of cloud storage are compromised. Even with the compelling ROI associated with cloud storage, organizations will likely hold off on adoption if there is concern that it might reduce productivity due to unacceptable response times while accessing files, applications or virtual desktops. When evaluating cloud storage gateway solutions, it is critical that the solution include inline network and storage deduplication, both of which are needed to minimize cost and maximize performance for faster backup and recovery. By reducing the amount of storage required to store backup workloads in the public cloud, you can improve overall DR capabilities while also significantly reducing the impact on the network and cloud storage costs.

2. Reduce Risk with End-to-End Security: Make encryption-for both transmission and storage-a requirement. By having these levels of encryption, you help ensure that any data moved into cloud storage is not compromised - creating end-to-end security.

3. Eliminate Vendor Lock-in: Check that the solution can support a broad range of cloud storage and backup software solutions so you can confidently move to your cloud storage provider of choice without changing your existing backup software, job schedules or processes. Having support for more cloud storage providers in more regions delivers the flexibility to choose the cloud storage provider that best meets specific requirements for DR, data storage location, SLA and cost, while allowing the switch to new providers as IT needs change.

As public cloud storage continues to gain traction and mature, it has the ability to address the major flaws found in data protection solutions built around tape and customer-owned disk. Data protection and archiving projects are among the most popular workloads today for using the public cloud. With existing cloud storage gateway offerings, significant and immediate costs savings are achievable. Moving forward, cloud storage gateway solutions will be a key enabling technology that will allow organizations to become more agile, reduce costs and improve DR capability by leveraging the full potential and power of public cloud storage.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jun 29, 2011 9:06 AM Mark harrison Mark harrison  says:
A very interesting, and perceptive article, we recently switched to an on-premise Cloud Gateway appliance from SMEStorage. This enables us to make our local files available on iPad and Android phones and gives us a Cloud Drive on our Windows and Linux desktops. We automate encrypted backups to Amazon S3 as this is cheap and effective and enables us to feel secure that we have a copy of premise. It's not perfect but it is getting there and support is good which I would outline as a pre-requsisite for these products. Make sure you have a support team you can rely on as it is crucial in the early stages of adoption. Reply
Jun 29, 2011 11:06 AM Nadya Nadya  says:
There is a new way to backup data to cloud storage powered by Amazon S3. Check out CloudBerry Backup It is onetime fee and the rest what you pay for Amazon S3. Besides, there is no proprietary data format and you can access your data using other Amazon s3 tools. It supports all AWS regions, Reduced Redundancy Storage and access to cloud storage using the virtual drive. Reply
Jul 8, 2011 5:45 PM E. Thacker E. Thacker  says: in response to Mark harrison
Mark, Glad you liked the article. Totally agree support is very important from a gateway provider. One thing Riverbed has learned while growing to over 13,000 customers is that the easier it is for customers to achieve the benefits of our technology, the better. So we really focus on making our solutions robust, easy to use, and very cost-effective then ensuring that customer deployments go as smoothly as possible. Gateways are a new technology and selecting a solution from a vendor that's there for you for the long haul reduces your risks substantially. Eric Reply

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