With businesses producing and consuming more data than ever, cloud storage solutions are increasingly being looked at as an option by businesses of all sizes. But should businesses go for a full or hybrid cloud storage solution and what should resellers be emphasising to their customers?
Demand for cloud storage solutions has grown quickly in recent years, buoyed by the pandemic but pushed on as more businesses seek to use it as some of the traditional barriers to using it have come down.
“It is safe to say that there has practically never been a better time to pivot to cloud storage,” says Will Ominsky, VP of MSP sales at Nerdio. “Businesses who are not currently using cloud storage should reconsider their approach for a variety of reasons.
“First, costs have dropped considerably over the past few years. Previously, high costs were the number one blocker to businesses adopting the use of cloud-based storage solutions. Now, this is no longer the case as cloud has become far more affordable.
“Second, cloud access is now much more native. End users can more easily access business data that is stored in the cloud, making satisfaction rates higher and increasing productivity for the business.
“Third, providers are really listening to customer demands and making cloud solutions more flexible and prioritising security of access to corporate data. By way of an example, Microsoft includes a lot of cloud storage with the most common Windows 365 plans, making cloud storage very accessible for millions of businesses worldwide.”
Full or hybrid?
Will adds that customers should be encouraged to go for a full cloud storage service with things like device management included. “I believe that full cloud storage generally yields better results from an end user perspective and in terms of the corporate control experience,” he says. “With device management options included, users do not need to think about what type of data they are accessing and where it might reside. At the same time, IT administrators can more easily protect, monitor and control access and performance with all data sitting in the cloud.”
However, arguments can be made for a hybrid approach, as Paul Baginski, Azure Sales Specialist and BDM at Exertis, explains. “Every scenario should be weighed upon its own merits, there is no one right answer for all storage scenarios,” he says. “Most commonly a ‘hybrid’ approach is the most compelling. Keep using what you already own and rent what you need from cloud to accessorise it to fit your needs gives the best of both worlds! It allows scalability and flexibility.
“Consider your future plans as your no.1 factor. If you are not sure of how much space you’ll need in three to five years, a more flexible (all cloud or hybrid) model would seem logical. If you want to buy up front what you ‘think’ you’ll need for the next five years, you’ll need a brilliant magic eight-ball to get close to ‘right’!
“With so much data and many workloads being moved to the cloud, however, consider this: will your on-premise data storage needs shrink? Certainly, the move from office applications being on the device 10 years ago to most users now renting Office 365 (Microsoft Azure-based applications) has removed the issue of device dependency for most.”
When talking to customers about cloud storage solutions, Paul is clear on what resellers should be emphasising. “Agility, agility and agility!” he says. “When you run out of space on physical devices you are staring down the barrel of upgrade costs and time to affect the fix. With ‘consumption’ based cloud storage, you pay for what you use and don’t have to wait for a hard drive to be delivered. The cost to business of this time saving and OPEX rather than CAPEX solution is compelling.”
Jon Fielding, managing director of Apricorn adds that resellers should be guiding their customers towards having copies of data stored in multiple locations, on a variety of media. “Relying totally on any one type of storage solution creates a single point of failure – putting the business at risk of losing data in the event of a cyber breach, or if the cloud provider suffers a technical malfunction, for example,” he says.
“The time-honoured advice is the ‘3-2-1 rule’: have at least three copies of data, stored on two different media, one of which is offsite. A multi-layered solution ensures that if one copy is compromised, at least one other will be intact. This enables information to be quickly and fully recovered following a crisis. In particular, it protects against the ransomware threat, meaning the organisation can always restore from a clean data set.
“Ideally there should be more than one offsite storage location: one online (the cloud), and one offline, for instance a removable hard drive or USB which can be disconnected from the network to create an ‘air gap’ between data and threat. This will provide the most effective protection, and the very best chance of fast recovery of information if other copies are damaged, lost, stolen or unavailable.
“Crucially, wherever data is being stored, it should always be encrypted. While this won’t prevent information being stolen, it will render it unreadable to anyone who’s not authorised to access it, keeping it safe and intact.”
With the growth in data, there is no doubt that the cloud storage market will continue to grow in the coming years. “The cloud storage market will grow as businesses realise the benefits and flexibility it unlocks,” says Will.
“In the coming months, we believe more organisations will take the leap and switch to cloud, especially in the current economic and business climate when every decision needs to be weighed carefully and have long-term benefits.
“This will mean that providers will be even more laser-focused on creating a better experience and offering competitive solutions, so we expect the market to see significant growth.”