Cloud planning guide: The ins and outs of cloud storage

Cloud planning guide

Still trying to figure out how to implement cloud storage into your environment? This guide explains each step in the cloud planning process, from choosing the best cloud storage option to cloud disaster recovery.

More and more organizations are implementing some form of cloud data storage into their environment. Results from Storage magazine's fall 2012 storage Purchasing Intentions survey finds 29% of respondents use cloud storage services for non-backup applications. According to Storage Media Group editorial director Rich Castagna, who crunched the numbers from that survey, that's approximately double the number of organizations reporting cloud storage use back in 2010.

When asked about their cloud planning priorities, data backup topped respondents' lists. Collaboration/file sharing, disaster recovery, primary storage and data archiving rounded out the list of ways that users plan to interact with the cloud.

For data storage managers faced with questions around cloud storage, this cloud planning guide highlights the "must-know" information surrounding the technology. What's the best cloud data storage option for your environment? What questions does a cloud storage provider need to answer and what guarantees do you need from a service-level agreement before you sign on the dotted line? What differentiates cloud storage pricing from traditional data storage pricing? Do you need to perform backup and recovery now that your data is in the cloud? Can you keep everything in the "limitless" cloud or should you have a cloud-based storage policy? All these questions and more will be answered in this cloud storage implementation planning guide.

Table of contents:

Which cloud storage option should you choose?

Now that you've made the decision to institute cloud storage in your environment, what type of cloud storage option should you choose? If you don’t have the time, staff or budget to manage your own internal cloud storage and have large amounts of data that rarely changes or isn't accessed very often, a public storage cloud might be for you. Public clouds are managed by a variety of cloud service providers that charge monthly usage fees for data access and data transfer. For organizations that need to maintain strict performance and security levels, a private storage cloud offers more control over data because the cloud infrastructure remains in-house. For companies that want the best of both worlds, a hybrid storage cloud keeps frequently accessed information on site and moves inactive data to the cloud for safekeeping.

Related links
Public cloud adoption: What group is driving the initiative in your firm?
Deploying public clouds: Five must-have application characteristics
Securing public cloud storage: Best practices for moving to the cloud
The nuts and bolts of building a private cloud storage environment
Security drawbacks associated with private clouds: What you need to know
Key functions of private clouds: Defining what cloud storage really is
Moving virtual machines to a private cloud: Four issues with network latency
Three ways to implement a hybrid storage cloud
Expanding your private cloud to a hybrid cloud
Evaluating and configuring hybrid cloud storage products

How to evaluate a cloud storage provider

A cloud provider is a third-party firm that allows users and companies to store information at a remote data center and access it via an Internet connection. But before you turn your valuable data over to a cloud storage provider, you need to evaluate the provider's security processes, pricing, the various types of services offered, regulatory compliance and then firmly outline who owns the data in case you want to move it somewhere else in the future.

Related links
Public cloud provider concerns: Overcoming the hurdles
When does it make sense to use a cloud storage provider?
Insider's view: How to become a cloud services provider
The top 10 cloud computing service providers of 2012
Working with a cloud storage provider: The health care angle

Negotiating your cloud storage SLA

Now that you've chosen a cloud provider, you need to delve into the cloud storage service-level agreement (SLA) that's offered. Most cloud SLAs spell out the uptime guarantees on offer -- usually a 99.999% guarantee -- and what recourse users have if those guarantees aren't met. But they do not cover the finer issues of data security and encryption, data privacy, geographic restrictions on where your data is stored, and business continuity issues in case of a disaster. You can negotiate these cloud storage SLA service terms with some cloud providers, but it could affect your cloud storage pricing.

Related links
What guarantees are included in a cloud storage SLA?
Examine your cloud SLA before signing on the dotted line
Getting the most from your cloud SLA agreement
Cloud SLA preparation: The devil's in the details

Cloud storage pricing: Watch your bottom line

Pricing remains one of the biggest considerations when conducting your cloud planning. While traditional data storage requires storage managers to buy huge amounts of storage that may end up going unused, cloud storage pricing offers a pay-as-you-go model that allows companies to control costs. And because cloud storage is service based, organizations don't need to buy, manage and maintain storage hardware or undergo technology refreshes, which means reduced administrative costs.

Related links
Basic cloud pricing is becoming more affordable, but watch for hidden fees
Economies of scale can solve cloud storage pricing issues
MSP cloud pricing wars marginalize importance of data storage, archiving and DR
How to get the most cloud storage bang for your buck

Cloud storage backup: Best practices and choosing a cloud backup service

Cloud backup is when an organization moves data to an offsite managed service provider for protection. When choosing a cloud backup service, check on what platforms the provider supports, how the data is stored, whether or not data is replicated and if you're allowed your own encryption keys. In addition, see if the cloud backup provider offers a cloud seeding option to get that first batch of data to them.

Related links
Comparing cloud backup, recovery and restore with cloud storage
Backup to the cloud leads users' cloud adoption plans
Evaluating a hybrid approach to cloud backup
Managing cloud data backup lets users track key metrics
Exploring cloud data backup services

Cloud disaster recovery explained

Disaster recovery (DR) services are a good match for the cloud because you don't need to keep a hot, warm or cold disaster recovery site on standby to replicate items back to the primary site in case of an emergency. But cloud DR does have its challenges, and security usually tops the list. Another major cloud planning concern is bandwidth, because you'll need to access your cloud data via an Internet connection. Anyone instituting cloud storage should therefore create a cloud disaster recovery plan that spells out procedures and costs.

Related links
Is cloud disaster recovery a good choice for your organization?
DR in the cloud versus offsite disaster recovery: Know the differences
Cloud-based DR requires a lot of management
Questions to ask a cloud DR provider