Cloud Storage Simplified | What Is It & How To Choose One

Weighing over a ton and occupying almost a whole room, the first hard drives were introduced in 1956 by IBM. They had a capacity of just over 3700 kilobytes of data and were considered a technological revolution back then.

With the evolution of faster computers, our dependency on data has increased manifold. We have now moved ahead from bulky storage devices to chips that can hold petabytes of data and fit on a pencil’s nib. But then again, physical storage was deemed impractical for companies expanding through the world. This is where cloud migration came into play.

What is cloud storage?

Cloud storage is storing digital business data in the cloud, across multiple servers, instead of a physical device.

Cloud storage is another example of storage as a service, where the storage capacity and maintenance are provided by vendors and delivered on-demand. It’s in high demand after the massive migration of big organizations to the cloud platform. Cloud storage offers businesses a virtual infrastructure accessible, scalable, and customizable for their data needs.

While physical storage services need several devices and servers at multiple locations, cloud storage stores data in virtual servers hosted by internal and external vendors.

How does cloud storage work?

Cloud storage is essentially moving your organizational data from physical devices to online servers. It works through data servers connected via the internet.

The data blocks or files are sent to the cloud using the internet and are stored in more than one server to ensure accessibility. These files can be accessed through a user interface that can be customized for each stakeholder.

Multiple data servers ensure that the data has been replicated and backed up for any unforeseen circumstances where a server fails.

Cloud storage works differently with different kinds of computing platforms. Let’s take a look at the different cloud computing models and how storage works in them.

Private cloud

Private cloud storage provides a personal cloud storage platform with in-house resources. It uses a single physical server to instantiate multiple virtual servers and gives the organization full control over the storage capacity and architecture.

Public cloud

Public cloud storage platforms provide you with a cloud space that several other companies share. The main advantage of using such platforms is the increased accessibility and scalability of the storage platform. Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google cloud storage are the most common examples of public cloud storage platforms.

Hybrid cloud

Hybrid cloud storage solutions give organizations a choice to segregate their data between private and public cloud platforms. This ensures that sensitive applications’ security is upheld and the scalability of public cloud storage is also leveraged simultaneously.

Types of cloud storage

Cloud storage can be classified based on the architecture used to store data. It can be broadly classified into three categories.

Object storage

Object storage is used for storing unstructured data such as media files in repositories known as containers or buckets. This storage option allows for greater flexibility and scalability in terms of the type of data being stored. It also accounts for easier data access and permissions.

File storage

Applications that need to share and store files employ a file storage system to access the data hierarchically. It’s a simple storage system to store and retrieve well-organized data files. Cloud collaboration software provides dedicated file-based storage and sharing solutions.

Block storage

Block storage allows dedicated storage blocks for files of equal size. It makes up for a high-performing storage and retrieval system because of the storage blocks’ modular nature. It’s generally used to store databases, virtual machines, and email servers.

Basic requirements of cloud storage

Every viable cloud storage solution needs to fulfill certain requirements to be used in a business scenario. Let’s have a look at the most basic requirements of a cloud storage solution.

Resilience

Cloud storage services need to be durable and resilient towards natural disasters, data losses, and server failures. They need to be more robust than physical storage to be a viable investment option.

Accessibility

Cloud storage has the advantage of being accessed remotely, even if the user is not present near the physical infrastructure. They should be accessible over multiple mobile devices and regions and contribute to the ease of data retrieval.

Security

Data security is a big responsibility for cloud storage providers since they’re considered to store sensitive data. Data centers need to be encrypted over multiple layers and should be only accessible with proper authentication.

Benefits of cloud storage

In a world dominated by digital data, cloud storage has opened up avenues for efficient deposit and retrieval of business data. Cloud storage is responsible for making data easily accessible for businesses around the world. Let’s have a look at the benefits of using cloud storage.

File sharing

Cloud storage provides users with a platform to conveniently upload files all across the globe. It enables businesses to send organized data in the form of files and get multiple users to work on the same set of data from various locations.

Synchronization

When multiple users are working on the same set of data or files from different locations, cloud storage helps synchronize the changes made. It also ensures that the data in every device accessing the storage is up to date and accessible. Data syncing helps reduce the redundancy of data over a single platform and speeds up the software development process.

Virtual convenience

Cloud storage eliminates the need for physical storage devices and the hassle of keeping them safe. It also helps your physical memory storage by not taking up any space for any downloaded or streamed content.

Scalability

Cloud storage software provides you an option to upgrade your storage plan if your data demand increases or if you need to support the amount of storage for new applications. It’s a highly scalable solution that helps grow businesses.

Cost-effectiveness

Outsourcing data storage to cloud storage vendors helps organizations to cut down their expenditure on in-house infrastructure. This provides a cost-effective solution for the company’s data needs and reduces the dependency on resources required to collect and maintain data.

Security

Cloud storage services are equipped with multiple layers of security measures and virtual private networks (VPNs) to protect your data from unauthorized access. They also ensure your data is not misused or stolen by hackers.

Disaster recovery

Data recovery is an important aspect for any business and cloud storage. It provides organizations with a safe online backup of their data if anything goes wrong. In case of any hardware failure, your files can still be retrieved from the cloud.

Compliance

Data compliance can be a tricky thing to maintain while migrating your data from one platform to another. Cloud storage solutions take care of this by enforcing existing compliance controls on your business data.

Challenges of using cloud storage

Onboarding cloud storage for your business comes with its own set of challenges that need to be identified and overcome in time to use the cloud storage system efficiently. Let’s have a look at the most common challenges of using cloud storage.

Business downtime

Cloud web services are prone to downtimes owing to slow internet or infrastructure failure. This leads to unexpected business-impacting downtimes. An organization must have a fair idea of the service provider’s downtime history to make an informed decision about how reliable they might be in terms of business uptime.

Choosing the right cloud storage provider

While choosing a cloud storage provider, you need to consider their pricing structure, the bandwidth they are providing, and if they’ve provided services in your industry domain before. Since onboarding a cloud storage service is a long-term decision, you must keep in mind that the niche expertise of the vendor you’re choosing should be in sync with your company’s budgets and goals.

Ill-defined SLA

Service level agreements (SLAs) are a formal documentation of commitment between a client and a service provider. For cloud storage service providers, SLAs are defined for business uptimes, internet bandwidth, real-time maintenance support, and so on.

Poorly defined SLAs may mean ambiguity in an issue with the resolution time, data breaches, and ineffective monitoring. It’s important to lay down business SLAs which are in order with your growth and working plans.

Data mobility issue

If your organization needs to move away from one storage provider to another, data mobility might be a big issue if your service provider doesn’t provide adequate support. Therefore, it’s important to set ground rules with your vendor about the timeline to move data if needed, data archiving guidelines, the bandwidth cost involved, and if the data will be transferred over the cloud or physically.

Bandwidth limitation

The bandwidth of a cloud storage service provider encompasses internet speed, mobile apps, desktop apps support systems, storage limits, and supported data types. It’s necessary to have a clear idea of the bandwidth beforehand to set realistic storage performance expectations. It’s also important to determine the software’s data backup capacity so that the backup frequency can be adjusted.

How to choose the right cloud storage provider

With more and more companies migrating to the cloud, the increase in the number of cloud service providers has been quite apparent. How do you choose the right cloud storage provider from the umpteen options available?

Let’s check out the factors you need to consider to choose the best option for your business plans.

Decide on the type of cloud

For onboarding a cloud storage service, you need to decide on the type of cloud sharing you’re willing to accommodate. Every employee might need to have access to shared storage, or each employee can be given a slice of the storage space, depending on the nature of the business and their roles.

Check vendor’s past performance records

Vendor uptime is an indication of the time when the vendor services were operational over a period of time. It’s important to consider the past uptime record of any cloud storage vendor since you can’t afford to have business downtimes due to performance issues on the vendor side.

Look for software compatibility

Cloud storage services need to be compatible with your software stack. Organizations need to ensure that their application programming interfaces are supported by the cloud storage service they’re considering. If your organization deals with big data, your cloud storage provider should be able to support data warehouses and data lakes in order to optimally manage your data. Moreover, multiple operating systems such as Windows, iOS, and Android need to be supported by the storage solution to be eligible for multi-device operability.

Identify cloud backup services

Each cloud storage service provider comes with a data backup plan which is important since it enables data recovery. When choosing a storage service provider, you need to check if their backup plans are compatible with the amount of data you need to store daily.

Ensure security standards

Cloud security is a major concern for every business, and cloud storage providers need to ensure that data vulnerabilities are kept to a minimum. While onboarding a cloud storage service, it’s important to check the security features that it provides for your applications.

Store your data efficiently

Cloud storage gives you a chance to save on physical storage costs and opt for a secure, accessible, and convenient online storage option. It also eliminates the need for data transportation over various locations and helps in creating regular data backups. (Source: g2)

Happy learning!

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