What is Cloud Storage?

Cloud storage refers to your ability to access your corporate data from anywhere at any time and from any place in the world that has an internet connection. The data is hosted in the cloud, which is a network of remote servers located off-site from your office.

How does it work?

Companies will rent space on the cloud-provider’s data servers. These companies will pay the host cloud vendor for the ability to run their applications, perhaps host any services or backup data to the cloud. This storage can grow or shrink depending on the application requirements or season or period of the year where higher than normal demand will occur.

Is it safe?

It is the responsibility of the host provider to ensure all files remain secure and are not lost or destroyed. The best cloud storage providers will use multiple storage methods or locations to securely store back-ups of the data. Additionally, these providers will guarantee uptime availability to keep running at all times.

To secure the data from others, cloud storage systems will use authentication processes like usernames and passwords. Data encryption is used as well to protect data that has been stolen or intercepted. The only concern is rogue employees of the data solutions vendor that may have access to your data.

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Benefits of using cloud storage for business

Data Accessibility: Access is granted to authorized users from multiple locations and devices. The ability to quickly and easily share files with other as needed is a major feature.

Scalability: Companies can quickly and easily scale cloud hardware or software (or storage requirements) any time without the additional costs incurred for hiring technical expertise to do so internally.

Disaster Recovery: If your company data is located at one physical location, it remains vulnerable to natural weather disasters, human influence and hardware failures. Cloud storage will use multiple locations, providing extreme redundancy.

Usage cost: Pay only for what is stored only. It is a sliding scale that moves as your data moves.

Cloud Storage Disadvantages

Security threats: While online storage will provide you with secure storage of your data, efficient data management and privacy protection against hacks, it is not completely impenetrable. Depending on your business governance and compliance requirements, locating data and entrusting it to a third-party may raise concerns about data privacy, confidentiality or even legal (or approved) geographical location of the data. Some of these issues can be mitigated by choosing to use a private (or hybrid) cloud solution. This is more expensive than the public cloud, but it will give your greater control of the data location and storage.

Data management is limited: When your company moves the data over to cloud storage using a public or hybrid solution, users will give up partial to full control of their data organization to and outside vendor. This is another area where a private cloud may be a better solution.

Vendor lock-in: It is one challenge when migrating data from on-premise to a cloud-based solution. It is another challenge to migrate from one cloud vendor to another. The longer you are contractually obligated to work with one cloud vendor provider, the greater the risk of vendor lock-in concerning contractual stipulations, vendor system incompatibilities or a lack of current cloud migration tools and services.

How is cloud storage managed?

Personal Storage allows a user to store data online securely and access it by using any number of devices connected to an internet enabled location.

Public Cloud Storage is used by a cloud storage vendor who manages large data from multiple users who are part of a ‘public cloud’. Each business will rent storage space and release any underlying responsibility for infrastructure to the vendor. While there exists many users and businesses sharing this public cloud, users cannot access another users’ (or company) data.

Private Cloud solutions are a storage service that is privately arranged by a single business for their own use. This storage solution offers a higher level of security than if the business used a public solution. Private storage solutions are less reliable though as they are largely designed for a smaller environment located onsite at the office or in combination as a hybrid solution.

Hybrid storage is the combination of both private and public storage. Some businesses who cannot afford the monthly cost for a full private solution will elect the hybrid solution.

How are files stored in the cloud?

There are three primary types of data storage:

File Storage: This is a hierarchical system that nests folders of data under directories and subdirectories. Inside of each folder resides ‘metadata’, which is great for data retrieval but only for smaller amounts of data. Large volume retrieval presents a challenge. While file storage is the most affordable types of storage, it doesn’t really scale up as easily as others.

Block storage: Data is organized in volumes of blocks. Each block represents files arranged in specific sizes (chunks) of data. Each of these blocks are then tagged with a unique identifier. While this method of storage makes for very fast retrieval of data, the fact that it is missing the metadata component of file storage means the information retrieved from search won't have the meta data with it to make reviewing it much more difficult.

Object storage refers to unique units called “objects.” Each of these objects contains unstructured data, metadata, and a unique ID. Objects are stored in flat address space (not a file directory) and they enable much more complex customization of metadata. It is extremely scalable and much more receptive to manual searches as the data that needs to be reviewed contains both file information and metadata.

Final thoughts

Companies who operate in the data storage space live and die by their reputations. They cannot afford breaches, so they do everything in their power to ensure your data information is kept under lock and key.

Find out what your peers are saying about Box, Google, Dropbox and others in Cloud Storage. Updated: February 2020.
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