Nearly half (48%) of businesses store their most important data on the cloud. By 2025, more than 100 zettabytes—equal to a billion terabytes— of data will be stored there. The cloud gives both businesses and individuals the ability to access data from anywhere and backup their information. But there’s more to it than that. If you’re assessing whether or not to adopt cloud storage, you must understand the pros and cons, how cloud storage can be utilized, and how much of it you’ll actually need. So, let’s explore.
The Pros of Cloud Storage
Aside from the obvious benefit of being able to access data from anywhere around the world, cloud storage offers several other pros that can help reduce costs, improve collaboration, and grow businesses. Here are some of its biggest benefits:
1. Disaster Recovery
Data stored and backed up in the cloud can never be erased from a hard drive or lost from an external device. The backup process is automated and previous versions of that data are accessible. This reduces the risk of losing valuable information from a system failure or server crash.
As companies grow, they create and acquire more data, so their storage needs expand. The cloud can adjust to whatever storage capacity you require with nearly unlimited potential. With traditional on-premises storage, your storage capacity is limited to your hardware.
Cloud security and privacy have been issues for cloud storage companies in the past, and for good reason. Major data breaches can be disastrous for the organizations they affect. However, cloud storage companies continue to learn from these mistakes and improve their data security measures. Encryption algorithms, authentication processes, and strict authorization practices curb security concerns and keep data safe, often supplying far better security than a small business could maintain on its own. Properly vetting potential cloud storage vendors and their security measures will help you minimize risk and feel confident in your cloud storage solution.
4. Cost Efficiency
Cloud storage lets you pay for what you use instead of investing in costly server infrastructure. Adding or removing storage space is easy and cost efficient. For smaller businesses, the cost of cloud storage is finite, as many companies offer small amounts of storage for free.
5. Fast Implementation & Backups
Cloud storage can be deployed nearly instantaneously, and teams can start using it within minutes or hours. The ability of the platform to backup data is unrivaled to on-premises as well. Multiple servers can backup data simultaneously and at a greater capacity than an on-premises file backup.
Cloud Storage Cons & Cautions
While cloud storage thrives on speed, efficiency, and scalability, it has its flaws as well. Keep an eye out for the following cloud cautions:
1. Data Management Conflicts
Because cloud storage services are hosted by a provider, you never have complete administrative control over your data. In many cases, this isn’t a deal breaker to cloud storage, but it can cause potential data management conflicts if you have a separate storage system that isn’t compatible to integrate with the cloud vendor’s solution.
2. Compliance Concerns
One of the biggest reasons for cloud storage pushback is often data governance and compliance concerns. Depending on the level of regulation in your industry, it may be particularly worrisome to transition to cloud storage. Potential data hacks and surveillance breaches could compromise confidential information for companies in industries like healthcare and financial services who are required by law to maintain that data accurately. However, some healthcare and financial institutions have made the move successfully. Potential storage providers should be vetted based on predefined security requirements established by your stakeholders.
3. Latency Issues
The cloud isn’t some obscure alien technology. It’s a remote storage solution that relies on the internet for connectivity. Therein lies the potential latency issues: if the internet is down or slow to load, it can create a frustrating situation.
4. Vendor Lock-In
After migrating your data to a cloud storage provider, you may decide later to switch to another provider. Vendor lock-in makes switching impractical, complex, and annoying to force people to stay with the current provider even if the solution isn’t meeting their needs. Companies avoid vendor lock-in through a variety of measures, such as due diligence questioning before signing contracts, implementing a multi-cloud strategy, or standardizing the format of data stored in the cloud. Read up on your options before putting pen to paper with a cloud storage provider.
Utilizing Cloud Storage
The way you use cloud storage depends on your organization’s needs. There are four main types of cloud storage: public clouds, private clouds, hybrid clouds, and community clouds. Each of these types of storage has its uses and advantages.
- Public clouds are the most common cloud storage option (think Google Drive). They are affordable, easily scalable, monitored by the provider, and suitable for either individuals or mid-size companies. Don’t let the term “public” scare you. It doesn’t mean others can access your data; it just means your company is sharing the cloud server ecosystem with other companies. The advantages of public cloud storage are its lower costs and higher reliability without maintenance.
- Private clouds are more expensive than public clouds and are often used by enterprise organizations or government agencies who want tighter control of their data and greater confidentiality. The cloud infrastructure that hosts the private cloud is maintained by the organization that its serving as opposed to being maintained by an outside provider. A private cloud affords users more flexibility, control, and privacy than public cloud storage.
- Hybrid clouds combine aspects of both public and private clouds by allowing an organization to decide what gets stored where. Highly sensitive information may be kept in a private cloud with less critical content saved in public storage. They’re easily customizable, secure, scalable, and offer strong user control. Hybrid environments let users choose when to use public cloud resources and when not to, which results in cost savings. Small and mid-size businesses are the most common hybrid cloud storage users.
- Community clouds are a variation of a cloud storage model that provide cloud solutions for specific communities or businesses. Community clouds are also secure, affordable, and scalable, but their architecture, software, and development tools are tailored to the community they serve. Organizations involved in financial services, healthcare, or legal services may opt for a community cloud to better maintain compliance standards.
How Much Cloud Storage Do I Need?
The great thing about the cloud is that it’s scalable. So, you can invest in the cloud storage quantities you need now with the option to upgrade or add-on later if you determine you need more. As a starting point, consider the following:
How much storage are you currently using on each company device? Add up the storage you’re currently using on each company computer, existing hard drives, and any other devices that could be translated to the cloud. Think about how that quantity might grow in coming months and years.
Which types of files (documents, images, audio, video) do you want to store? The size of the files is a factor. For example, 600 image files can take up 2GB of storage space whereas a text-based email may only use 5KB. What do you intend to back up?
How many employees will need access to the storage environment?
If you have less than 25 employees, you probably won’t need much more than 10 Terabytes of cloud storage. If you have 100 employees, it’s likely you’ll need 10TB or more.
Other Feature Considerations
Beyond the quantity of cloud storage, you’ll also need to think about other features that affect your storage choices. These include:
- Encryption and security options
- Regulatory compliance options
- Upload and download speeds
- Upload limitations on file size
- Storage limits
- Collaborative capabilities
- Disaster recovery options
- App integrations
- User access options