Increasingly, when it comes time for businesses to re-invest in servers and storage equipment, the question comes up: Should we migrate to a cloud storage provider? Although it’s undeniably an option that businesses are adopting at a high rate for good reason, there remain factors to consider. Whether you are thinking about making the switch for some or all of your backup and file sharing needs, it’s a good idea to look closely at several factors – like costs, security, and access – before you make the leap.
Reducing costs is often the first goal that businesses have when considering cloud storage. While it can be more cost-effective than maintaining data in on-site data centers, this should not be assumed. It’s still important to do a full cost analysis to ensure that the price point will stay within your budget and be a worthwhile investment. That analysis should include multiple factors – it’s not always an apples to apples comparison once you consider all of the variables.
Typically, the cost per GB or user for cloud storage decreases as these numbers increase. One of your first considerations will be how this cost compares to investing in on-site servers that must be upgraded every few years. When looking at the monthly or annual cloud storage costs, smaller organizations should bear in mind that some services require a minimum number of users. But you will also want to factor in the differences between:
Labor: Cloud storage will generally mean less of your staff has to spend time maintaining on-site servers.
Physical footprint: If you are currently paying or will have to pay to lease space for your data center or storage systems, cloud storage could mean you can eliminate this expense. Cooling costs for the space would likewise be eliminated, assuming these systems are off-premise, separately leased spaces. Similarly, if your business is rapidly growing and you could use the existing data center space for revenue-generating work, that’s a check in favor of cloud storage.
Download speeds: Some services have caps on their download speed. Get a sense of this so you know whether it could cost you indirectly through reduced productivity.
Of course, even if the costs of cloud storage end up being higher, it can sometimes be worth it if it frees up tech resources or space for other priorities. The important thing is to spend time on the research up front to ensure you are clear on the trade-offs of either decision.
Security is right up there with costs as a top consideration when deciding whether to migrate to cloud storage, for good reason. The idea of not having physical control over sensitive data makes some businesses nervous, and justifiably so. A reputable storage vendor will have in place strong employee screening measures in addition to other security controls. The security pros and cons will be different for different organizations. Consider the following:
Physical security: If your business is located in a building or on a property that doesn’t have strong physical security, this could be a worthwhile advantage of cloud service. Do some due diligence on the locations of your potential vendors’ physical security measures to ensure they are comparable or superior to your on-site option.
Encryption: It is not a given that data will be encrypted at rest in the cloud, and not just in transit. Make sure that at-rest encryption is offered by your provider.
Regulatory concerns and compliance reporting: If you’re in a business like healthcare or another that has specific security compliance requirements, not every vendor will be in a position to meet these. Verify that they have the right experience to meet your industry’s standards, and that they can provide the right reporting and audit data as needed.
An obvious concern here is that if your business lacks an Internet connection for any reason, then you won’t be able to access your data. If you’re moving large amounts of data at once, as mentioned above, download or upload speed can also be a concern. Make sure you have an Internet connection that will be able to handle your needs.
Another access issue to investigate is what happens if your vendor goes out of business for any reason. Make sure you’re confident that the one you select is in a good financial position and that your service agreement ensures you have easy access to your data even if something happens to the company.
Choosing cloud storage doesn’t have to be an all or nothing decision. You may find that it makes sense for some of your data, but not all of it. The important thing is to spend time thinking through the possibilities. While the factors above are not an exhaustive list of the pros and cons of cloud storage, costs, security, and access are all areas to look at closely when making storage management decisions.
If you need more help assessing your storage capacity needs, check out Crunching the Numbers on Storage Needs.