Q&A: How IT Can Tackle Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is starting to catch on. Here are the basics you need to know.

Cloud storage has definitely caught on, but is it right for your enterprise? What should -- and shouldn’t -- be moved to the cloud?

To learn more, we turned to Praerit Garg, co-founder and president of Symform. Before founding Symform, a cloud storage provider, Praerit worked at Microsoft, where among other things, he developed the strategy and process to secure the company’s Windows installed base.

Enterprise Strategies: We all know that outsourcing resources such as storage to the cloud relieves IT of some of the drudgery (such as backup and recovery) and allows companies to pay as they go. Are there any other key benefits driving cloud storage adoption?

Absolutely. Companies want to be more nimble with their data. The Cloud can offer secure anywhere access that isn't tied to any single machine. This is very helpful for a mobile workforce.

Also, you can't emphasize enough the benefit of offloading time-consuming tasks from IT departments to vendors. It frees your talent to focus on what matters most for your business.

In the area of backup and disaster recovery, it is valuable to have data stored offsite. The cloud is always offsite. It doesn’t require the manual, error-prone processes of taking disks or tapes offsite nor the management overhead associated with physical media. It is even better to have data offsite, replicated and geographically dispersed automatically. This dramatically reduces errors and poor management and significantly increases data durability and survivability if technology fails or there is a disaster. It's important to find a solution that doesn't triple storage costs in order to be durable -- IT departments continue to be under budget pressure to do more with less.

What are the biggest misconceptions IT has about cloud storage? For example, does IT properly consider security ramifications?

Everyone rightly starts at security. It's your company's data; it has to be secure. Of course, the security for the cloud is just as good as it is for on-premises storage. There is an emotional component to switching from machines you own and control to machines in the cloud. That is a significant piece of the security concern.

Another misconception is that the cloud will be cheaper. In the case of storage, the cloud is often much more expensive. The cost of local storage is cheap and getting cheaper every day. Today, a 2 terabyte drive costs about $80. Storing that same 2 TBs in the cloud costs $12,000 a year or more. Cloud storage pricing has been constant, so actually the gap in cost has widened.

A third misconception is that you'll get great bandwidth (upload and download speeds) if your data is stored in a large cloud data center. Bigger must be better, right? This is often not the case. In fact, in a large data center, the same fat pipe is getting shared across 50,000 servers inside the data center as well as potentially tens of thousands of customers competing for the same bandwidth to store and access their data, so the speeds can be very slow. In most cases, the bandwidth at the data center becomes the bottleneck, rather than bandwidth at the customer's site.

What are the biggest stumbling blocks to moving to cloud storage?

There is a lot of momentum about the cloud but the market is relatively new, so businesses are sorting out the right cloud component for their technology road maps. So the first stumbling block is newness.

For those enterprises that are further along, the biggest stumbling block to cloud storage is the high price. Most cloud storage providers charge for each GB stored, so the more data you protect, the more it costs. This misaligns data protection and budget priorities. You'll likely see more adoption when vendors can provide budget certainty and a cost that is closer to what businesses pay for local storage.

What data should be moved to the cloud?

Backup and disaster recovery are ideal applications for the cloud. You get anywhere access and automatic offsite protection. Other applications that require very low latency storage access, such as a database application with high volume of transactions, might not be as well suited for the cloud.

What are the biggest mistakes IT makes when moving storage to the cloud?

Avoid a single point of failure. As we saw with Amazon earlier this year, a technology complication can prevent you from being able to access your data. That's a nightmare.

What best practices can you recommend to avoid these mistakes?

The best practice is to have your data backed-up in multiple data centers in multiple locations. Make sure you watch your costs.

What products or services does Symform offer regarding cloud storage? (Limit answer to 125 words).

Symform offers unlimited cloud storage for a low flat fee. We can do that because we've reinvented cloud storage. The patented Symform Storage Cloud protects your data in a way that is faster, cheaper, more secure, and reliable than services from traditional cloud storage providers.