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Four criteria for evaluating public cloud storage providers

Prior to selecting a public cloud service provider, it's essential that you understand what each vendor offers and how their services can best meet your organization's needs.

A move to the public cloud is a major shift in an organization's architecture, and it provides many computing and performance benefits that aren't available from a locally installed storage network. But before selecting a public cloud storage provider, you must ensure its offerings are a good fit for your organization.

Cost

With storage continually getting cheaper, the cost of cloud storage among providers has become more competitive and you will want to lock in the best deal possible. In many cases, monthly billing may be the least expensive option. The cost models of all public cloud storage providers are accessible online, so it should be easy to estimate what your company's bill will be. Many providers also have an online calculator to assist you with determining what your costs would be in various situations.

How your organization will use the storage in the cloud environment will also help you determine the cost of cloud storage. The retention of data, whether the storage needs to be encrypted and the speed of the disks are major use cases that many companies consider before moving their storage to the cloud. In addition, there's normally a price break once an organization reaches a certain amount of storage. Understanding how much public cloud storage your company needs upfront will make cost guidance with vendors easier.

When making the move to public cloud storage, the security team should be involved in the decision-making process.

Understanding the types of applications that will be hosted in the cloud will also affect the total cost. Knowing how these applications work will enable you to determine if storage will go up slightly based on transactions and the amount of bandwidth (upload/download) used. For example, your organization might have an application with large image files that are consistently updated, but not accessed frequently. Or, your organization may require multiple, small transactions to be made to a database very quickly (as is the case in e-commerce). Once your organization understands how the applications and data will be used, you can determine which model will work best. Make sure you have this information before requesting quotes from vendors.

Architecture services

Providers offer different storage replication options. For example, some services replicate your data to multiple data centers that are geographically distributed. You should review these in detail to determine how each one could potentially affect your architecture and compliance, especially for storage of sensitive financial and personal data.

Another consideration is how public cloud storage providers will back up data or have storage moved from less redundant disks to more redundant storage. Be sure to ask what type of hardware the provider uses, as well as the speed and IOPS of the storage. These items will tie directly into the price, and vary depending on the needs of your enterprise. Note that these factors all depend on how quickly users need to access the data. For example, if workers need immediate access to the data and need access to it at all times, faster storage would be advisable. Each organization should evaluate its risk appetite, which will direct them toward the offering that will work best for them.

Lastly, each cloud storage service provider offers certain unique services. Examples include cloud storage gateways, API management and long-term data storage. Review these to see which ones could help you manage your storage more efficiently.

Sovereignty and security

There are two major considerations when dealing with public cloud storage providers: How will they manage your data and what security does the provider have in place?

When making the move to public cloud storage, the security team should be involved in the decision-making process. Questions to ask include the following:

  • How does the provider handle ownership of your data?
  • How is data segmented in a public tenant space?
  • How is the data encrypted, and who has access to it?
  • In which region will your data be stored?
  • How is the data terminated if your organization decides to leave the public cloud service provider?

The last question brings up the issue of the portability of your organization's current data from one cloud storage service provider to another, and how the current provider will dispose of your organization's data after you cancel your service. Failure to ask these questions could leave your organization feeling trapped by a provider.

When vetting public cloud storage providers, the security of its systems should be reviewed to see where it matches and, in many cases, possibly exceeds the security of your company's internal storage network.

Increased security within the cloud storage service provider's public cloud offering should also come with increased compliance. Organizations in industries such as finance and healthcare must meet compliance standards for data that's stored in the cloud. A cloud provider should have the appropriate documentation for meeting these standards. Include the auditors in the decision to help determine which compliance considerations are most important for your industry. Once you know which criteria are most important for your organization, you can create a short list of products to review.

Next Steps

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This was last published in December 2016

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How to navigate the public cloud service provider selection process

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