Growing Doubts over Cloud Storage

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Perceptions and Realities of Cloud Security

A new survey suggests that access policies could use a little work.

What's going on with cloud storage? Could it be that we are seeing the first big whiff from the seemingly unstoppable cloud juggernaut?

New numbers from TheInfoPro sure point in that direction. The group's latest research indicates that only 10 percent of top-tier enterprises are planning to implement cloud storage, even for low-level archive purposes. It seems that while running applications like email and ERP are fine for the cloud, the line stops at handing over actual data. That could be the primary reason we've been hearing about scaled back or suspended cloud storage offerings from leading providers like Iron Mountain lately.

Of course, large corporations already have substantial storage resources at their disposal, so it's no surprise that they would want to leverage it as much as possible. The line on cloud storage is that it would be a greater boon to small and medium businesses, which are said to be ready and willing to tap into low-cost, capital-investment-free capacity.

Not so fast. According to In-Stat, SMB deployment of NAS architectures is on pace to hit $2 billion by 2015, with about 70 percent of SMB cloud users also planning to deploy on-site NAS systems. Clearly, the cloud is a viable option to small businesses, but by no means does it represent a threat to traditional storage.

Most surveys list security as the primary concern when it comes to cloud storage. However, performance can also be quite a hang-up. Even with optimization technology in place, having to negotiate miles of public infrastructure will certainly produce a fair amount of latency compared to local resources. And the fact is that it is very difficult to gauge a cloud's performance until it's in place. A handful of new tools, such as the Online Drive Benchmark, can help, although these are usually tied to only a few online storage providers.

It's also clear that different clouds will produce different results based on not only legacy infrastructure but user requirements as well. As Dot Hill's Jim Jonez points out, the sheer number of cloud storage models demands a thorough research period before committing to any one solution. Primary consideration should be given to your expected data growth, changes to computing and application environments and overall data usage patterns. Remember, while there are plans afoot to make it easier to switch cloud providers, lock-in is still the reality today.

Despite these concerns, however, the fact is that cloud storage will likely emerge as a viable solution to relentlessly increasing data loads. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that it is not necessarily the best or even the cheapest one.