The question “What is cloud storage?” is an increasingly common one these days.
If you’re looking for a simple answer, cloud storage is a cloud computing model where you save data and files to an off-site location, typically accessed through the internet or a private network.
Beyond that simple definition, though, there’s so much more to cloud storage! There are different storage types, deployment models, countless use cases, amazing benefits, and loads else. If you’re new to cloud storage or exploring moving your data to the cloud, then you’re in the right place.
In this guide, we’ll take you through a comprehensive overview of the fundamentals of cloud storage. Let’s begin!
Types of Cloud Storage
When considering storing data in the cloud, you have three main cloud storage types available to choose from. It’s important to have a basic understanding of each type, as they offer their own distinct sets of advantages and use case scenarios.
Let’s start by exploring the fundamentals of each cloud storage type.
Block storage is a technology primarily used for storing data files in cloud-based storage environments, or on storage area networks (SANs). In the cloud, block storage is typically implemented through the attachment of a virtual disk to a cloud-based virtual machine (VM).
It’s the process of breaking data into individual blocks, which can then be stored as individual pieces. Each data block is given a unique identifier, allowing the storage system to place the smaller pieces of data in the most efficient location. The approach involves storing blocks across different systems, with each block configured (or partitioned) to work with a different operating system. This means blocks of the same original data can be stored in both a Linux environment and a windows unit.
By decoupling data from your user environment, block storage allows the data to be spread across multiple environments. In creating multiple paths to the data, the process of retrieving data is accelerated. When you — or an application — request data from a block storage system, the data is retrieved and reassembled by the underlying storage system before being presented back to you.
The process of object storage involves splitting data files into individual chunks known as objects. These objects are stored in a single self-contained repository, and can be distributed across multiple cloud-based servers and networked systems.
Each object is given a unique identifier, which can be used by applications to identify and retrieve objects when stored across a distributed system. Metadata is attached to each object which contains important information. This can be extremely detailed and include object size, date last modified, media type and access rights.
The flat structure of object storage makes it efficient to store large quantities of data. It’s also possible to store any kind of data, photos, videos, and log files as objects.
File storage in the cloud is a hierarchical approach to storing data, also known as file-level or file-based storage. The process involves storing data in files, these files are arranged in folders, which are then organized into directories and subdirectories. For users and applications to locate and retrieve a file, they will need to know the pathway from the directory all the way through to the folder and specific file. This information is included in a set amount of metadata which is attached to the file.
File storage has a range of capabilities and can store almost any type of data. Like with any computer, you can store a range of complex files, and it’s fairly quick for you to navigate. It’s also very easy to configure. You can control access to files with user rights, file locking, and other controls.
From a technical approach, hierarchical file storage performs well to a point. Once your file storage gets to a certain size, you will begin to experience performance issues with a slow-down in file retrieval. This is caused by the constraints of only having a single pathway to each file, which only continues to increase as more folders, directories, and subdirectories are added.
The nature of cloud systems will allow you to mitigate these performance issues somewhat. Scaling to include higher-capacity virtual machines with additional compute power is easy. Though, you may find it less efficient and more expensive than if you were to instead opt for an object or block storage approach.
Cloud Storage Models
Having become familiar with the available types of cloud storage, we can now begin to explore and understand the different deployment models available.
These include public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud. Each cloud deployment model is uniquely different, offering a range of different benefits for your storage setup. Let’s take a closer look.
Public cloud is the deployment model you’re likely most familiar with. Public clouds are owned and operated by cloud service providers. These providers are responsible for all operations of their cloud which includes the hosting, management and maintenance of their network and infrastructure.
In this setup, providers sell you access to their cloud services along with other companies and individuals. While you will share infrastructure in a public cloud setup, your applications and data will only be accessible to you.
Opting for a public cloud storage model is typically the most cost-effective and scalable approach. While security and privacy concerns are often voiced with regard to public cloud, they are largely unfounded. Security and privacy are primary concerns for most public cloud providers looking to provide the best service.
This approach in most scenarios is largely only relevant to large enterprises with deep pockets and an extreme need to protect their applications and data.
The private cloud is a data center built specifically for a single business. They host, manage, and secure their own cloud network and infrastructure. This resource is not shared with any other company or individual and in most cases is located on-site.
Private cloud storage is the most secure approach, but it’s also the most expensive, as you foot the bill for all technology and human resources costs. This approach comes with an increased risk of data loss. With all data stored in a single location, a natural disaster or major outage could jeopardize the safety and recoverability of all data housed on-premises.
The combination of both public and private cloud, hybrid cloud is an approach offering you the best of both worlds.
In a hybrid cloud storage setup, you can leverage the flexibility of public cloud and the security of private cloud while balancing your overall costs. Hybrid clouds are ideal if you’re handling a mix of sensitive and non-sensitive data, which you can split between the two models.
Highly sensitive data like healthcare, legal, and financial information can be protected in a private cloud. While less sensitive everyday data is stored in the public cloud, which is still very secure.
Cloud Storage Uses
Understanding the answer to what is cloud storage isn’t just limited to different cloud storage types and deployment models. It’s also about learning of the countless possible use cases. If you’re currently using any form of on-premises storage — with servers or workstations — chances are you can migrate it to a cloud-based scenario.
Better still, you’ll be able to enhance the functionality of your storage scenario by leveraging the inherent benefits of cloud. Whether that’s improving performance by increasing processing power, or enhancing your security, you’ll find countless ways to improve your situation by switching your storage use case to the cloud.
Earlier, we outlined the different cloud storage types available. Each of these has its own unique approach and as such lends itself to different use cases. So, let’s explore the most common cloud storage uses best suited to block, object, and file storage types.
Use Cases for Cloud-Based Block Storage
Combining speed and efficiency, block storage is an ideal solution for high performing, data intensive, mission critical applications that require low latency and consistent throughput. Oracle, SAP, Microsoft SharePoint, and Microsoft Exchange are all examples of applications that benefit from being combined with a block storage approach to data. Common use cases include:
- Databases: Most database systems require consistent I/O performance and low-latency connectivity, making them an ideal use case for block storage.
- RAID arrays: Combining block storage with a redundant array of independent disks (RAID) improves the operational resilience of your mission critical applications. RAID protects your data by writing it to two or more drives. If a disk fails, information on the other disk(s) can seamlessly replace it without you even being aware of the interruption.
- Virtual machine file systems: Block-level storage is commonly used to deliver virtual machine files systems, improving migration performance and scalability. VMware supports block storage protocols in a range of their virtualization solutions.
- Email servers: Although not the first choice, email servers like Microsoft Exchange will utilize block storage in the absence of file or network-based storage systems.
Use Cases for Cloud-Based Object Storage
Combined with a pay-as-you go structure, cloud-based object storage is extremely cost-efficient. The flexible nature of object storage also makes it ideal for a variety of different use cases in the cloud.
- AI & Big Data Analytics: The scalable nature of object storage allows you to create large scale data lakes and extract valuable insight leveraging query-in-place analytics and machine learning tools.
- Media content storage and delivery: The low latency and high throughput of cloud combined with the flat structure of object storage create an ideal solution for delivering audio and video streaming directly to apps and websites.
- Cloud-native applications: Build a cloud-based application using object storage to store any amount of data and access it anywhere. Allowing you to deploy applications faster while reaching more end users.
- Backup and restoration: The versatility of object storage combined with the durable and secure nature of cloud makes ideal cloud-based backups.
- Disaster recovery (DR): Objects stored in the cloud can be replicated across multiple locations. With cloud infrastructure providing countless redundancy scenarios to deliver a highly resilient disaster recovery solution.
- Data archiving: The scalability of object storage combined with the cost efficiency of cloud pay-as-you-go models make it ideal for data archiving. A number of cloud providers offer storage classes expressly designed for infrequent access and long-term archival, offering the lowest rates.
Use Cases for Cloud-Based File Storage
The simple structure and flexibility for data types makes file storage ideal for a wide range of different use cases in the cloud. Especially where file sharing and collaboration between teams is required.
- Web content management: Cloud offers a high throughput and low latency file system for content management systems and web-serving applications to store and serve information across web-based applications, websites, online publications and archives. Cloud-based file storage solutions are designed to easily integrate with web applications. They also mirror the file system directory structure, file naming conventions, and permissions that web developers are used to for ease of use.
- Development tools: Create a common storage repository in the cloud for your development tools and environments, giving you the ability to share code and other files in a secure and organized way, complete with version control.
- Big data analytics: Machine learning and big data analytics require significant compute resources for processing workloads, ideally suited to a cloud environment. Cloud-based file storage solutions offer data scientists the ability to create a personalized cloud environment with home directories to store notebook files, training data, and model artefacts.
- Media rendering: Sound design, video editing, studio production, rendering, and broadcast processing all involve multiple individuals working together to manipulate large files. Cloud-based file storage delivers a centralized repository for teams to share and collaborate on files. Teams can also reduce the time it takes to complete these jobs due to the superior processing power that cloud can supply.
- Centralized file collaboration: Create a shared file library in the cloud where teams can upload, store, and share files. With technology that allows internal, eternal, and invited users to collaborate and simultaneously work on the same file.
- Database backups: Cloud-based solutions are ideally suited to database backups. You can simply back up the entire file directory for your database. This is then replicated and geographically distributed to data centers to deliver multiple failover scenarios.
- Application migration: Most on-premises applications connect to data through a filesystem interface. As these applications continue to migrate to the cloud, many providers are offering cloud-based file storage solutions where a shared filesystem is required.
Benefits of Cloud Storage
When seeking the answer to our “What is cloud storage?” question, understanding the benefits is a key part of the equation.
Cloud computing technology brings with it a range of impressive benefits. In moving your data storage to a cloud-based setup, you can unlock each of these inherent benefits. So, if you’re considering migrating your on-premises storage, here are the core benefits of cloud storage.
A leading benefit of cloud-based storage is the ability to access your solution from any desktop, smartphone, or tablet device. With all leading cloud providers supporting access to their storage solutions through a web browser or mobile app interface.
Mobility unlocks the benefit of access to the full range of functionality available in your cloud storage solution anytime, anywhere. Allowing you to deliver employees the power to work from home, or on the go, with continued access to company applications and data.
You’ll also benefit from that same anywhere, anytime access to the platform in managing your cloud storage solution setup. Whether that’s adding additional resources, deploying a new service, or updating user access settings, you’re no longer tied to the office in order to achieve these functions.
Applying the scalability of cloud to your storage solution is an extremely powerful benefit. If you’re running out of storage capacity, you can bolt on additional storage disks in a few quick clicks, which are instantly available.
Need to deliver faster access to your data, or handle a complex analytics process? Simply add more virtual machines with increased compute power for an instant boost in performance. Inversely, it’s just as simple to remove or downgrade resources to mirror your reduced needs and control costs.
With cloud, you’re tapping into an existing network of pre-configured technology. So there’s no deployment lag; resources that would take weeks to set up on-premises are available in minutes.
Adopting an effective cloud model is arguably the most cost-efficient approach to your storage needs. Cloud pricing models were built for cost efficiency. The pay-as-you-go approach gives you flexibility to control your storage costs, while approaches like reserved instances allow you to unlock significant discounts by making a long term commitment.
Cloud computing also allows you to achieve a lower variable cost than you could ever realistically achieve on your own. Cloud providers unlock massive economies of scale by aggregating costs over thousands of users. So you can achieve affordable access to cutting cloud storage technologies that you would never be able to afford in an on-premises setup.
Did we mention auto-scaling? This is a feature that allows you to control your consumption of storage resources and their associated costs. With auto-scaling, you can implement settings to automatically add and remove storage resources within set parameters to optimize resource consumption in line with demand. This means you only pay for what you need.
Leading cloud providers are able to offer unparalleled availability for their storage solutions when compared with an on-premises approach.
As a business, you can’t afford for your corporate data and the applications that rely on them to be unavailable. Cloud infrastructure is designed, so you don’t have to face this reality. A global network of interconnected servers and systems offers you near limitless failover scenarios.
Cloud technology lets you replicate and continuously synchronize anything from an individual file to every single file and application in your organization. In the event of a disruption — server failure or network outages — your cloud setup will simply failover to a replica and continue to offer access to your systems and data. From an end user perspective, the transition is seamless in most scenarios without them ever realizing a failure has occurred, one that would be otherwise catastrophic in an on-premises setup.
Moving your data and storage solutions into a cloud environment brings your employees the power of collaboration — the process of sharing and co-authoring files in a cloud environment.
Collaboration becomes a simple process when cloud computing is involved. Your colleagues can access and share individual files or entire repositories with ease across a cloud-based platform. Multiple users can even access and work on the same file simultaneously.
Using annotations, comments and instant messaging to communicate and shape projects in real-time. While version control ensures that collaboration efforts don’t result in multiple variants of the same data.
Cloud security often features at the top of the list for any organization. You won’t be alone in having security concerns about moving your critical systems and sensitive data to a cloud computing solution. When files, applications, and other data are no longer held on-premises, how can you be certain they’re still protected?
Here at Kinsta, we understand the paramount importance of security. Our secure application hosting, database hosting, and managed WordPress hosting solutions are designed to provide both active and passive measures to prevent attacks and deliver the highest level of security for our clients websites and accompanying data.
In a cloud setup, your storage service will benefit from countless security enhancements. Recent research from RapidScale discovered 94% of businesses reported an improvement in security following their transition to a cloud environment.
Opting for cloud storage in an IaaS or SaaS setup will bring with it the benefit of automatic security updates. In almost all situations, it becomes the responsibility of your cloud provider to handle security updates and vulnerability patching for your storage solution. You’ll also unlock a range of cutting-edge cloud security tools to enhance your security posture. These can include:
Access the ability to automatically detect and mitigate DDoS attacks. Ensuring your cloud storage service remains available while also preventing unforeseen costs that can arise from DDoS attacks, like excessive resource consumption.
Every cloud provider will have state-of-the-art firewalls designed to protect their platform, and in turn your data. If you want to strengthen your security stance further still, you can access advanced firewall solutions to further ringfence your cloud storage with additional layers of protection.
Identify Access Management
Control access to your cloud storage deployment with built-in identity access management tool. Manage and secure identities, controlling user access with set permissions. Define which users can access what files, and what they can do with that access — view, edit, delete.
The practice of encryption is critical in the protection of your data. Leading cloud providers offer this as an inherent benefit with encryption by default. Encoding your data, so it’s virtually impossible to decipher without the accompanying decryption key. This protection occurs both at rest — in your cloud storage solution — and in transit — when your data is moving to and from the cloud.
Cloud providers offer you access to cutting-edge technology, so you can deliver the highest levels of performance to your employees and end users.
You can retrofit your cloud storage deployment with the fastest computer processors, and with network attached disks with storage for the annals of time itself. If you reach capacity and performance dips, you can simply spin up new VMs and attach additional storage.
This brings with it many benefits, the most important of which involve:
Accessing and Retrieving Data
Tuning your cloud solution for high performance accelerates the ability to access and retrieve data from your storage setup. Whether that’s an individual file or webpage, this will all have an influence on the experience for your end user.
Whether that’s an employee or a customer, it can have a direct influence on your bottom line revenue. For example, if your website takes too long to load, prospective customers will abandon your website, causing you to miss out on business you’d have secure if only your landing page would load.
Similarly, every second an employee spends waiting for a file to load is a second of productivity lost. In the short term, it’s tens of cents, but over the years it can turn into thousands of dollars. Multiplied across your entire business, it’s death by a thousand cuts.
Leveraging the optimization of your cloud storage setup to deliver the highest levels of performance, you can significantly reduce the time it takes to process workloads. This is especially useful for demanding workloads like big data analytics or media rendering.
In scenarios like this, increased spending for improved performance can deliver a higher ROI. Completing workloads faster allows you to complete projects faster and uncover key insights sooner.
Every business needs a backup plan for replicating and storing their data in numerous locations. Here at Kinsta, we understand the importance of having a disaster recovery solution ready to go. It’s unavoidable that eventually a system will fail, and you’ll experience some form of data loss that requires a backup.
Hosting your data in the cloud is undoubtedly the best solution for data backups and disaster recovery. A leading cloud provider can offer a global cloud network to replicate and distribute your data in backups across multiple geographic locations.
Countless failover scenarios ensure your data is always available, with continual file synchronization to minimize data loss, ensuring end users can always access company data and the applications that use it with a near seamless experience even during major outages.
Cloud Storage Providers
To fully grasp what cloud storage is, you must build knowledge on the providers of cloud storage services.
Since the invention of cloud, an increasingly complex and ever-expanding marketplace of cloud providers has emerged. If you’re going in search of a cloud storage solution, you’ll be spoiled for choice by the range of providers available.
Of course, too much choice can be overwhelming, so to help you navigate, below are the leading providers of cloud storage solutions:
- Amazon Web Services: Undoubtedly the leading cloud provider by some margin, AWS offers 11 distinct cloud storage products
- Microsoft Azure: The challenger to the crown, Azure offers 7 cloud storage products, and they also have a very sizeable market share.
- Google Cloud Platform: Rapidly expanding and closing the gap between Microsoft and Amazon, the GCP offer 9 cloud storage options
- Alibaba Cloud: The new kid on the block, Alibaba Cloud completes the top four cloud providers with 7 cloud storage solutions
- IBM Cloud: Outside the top four, IBM offers a range of 5 separate high-performance cloud storage solutions with competitive pricing
- Oracle Cloud: Also worthy of note, the Oracle cloud platform offers 7 cloud storage products worthy of exploration
To simplify matters further, we’ve dived deeper to list the core block, object, and file storage solutions available from the cloud providers outlined above.
Block Storage Solutions
If you’re in search of a block storage solution, you can find a service from the following cloud providers:
- Alibaba Cloud: Block Storage
- Amazon Web Services: Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS)
- Google Cloud Platform: Persistent Disk
- IBM Cloud: Block Storage
- Microsoft Azure: Azure Disk Storage
- Oracle Cloud: Block Volumes
Object Storage Solutions
You can find object storage solutions from the following cloud providers:
- Alibaba Cloud: Object Storage Service
- Amazon Web Services: Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3)
- Google Cloud Platform: Cloud Storage
- IBM Cloud: Object Storage
- Microsoft Azure: Azure Blob Storage
- Oracle Cloud: Object Storage
File Storage Solutions
You can find file storage solutions from the following cloud providers:
- Alibaba Cloud: File Storage NAS
- Amazon Web Services: Amazon Elastic File System (EFS)
- Google Cloud Platform: Filestore
- IBM Cloud: File Storage
- Microsoft Azure: Azure Files
- Oracle Cloud: File Storage
Cloud Storage Considerations and Best Practice
In choosing and deploying your cloud storage solution, there are a number of considerations and best practices you should be aware of. Understanding and implementing these will support you in delivering an optimal cloud storage deployment that meets your needs.
The most important cloud storage considerations and best practices are covered below.
Pricing and Ongoing Cost
Pricing is arguably the biggest, most complex and important set of considerations for your cloud storage setup. How right you get this will massively influence your ongoing costs.
Here are the key variables to consider which will influence your cloud storage costs and help you in making a pricing comparison between providers:
- Virtual machines: How many instances, how much RAM, and how many CPUs do you require?
- Storage disks: How much storage do you require? Do you want a network-attached or locally attached disk? What are your data types? Do you have redundancy needs, IOPS, and throughput requirements?
- Subscription model: Are you purchasing by the second, minute, hour, day, month, or year?
- Payment model: Are you opting for a pay-as-you-go, reserved instance, or long term committed contract payment model?
- Location: Where are you storing your data, as every data center has its own cost?
Once your cloud storage solution is up and running, you can continue to optimize your ongoing costs with the following best practices:
- Understand your payment model: Whether you’re entering a short or long term commitment, it’s vital you explore your payment model.
- Is it easy to scale your plan up or down?
- Can you switch to use different technology types like new servers and disk types?
- Are there costs if you exceed your usage limits?
- How much notice is required in terminating or switching your cloud storage model?
- Continue to monitor usage: Keep track of your storage volumes and traffic on a monthly basis. You’ll discover if you’re exceeding or under utilizing your cloud storage setup, so you can adjust resources accordingly. It can also help you to plan for spikes in usage or decide you need to switch to a new pricing model.
- Optimize your usage with auto-scaling: Using auto-scaling tools is especially useful when you’re using a pay-as-you-go model. When you’re paying for the amount of data you store, and the resource you consume, auto-scaling will help you optimize your consumption and therefore costs.
The importance of data privacy continues to increase. With it comes a rising tide of compliance and a list of requirements for what you can and can’t do with data, the most discussed of which include GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS regulations.
Moving your data into a cloud storage setup requires you to carefully consider compliance. This will encompass how, where, and what data is stored, transmitted, processed, and deleted. It’s a huge task to consider, but here’s a short checklist to get you started.
- Storage locations: Vital with compliance like GDPR, where certain types of personal data cannot be stored outside a geographic location. So, check where your cloud provider’s servers are located, this will include any back up sites.
- Data transfer: Storing and retrieving data from the cloud requires it to travel via the internet. Certain data compliance regulations will require this transfer to be secure. Explore how prospective cloud providers handle this process, encryption for data in transit by default is a must.
- Data storage: Many compliance regulations include a series of security requirements for how data is stored and backed up. Question your prospective cloud provider to ensure they meet these requirements. Again, encryption at rest by default is a must, even if not a compliance requirement.
- Deletion of data: Some compliance regulations require you to store certain types of data for a set period of time before deletion, which can span years. Many cloud providers have specific low cost storage solutions created to support this. They also offer features to prevent users from erroneously deleting or replacing data. Compliance may also govern the deletion of data, like the right to erasure, ensuring you know how your cloud provider implements data deletion.
- Compliance out the box: Many cloud providers offer storage services with compliance already built in. So when you’re looking at a new provider, do your research, you might find they meet key compliance requirements from the get go.
Performance is a key consideration for your cloud storage solution. It will have a direct impact on your end user’s experience and productivity, all of which will influence your bottom line — whether that’s a prospective customer looking to access your website, or an employee querying your CRM system.
Here are some key considerations and best practice when it comes to choosing and using a cloud storage solution:
- Accurately estimate your performance requirements: When looking to deliver the best cloud storage setup for your needs, accurately estimating your performance requirements will play a major part. Review your current on-premises setup, historic traffic usage and resource consumption. All this information will play a part in building the cloud storage setup that’s right for you.
- Explore the use of a content display network: If you want to deliver the best user experience, speed of access to data is of critical importance — doubly so if you’re delivering a public facing website. A content display network (CDN) service from your cloud provider lets you replicate and geographically distribute data, so you can deliver it locally to minimize latency and accelerate access. It also helps prevent performance dips during traffic spikes.
- Monitor ongoing performance: Once your cloud storage solution is up and running, this is just the beginning. Keep track of your performance levels, usage, and traffic consumption. Then consider adjusting your setup accordingly, whether that’s higher performance VMs, bigger storage disks, or the complete opposite with a scale-back of resources.
- Auto-scaling: To optimize the performance of your cloud-storage setup, you should consider auto-scaling tools. This will allow you to add or remove resources in your cloud storage setup in line with needs to always deliver an optimal and consistent level of performance, regardless of the situation.
One of your primary considerations when moving to the cloud is likely to be security.
You’ll want to familiarize yourself with the security infrastructure offered by your cloud storage provider, as well as the additional tools on offer to strengthen your security stance. Here are a few considerations and best practices to be aware of.
Encryption will be a key mechanism for protecting any data in your cloud storage solution. You want a cloud provider who offers encryption by default, both at rest and when in transit. Ensuring your data is secure within your cloud storage solution, as well as in motion between you and the cloud provider.
Ideally, you’re looking for as high a level of encryption as possible. At present, 256-bit AES encryption seems to be the industry standard that most cloud providers offer, don’t settle for less.
Identity Access Management (IAM)
Identity access management will be vital in protecting data within your cloud storage setup, as well as maintaining privacy.
Make sure you pick a provider with IAM tools built in or (at a minimum) have access to them through an additional service. You’ll want to put in place stringent controls over who has access to what data, and what they can do to that data. This can protect your most vital data from being edited, downloaded, or deleted.
When implementing access management, you’ll want to be able to create templates for access rights that align to different roles, groups and seniority. These can then be easily applied, to save time setting a complex array of rights for every user. You also want to minimize the number of users with master admin rights, as this minimizes the risk of insider threats.
Implementing security for your cloud storage setup will be a shared responsibility. When looking for a cloud provider, familiarize yourself with their shared responsibility agreement. This is vital in understanding the security implementations that fall to you, and knowing what is covered by our cloud provider.
At the same time, you’ll need to consider GDPR if you’re storing the data of European citizens. Depending on the types of data you control or process, even if the provider claims responsibility for security, responsibility may still fall to you under the requirements of GDPR.
One of the most critical elements in securing your data in a cloud storage deployment will be backups. This is a must-have for any storage solution, and an area you definitely want to research in-depth.
You’ll want to implement a backup solution that offers multiple failover scenarios. Also consider synchronization and the frequency in which backups keep pace with changes to data.
While it’s critical to regularly backup data to protect against data loss, you’ll need to strike a balance with cost. As frequency increases, so too will cost. There will come a point where the cost in loss of productivity outweighs the value of the backup, only you can make that decision.
When considering a cloud storage provider, it’s important you understand the scope of support that’s available to you when using their service.
As a foundation, you want a cloud storage platform that’s simple to use and has minimal outages to minimize your need for support. But when issues occur, you want support that’s simple, accessible, responsive, and resolves your issue in a timely fashion.
Support in the cloud space largely falls into two categories, self-service and support plans. Each of which has its own unique set of considerations you should explore before making any commitment.
This is the DIY approach to troubleshooting any issue you might come across. When looking at the self-service support offered by a cloud storage provider, you should consider:
- Documentation: Explore their self-service documentation. Make sure it’s accessible, easy to read and contains multiple content types. You want a combination of text, images, and video to make it as comprehensive as possible.
- Discussion forums: Make sure there is an active community for the service you’re signing up for. While also digging a little deeper to uncover any industry experts who might be able to provide guidance.
- Events and webinars: Look to see if there is a schedule of free support-based events like drop-in clinics, or webinars to troubleshoot common support issues.
- Escalation: When self-service support can’t solve your problem, you want to understand what the support escalation pathway looks like.
When a problem moves beyond self-service capabilities, it’s vital you have a support plan in place to solve your query or bring a service back online. Support plans in the cloud space come in all shapes and sizes, here are a few key elements to consider:
- Cost: While certain cloud providers may include free support, it’s likely any support plan worth its salt will have an ongoing cost. Something you’ll want to factor into your overall budget.
- Availability: depending on the level of support you opt for, support availability can range from standard office hours to 24/7. Make sure you choose a support option with availability that meets your needs.
- Locality: Not all cloud providers will have support engineers in your country. So, make sure you check this as it has a knock on effect for availability.
- Response times: as support plans increase, response times accelerate. Review the response times expected from your support plan based on the severity of that incident. While also investigating your entitlement if those response times are not met.
- Training: More comprehensive support plans will include training for your cloud storage solution. Explore what is included and how it can be shaped to improve your use of the platform to minimize your support needs.
- An account manager: Premium support plans can include an account manager, a single point of contact where you can get some much-needed face time to meet your support requirements. Check in to see if this is an option and build a solid relationship with the account manager assigned to you, it can really pay dividends.
Ease of Use
One of the most important and often overlooked features of any product is ease of use. Something you will definitely want to consider when researching potential cloud storage providers. You’ll want to look at this from both an administration and end user perspective.
While there are countless different cloud storage products, here are some overarching features to look for:
- User interface: You want a cloud storage solution with a clean and clear navigation. Input controls should be clearly labelled, making it easy to interact with platform functionality.
- Performing tasks: Whether it’s launching a new server, or sharing a file, performing key tasks within the platform should require as few steps as possible. With guidance along the way so you’re not expending mental energy trying to work out what to do next.
- Collaboration features: Any cloud storage solution should offer features that make collaboration simple and straightforward. It should be simple to share files, whether with an individual, team, or the entire planet. Simultaneous file access and editing is a must, with version control to ensure errors don’t result in data loss. Additional features like comments and live chat can also simply and support the process of collaboration.
- Support tools: Look for solutions that have tools to support you in using the platform. Especially those that allow you to automate tasks that are mundane, time-consuming, and don’t require human interference if set up correctly.
- Integration: Whether it’s through an API, or specific software compatibility, integration is a must with any cloud storage solution.
Before you commit to a solution, you should know that almost all cloud storage providers offer a free trial, or an always free model. Take advantage of this opportunity and road-test the platform so you can get first-hand experience of the factors outlined above.
If you’ve made it here, the question “What is cloud storage?” should be well behind you! You can now choose which data type will best suit a cloud storage deployment — not to mention all the potential use cases for your cloud storage deployment, outside your original planned usage.
Understanding the benefits cloud storage brings, along with best practices, and considerations in choosing a provider will help you in realizing the potential a cloud storage deployment can offer.
Is anything about cloud storage still unclear to you? Let us know in the comments section!