Organisations operating in today’s highly competitive and lightning-speed world are constantly looking for new ways to deliver services to customers at reduced cost. Cloud technologies in particular are now not only being explored but are becoming widely adopted, with new Cloud Industry Forum statistics showing that 80% of UK companies are adopting cloud technology as a key part of their overall IT and business strategy.
That said, the cloud is yet to be widely accepted as the safe storage location that the industry is saying it is. There is still a great deal of apprehension, in particular from larger organisations, to entrust large volumes of data to the cloud. Indeed, for the last 20 years, storage has been defined by closed, proprietary and in many cases monolithic hardware-centric architectures, which were built for single applications, local network access, limited redundancy and highly manual operations.
Storage demands are changing
The continuous surge of data in modern society, however, now requires systems with massive scalability, local and remote accessibility, continuous uptime and great automation, with fewer resources having to manage greater capacity. The cloud is the obvious answer but there is still hesitancy.
Let’s face it though, anyone who is starting out today is unlikely to go out and buy a whole bunch of servers to deploy locally. They are much more likely to sign up for cloud-based managed services for functions like accounting, HR and expenses, and have a laptop with a big hard drive to store and share files using Gmail, Dropbox and so on. It is true to say that smaller businesses are increasingly using storage inside cloud apps, but for larger businesses, this option is not quite so simple or attractive. Many enterprises are turning to the cloud to host more and more apps but they still tend to keep the bulk of their static data on their own servers, to not only ensure safety and security but also to conduct faster analytics.
The cloud storage door is only slightly ajar
With increasing data volumes and accelerated demand for scalability, you would expect many businesses to be using cloud-based managed storage already. However, the fact remains that there are still many businesses burying their heads in the sand when it comes to cloud storage. As a result, there is quite a bit of fatigue amongst the storage vendors who have been promoting cloud for some time, but not seeing the anticipated take-up. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the door the industry is pushing against is only slightly ajar.
A managed cloud-based service won’t always necessarily be the answer; there are trade-offs to be made and priorities to set.
As with most things, there are clouds and there are (managed) clouds. At the end of the day, cloud-based storage can be anything an organisation wants it to be – the devil is in the architecture. If you wanted to specify storage that incorporates encryption, a local appliance, secure high-bandwidth internet connectivity, instant access, replication, green and economical storage media – a managed cloud storage service can actually ‘do’ all of these things and indeed, is doing so for many organisations. There is take-up, just not quite as much as many storage vendors would like.
It’s all about the data
Nowadays, for most organisations it is about achieving much more than just the safe storage of data. It’s more and more common to bolt-on a range of integrated products and services to achieve a wide range of specialist goals, and it’s becoming rare that anyone wants to just store their data (they want it to work for them). Most organisations want their data to be discoverable and accessible, as well as have integrity guarantees to ensure the data will be usable in the future, automated data storage workflows and so on. Organisations want to, and need to, realise the value of their data, and are now looking at ways to capitalise on it rather than simply store it away safely.
It’s more and more common to bolt-on a range of integrated products and services to achieve a wide range of specialist goals, and it’s becoming rare that anyone wants to just store their data (they want it to work for them).
Some organisations though, can’t use managed cloud storage for a whole raft of corporate, regulatory and geographical reasons. The on-premise alternative to a cloud solution, however, doesn’t have to be a burden on your IT, with remote management of an on-site storage deployment now a very real option. This acknowledges that storage capabilities that are specific to an industry or to an application are now complex. Add on some additional integrated functionality and it’s not something that local IT can, or wants to, deal with, manage or maintain. And who can blame them? Specialist services require a specialist managed services provider and that is where outsourcing, even if you can’t use the cloud, can add real value to your business.
What do you want to do with your data?
At the end of the day, the nature of the data you have, what you want to do with it and how you want it managed, will drive your storage direction. This includes questions around whether you have static or data that’s subject to change, whether your storage needs to be on-premise or can be in the cloud, whether you want to backup or archive your data, whether you want an accessible archive or a deep archive, whether you need it to be integrity-guaranteed or something else, long or short term. Cloud won’t always necessarily be the answer; there are trade-offs to be made and priorities to set. Critically, the storage solution you choose needs to be flexible enough to deal with these issues (and how they will shift over time) and that is the difficulty when trying to manage long-term data storage. Everything is available and you can get what you want but you need to make sure that you are moving to a managed cloud service for the right reasons.
Ever-increasing organisational data volumes will continue to relentlessly drive the data storage industry and today’s storage models need to reflect the changing nature of the way in which businesses operate. Managed storage capabilities need to be designed from the ground up to facilitate organisations in maximising the value they can get from their data and reflect how those same organisations want to access and use it both today, and more importantly, for years to come.