There are frequently misunderstandings about the relative merits of cloud storage compared to on-premise solutions. The popularity of on-premise solutions can often be put down to the notion of, if you can see it, you have more control over it.
Over recent years, organisations are generating increasing amounts of data and will likely continue to do so. As such, where and how this data should be stored has also grown complex. With different technology options available – all with seemingly great credentials, uses and benefits – how can you decide on the optimum choice for your organisation?
Throughout this blog post, we’ll try to provide some clarity on these different approaches to data storage.
Let’s begin with on-premise
An on-premise solution involves physically storing your data and assets in their entirety within your organisation’s geographical or physical location. For some, holding data on-site will provide some peace of mind. It can feel like it’s more under their control than other options, whether that takes the form of the configuration, upgrades or system changes. This also allows for customisation and added functionality, if desired.
Storing your data in this way can either be managed by your organisation or by a third party. Though, it’s worth noting that this choice of deployment can be a costly approach, in terms of both upfront costs and ongoing maintenance and upgrades. Another potential issue is the scalability of on-premise stored data, which will be discussed in more detail below.
An on-premise deployment also poses questions regarding security and long-term management of data:
- How are you securing this system?
- How are you maintaining it?
- Will you need to upgrade hardware in the future? What would that cost?
- If one of your discs fails in your data centre, who will change it and ensure data loss doesn’t happen?
- How will you scale the solution as your requirements change?
- How is it protected in that one location from natural disasters, such as flooding?
- What processes do, or can you put in place to protect against data loss, corruption or file format obsolescence?
We would highly recommend organisations to challenge themselves to move away from an on-premise deployment unless it is essential. Below we will explore some of the other options available.
Will cloud storage become the only option?
Moving away from on-premise leads us onto the cloud. It’s worth noting that there are two options for a cloud-based storage solution: the public cloud and private cloud. Firstly, we will drill down into public cloud for you.
- Public cloud is the most common type of cloud deployment. All of the infrastructure, hardware and software associated with cloud provision are owned by an external cloud storage service (e.g., Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP)) and is therefore maintained by them.
- A private cloud (also known as an internal cloud or corporate cloud) is dedicated solely to your organisation. It can either be located at their on-site data centre or can be hosted by a third-party vendor. This shares many similarities with an on-premise deployment discussed above.
Benefits of public cloud:
Perhaps its prominent benefit is that it scales in line with data storage requirements. If you need to expand or reduce your data allowance, the cloud can scale accordingly. It can keep your costs down, so you only pay for what you store – offering a Pay-as-you-go quality. Whereas, if you were to opt for on-premise, you could invest rather substantial CAPEX budget into your own servers and maintenance, and end up not needing all of that storage space.
Additionally, opting for a public cloud will also reduce costs as the maintenance and updates are conducted by your provider. Not only will this negate the costs from being incurred by your organisation, but it will also be your vendor’s headache to sort out.
Other benefits include:
- Flexible pricing to meet user requirements (e.g., more expensive for quick access storage vs. Less expensive for deeper, slower access storage).
- Any of your team can access the stored assets if they have an internet connection and permitted user access. This also makes it a fantastic tool for increasing cross-company collaboration.
- Public cloud can sometimes offer better performance with improved speed and space capacity.
- High reliability as providers will have a vast network of servers to protect against failure.
Cloud storage arguably is a much more sustainable approach. Cloud providers operate at a scale unobtainable by an individual organisation and hence can achieve greater efficiencies and savings. This is not to say all cloud providers are necessarily ‘green’, but many are moving towards a carbon neutral approach. If you would like to read more about the this, our CTO Matthew Addis wrote a more in-depth article for the DPC.
Challenges of public cloud:
- You could potentially be required to purchase additional software to enable access to, and transfer of data (you should query this with your potential provider). For example, the software, AtoM, allows viewing of documentation stored in a cloud solution through a browser.
- Challenges may arise when quick retrieval of data is required depending on the level of storage you’ve archived an asset under. For example, if you have stored a piece of data within deep storage and then for an unforeseen reason you need it asap, this may prove difficult.
- Limited customisation options.
Perhaps a hybrid solution?
It may be that a hybrid cloud storage approach is ideal, whereby on-premise infrastructure or private cloud is combined with public cloud. The main benefit in an organisation opting for this approach would be if they have requirements of which a private or public cloud could not guarantee.
As it utilises elements of public cloud, an organisation would still benefit from a scalable solution, cost-efficiencies and user access. Additionally, it would also benefit through its use of private cloud, namely that it is highly secure and provides data privacy through firewalls and internal hosting. It also ensures that operational and sensitive data are not accessible to third-party providers.
However, a hybrid option also presents additional complexities, including:
- It may prove challenging to keep on top of what is being stored where, and which cost can be attributed to which solution.
- Infrastructure concerns can arise as you manage and operate a mix of private and public cloud architecture.
And as for security concerns…
There is sometimes a misconception that because an on-premise solution is private (i.e., not connected to the outside world) it’s safer than public cloud but this isn’t necessarily the case. Just because something is inaccessible from an external network, doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe – there are still cyber threats or potential for human error.
Cloud providers have their own security measures in place as well as industry certifications and accreditations. This proves their systems have been developed with their customer and/or security at its centre (e.g. ISO certifications).
Hopefully the above comparisons have shed some light on the pros and cons of each cloud storage approach and have addressed data security concerns. Whilst we cannot make the decision for you, it’s worth reiterating that not only should your data storage system be fit for purpose for your organisation’s requirements, but it should also be reliable, resilient and affordable.
Whichever solution you opt for, it must work with you and your team and make your processes easier, quicker and more efficient.
If you’d like to discuss your requirements in more depth, please contact us today.
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