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.
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.