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These days, organizations and even individuals produce vast amounts of digital data, such as videos, emails, images, documents, and so on. It can be a little expensive to store all of your data in your local data center. Cloud storage, on the other hand, is only a fraction of the cost of storage that you do on your premises. That is why it has become popular so rapidly.
However, you should think seriously about your needs before you store information on the cloud. You should be thinking about what you need; is it the availability and high performance or is it just a place you can use as an archive for your data?
You should do some extensive research before you choose where all of your digital data goes. Moreover, not all the cloud storage providers out there, nor their service level agreements, are equal.
To help you figure out whether cloud storage is the way to go, we compiled a list of 7 tips you can use to help you wade your way through the murky waters of the industry.
1. Is Your Vendor up to Date?
The kind of cloud storage provider you ultimately settle on for your needs should be compliant with the security and privacy needs in your industry. There are plenty of new regulations, like the SSAE 16, that your vendor should know about and comply with. The SSAE 16, for example, is an audit standard that relates to companies that are in the public sector, or have financial data, or are in any industry where the security and integrity of data is a considerable concern.
If your data provider doesn’t comply with at least one kind of standard in your industry, then how can you site them in an audit of your firm? In fact, how can you be sure that they are capable of keeping your data safe as well as private? This is one of those things you can’t afford to skimp on.
2. Make Sure Your Vendor Is Knowledgeable about Your Industry
A lot of the time, organizations will go for a cloud storage provider merely because they are the largest or have the best reputation overall. However, depending on what industry you operate in, it makes more sense to go for a provider that understands your industry. While going for size, longevity and reputation is a good strategy most of the time; Specific expertise also ensures that your exact needs are being met.
The fact is that the kind of data being stored and the way in which it is meant to be stored changes from one industry to the other. If you’re running a business in the finance, media, or healthcare sectors, then you need cloud storage vendors who have an intimate understanding of your industry. That kind of knowledge can make all the difference in how well your data is stored at the end of the day.
3. Know Your Bandwidth Limitations
Storing your data in the cloud isn’t entirely a plug and play affair. Sometimes, you have to worry about such things as bandwidth limitations. Your cloud storage provider is likely to have bandwidth limitations for the initial process of backing up massive amounts of data. You will also have to deal with the same limitations when you’re restoring that large amount of data later down the line. So one of the key questions you should be asking your vendor is whether they have capabilities for bulk transfer. You should also know what the limitations are when you are backing up to different locations that the provider has made available to you.
At the heart of it, cloud storage is simply a matter of taking data out of your local area network and putting it a wide area network, where it will sit among the data of many other organizations. That process has a high bandwidth requirement and higher overall cost. It is this cost that you should consider before you settle on a provider.
Your time expectations for the movement of data will almost entirely be dependent on such things as transfer speeds and bandwidth. It could potentially take minutes, but it could just as easily take hours or days. The cost, time, and potential are factors that you should always consider.
4. Your Data Should Be Encrypted
Your sensitive data should be well-protected the moment you hand it over to your cloud storage provider. Some of them may offer encryption on the server side, but it’s always a good idea to do it yourself, so you know no one is snooping where they shouldn’t be.
At the very least, what you should remember is that if you let your service provider be so powerful that they’re the ones who are encrypting all of our data, then they can easily decrypt it and gain access to your data. On the other hand, if you encrypt the data right before you send it to your cloud storage provider, then you are the only one that can decrypt it.
5. Be Aware of the Fine Print
The service level agreement is perhaps the most important part of your relationship with the vendor because therein you will find clear descriptions of what kind of services the vendor will be providing.
Your typical cloud storage provider will have different service levels for storage services. Each service level should offer scalability on demand, so your applications are always online and running. You should also receive snapshots of the data so that you can easily backup your data after a crash, whether online or offline. You should also have an off-site backup in case you have some disaster, and you need to recover the data. Storage should also be constantly available and should get disrupted when you’re performing upgrades or routine maintenance.
The service level agreement provided by the vendor should guarantee that the data and applications it hosts will be maintained as advertised. At the very minimum, the SLA should guarantee response times for normal levels of severe issues, availability of systems and data, and also response times when dealing with specific levels of severe issues.
6. Think about the Cost
When you’re thinking about the price of the cloud storage, you should consider everything that is included in your monthly service charge and what you are paying for as an extra.
You will typically be charged extra forget and put activities, where you put data into the cloud and then get it back. You will also typically be charged extra for DR testing and also when you boost your bandwidth beyond predetermined limits. It’s best to do a cost-benefit analysis, especially when you’re considering leaving your current service and jumping to a new one.
7. Beware of Overbuying
You should figure out the amount of data or storage that your organization needs, as well as what it is likely to need in the future. Most businesses will never grow in data volume beyond 60% from one year to the next. You can, therefore, keep buying your data as you need it, from one terabyte to the next. The exception will be if your price plan is per user. When you choose this plan, you can better predict your annual pricing because you always know how many users you’re going to have.
At any rate, you should avoid buying more data than you need, especially when you consider the fact that the price of data declines every year.