By Allie Philpin
Advances in cloud computing technology has made the possibility of storing large amounts of data in the cloud much more accessible than in the past. Public cloud storage providers offer plenty to large, medium and small organisations but before you ‘get into bed’ with a provider, there are a number of questions you need to ask to ensure that you are getting the right service for your storage requirements.
One of the main reasons why you’re considering a public cloud provider for storing your data is probably to reduce costs, and this is one of the first questions you need to ask – what are the costs? Costs for storing data can vary depending on your requirements, i.e. object storage or block storage. If you’re looking for block storage, the cost for standard provisioning per gigabyte of data stored is minimal but don’t forget to ask about the cost for any input and output requests, as well as for provisioned IOPS volumes and snapshots of your stored data at certain times.
Costs for object data storage is higher and depends on the size of stored objects, the type and volume of requests, and the quantity of data transferred. Whilst they may be minimal to start with, if your levels of storage volumes increase, so does the cost. Make sure you know what the total monthly cost is going to be, including any additional charges for backup services.
And then there’s the aspect of running data sets and/or applications in the public cloud; it may well be more cost-effective to include support services to monitor workloads and other storage aspects, such as avoiding excessive downtime. Most providers offer different levels of support depending on the size of organisation and the level of data to be stored. Support services will help guaranteed response times, best practice advice, and diagnostic tools.
The capabilities of service providers vary, as do their service terms. It is wise to find out how much commitment the service provider is going to deliver on your behalf; most providers have a FAQ section on their website to read through – if they don’t, ask for one – and it is important to review any SLA (service-level agreement) to ensure that they meet your needs and are able to handle your workloads. Ask what compensation you will get should there be any downtime; what the levels of availability are; and if you want to terminate the service, what’s the process and cost of transferring your data to either an alternative provider or to your own data centre.
Security is a key consideration; it is important to know just how secure data is whilst it’s stored in the public cloud, not just in the country of origin but also internationally – Are there the right levels of access controls? What firewalls are protecting your data? What data encryption systems are in place?
Finally, make sure it is a public cloud storage provider you can work with; just because they tick all the boxes, it doesn’t mean that they will be the best people to work with for your organisation. Your data is a valuable asset to your organisation and it’s vital that your provider works with you, as part of your team, to deliver the cloud storage service expected.