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What are the best cloud storage use cases beyond backup and archiving?

Cloud storage doesn't just have to be for backup. According to George Crump, cloud services can make deploying a new application or disaster recovery environment easier.

While most organizations recognize that the cloud can add value to their current infrastructures, most are at a loss as to how to move beyond using an online application like Salesforce.com, a cloud backup solution or a file sync-and-share option.

To take the next step in cloud adoption by moving important applications and data to the cloud, organizations first need to decide which workloads or data sets it might be better or more cost-efficient to have hosted by a cloud provider. Second, organizations have to decide how to get them there. When it comes to applications, Storage Switzerland suggests using a hybrid approach. An ideal starting point is when the organization decides to bring a new application online. Here are two cloud storage use cases that allow users to leverage the cloud in areas other than backup.

The application lifecycle use case

Traditionally, bringing a new application online means buying new servers and new storage. Oftentimes, these items are purchased to run the application and store its data after it is fully in production. The problem with this method is that it might take months or even years for the application to completely justify that original purchase of the hardware.

An alternative is to use the cloud by starting the application development there and leveraging compute and storage from the provider. Then, as the application matures, bring it into the data center to support full production. This allows you to delay the purchase of servers and storage, which will likely be less expensive since infrastructure costs typically decrease over time. It also means your final infrastructure decision will be better thought-out, as you will have more time under your belt with the application running.

This technique means you can leverage the cloud to migrate the application back as it hits the legacy state, potentially being replaced by another application. Often when this happens, users still need access to the old data contained within the legacy application, and the cloud is an ideal location for reference data.

The self-service disaster recovery use case

Many cloud backup providers have evolved their offerings to provide disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS). This means that they back up your data as usual, but then also enable you to recover that data and its application in their cloud. If your data center becomes unavailable, you can restart applications in theirs. But it is relatively easy to do this on your own as well.

There are applications that continuously replicate data from your data center to a cloud compute provider like Amazon, Google or Rackspace. While replicating, they also convert to that provider's virtual format. If your data center goes down, you can start those cloud instances up as needed. What's interesting is that many cloud providers charge a very nominal fee for this type of storage and charge for compute cycles only as they are used. This makes for a very inexpensive DR function, as well as a practical way to test and develop applications.

Next Steps

Key considerations for cloud disaster recovery

Cloud storage use cases for storing primary data

This was last published in January 2015

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There's also the aspect that cloud services typically are considered an operational expense, whereas buying your own storage is typically considered a capital expense. If you've run out of capital expense budget, or don't have enough budget to equip and run a project, doing it on the cloud doesn't have that big upfront cost and may come out of a different budget bucket.
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Cloud provides a lot more than just storage.  Consider the following:

For companies that develop in the cloud they may need multiple servers for:

Monitoring of production systems
Continuous integration nodes
database storage (yes this is storage)
Web UI hosts
API hosts
other mid-tier or depedency deployment.
Shared 'virtual hosting' (Where files being kept may be co shared in the cloud.
Source Control Management
Build nodes or pipelines
QA Environments
Analytics storage
Content Data Network
etc.

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