The pros and cons of cloud data storage

Document storage has changed with the times and the impact of cloud computing means that increasing numbers of businesses and organisations are turning to the cloud to meet their document management and storage requirements.

In essence, cloud storage is the term used to describe data which is stored remotely. Cloud storage is now widely recognised as a great way for businesses of all shapes and sizes to store data securely whilst freeing-up valuable physical storage space. However, although cloud storage offers a wide range of benefits, it’s important to understand the pros and cons before opting for a complete cloud storage solution.

One of the most positive yet overlooked advantages of moving to a cloud storage system is the benefits it can offer in terms of disaster recovery. Storing data in a cloud undoubtedly makes life easier: seemingly limitless in its capacity, easy to access and use, cloud storage is suitable for businesses large and small. However, by relying on cloud storage for backup, there is the danger of becoming reliant on an unstable environment. Cloud computing services are usually delivered by a shared wide area network such as the internet. Cloud storage relies on the centralisation of data whilst the users of the cloud are distributed far and wide; this type of environment tends to be subject to instability, which can in turn put entire storage systems at risk.

Experts in the field, suggest that failure to address an instable network is likely to lead to increased disaster recovery costs and so it is crucial that organisations that rely on cloud storage ensure that they have an established, fully equipped network with the capability to handle the increase in traffic that cloud will inevitably bring.

There are other options for data storage and if using cloud storage seems like a daunting prospect, traditional disk-based or tape-based back-up could be ideal. Disks can be stored off-site which can prove to be ideal for organisations which require the shortest possible recovery times in the event of a disaster, but are unable to bear the cost of copying all of their systems to a duplicate data centre.

Another issue which must be considered before moving to a cloud storage system is the technical requirements. Data which is ‘stranded’ in cloud storage is useless so it is very important that business critical data can be recovered quickly. Limitations in bandwidth at the cloud storage provider’s end must be considered carefully as limitations have the potential to reduce recovery speeds. Virus or corruption which spread slowly over time can put data at risk if the cloud provider only stores a limited quantity of data available for restore.

Last and by no means least, don’t overlook the history and business health of the cloud provider you choose to use. Bear in mind that cloud providers are popping up all over the place and in some cases with very limited funding. Putting all of your corporate data into one of these providers could put your business at risk. In some recent cases, even providers with reputable, well-known sources of funding have failed, leaving businesses exposed to loss of data. When it comes to disaster recovery planning, it’s wise to make sure that both data and applications are sufficiently covered.