You plan to move or back up your data to the cloud. Maybe your team can't easily collaborate on shared files and sync between workspaces, or you need a disaster recovery plan and you know you need to maintain offsite backups.

Perhaps your operations generate so much data on a regular basis that the growth of your infrastructure seems unsustainable. In short, he has data problems and he thinks he can solve them by moving the data to the cloud.

Choosing the right provider can seem daunting, but you can choose with more confidence by asking the right questions when researching your options.

Before evaluating cloud storage providers, here are some key questions to consider:

  • What problems do you hope to solve by using a cloud provider?
  • When a cloud solution seems like the best option, as it often is, what would be the alternative? Can you compare and estimate the benefit of choosing one over the other?
  • Are you ready to embrace this solution not only technically but culturally? Can you imagine your organization using the solution consistently or many users sticking to common methods of storing their data?

Tabla de contenido

Cloud storage or backup?

You may think you need cloud storage when you need backup or vice versa. While "cloud storage" and "cloud backup" may seem interchangeable, it's important to recognize that they are different. The purpose of cloud storage is to supplement your local and network storage and increase productivity, while backup is for data recovery. Having files in cloud storage may allow you to consider them safe from common data loss risks, but this security is provided by the fact that major cloud storage providers keep backup copies of your data.

The types of questions you ask yourself when you need a cloud storage solution can be:

  • Are our team members increasingly mobile and working from multiple environments?
  • How easily can they collaborate on documents and share them?
  • Do we have large stores of accumulating transactional data and growing archives with increasing operating costs?

The types of questions you ask yourself when you need a cloud backup solution can be:

  • What happens if a workstation, laptop or server fails?
  • How long should we keep database backups?
  • If we delete a VM, do we archive it?

Image Credit: Pexels (Image Credit: Image Credit: Startup Stock Photos / Pexels)

consider fit

After determining whether you need a cloud storage solution, backup, or both, and how it will meet your needs, compare your options by comparing their suitability not only for your immediate data needs, but also for other business and technical requirements.

Security: Pay particular attention to the security options available for data stored while "at rest" and in transmission. It is common for storage and backup services to apply AES encryption to stored data and TLS during transmission. These safeguards ensure that your data is not readable by the cloud service or by anyone intercepting the data you send to the service. Depending on how sensitive your data is, you may want more control and stronger protection. In these cases, look for a service that allows you to manage encryption keys and apply different encryption methods if necessary.

Compliance: If you work in an industry with strict regulatory and compliance standards, such as healthcare, you may think that storing data in a cloud service is more of a problem than meeting these requirements is worth. Major cloud storage and backup services have considered these requirements, such as in the case of HIPAA, where providers sign a BAA and adhere to data and physical data center location and security requirements. If in doubt, do an explicit search on your favorite search engine for the cloud provider and regulation in question.

Access for all customers: Assess how users will access the cloud service and whether you provide customers with the appropriate devices and operating systems. If it is a web client, does it work on mobile devices? Android and iOS? If it's a desktop client, do you need it to be available on Windows, Mac, and Linux?

User configuration expectations – Especially when evaluating a cloud backup service, consider whether you will require your users to install a client and configure it themselves or whether you will automate this configuration. Does the client need to be easy to configure? If set automatically, can client settings be restricted to administrators?

In the case of cloud storage, some services may use a "Sync" folder where files stored in the cloud are also located on the user's local drive. Does each user have to set up and manage the location of their own synced folders?

Ease of transition: Start with an overview of how you will transition to using cloud storage or your backup provider. In the case of storage, will existing data be migrated? If you plan to move large TBs of data, check to see if the provider allows "offline" data transfer back and forth via hard drive drop-off.

Support: Support can vary greatly from service to service. What may seem like the right cloud service for you and your organization in terms of functionality may lack the support you need. What levels of support are available for the service? Can you escalate the issues and if so, what is the cost?

consider the cost

Cost considerations literally affect the bottom line, and you may be tempted to compare cost over fit. If a cloud storage solution is truly the right fit, improving your team's productivity and reducing the load on your infrastructure, you'll be in a better position to calculate the total cost of ownership of those cloud resources and compare that to the cost of the status quo. . . This includes the cost of purchasing and maintaining new storage, as well as the effect of a potentially inefficient file sharing and collaboration approach.

Pricing for cloud storage and backups follows one of two models: per user or per usage. In case of per user per month pricing, each user will have access to a certain amount of available storage. Some backup services do not have data caps, while others do. Cloud storage services are less likely to have plans with no data caps, but there are exceptions. Major cloud service providers charge for storage based on volume, adjusted for storage classes such as “hot” or “cold” storage and download requests.

The final cost to consider is the cost of migrating your data to the cloud provider. After choosing a provider and planning your adoption, you'll need to decide where it fits into your current processes, how users will interact with it, and what data will reside there. Data migration and adaptation to a new process will take time and require investment.

Image Credit: Pexels

Image Credit: Pexels (Image Credit: Image Credit: Rawpixel/Pexels)

consider the benefits

You cannot take into account all the features of a cloud storage or backup solution when comparing it to your needs. There are some useful features that you might want to consider when choosing which one may be lower priority but relevant.

For cloud backup:

  • File retention policy. How long are deleted files kept in backup before they are no longer available for restoration?
  • How often are backups made? Is it continuous?
  • Can you restore individual files and folders on an ad hoc basis?
  • Does the backup support version control?
  • What is the SLA for the backup service? Is there reason to worry that your backup won't be available when you need it?
  • Is multi-region backup available?
  • Does the backup client support multiple cloud services?

It's a great benefit to have an offsite backup for disaster recovery, but the more resilient and detailed your backup is, the better equipped you'll be to handle the unexpected.

For cloud storage:

  • Can you share files with anonymous users?
  • What types of access controls are available for individual users and groups?
  • Can the files be versioned?
  • What is the SLA for the storage service?
  • Can files be stored in multiple regions?
  • What integrations does the service provide? For example with Office 365 or Google Docs
  • Is the cloud storage provider part of a larger cloud service? Can the storage opportunity be expanded to other use cases like databases or VM images?

Commit to adopt

The final consideration in choosing a cloud storage or backup provider is ease of adoption and the ability to commit to it. The ease of the adoption path for your organization probably does not imply technical reasons. Convincing others that you made the right decision for your team or organization can be just as important as making the right technical decision. There is no single method of gaining buy-in, but since adoption is critical to the success of your project, when researching options, imagine how easy adoption might or might not be.

It will be easier to gain buy-in if you can commit to your choice, and commitment to a solution will be easier if it fits into a broader ecosystem of applications and services that are consistent with a longer-term vision. This may be in the context of a productivity suite you use, or integrating other operations with a family of cloud-native services. Whenever possible, try not to think of cloud services in isolation. Even if a chosen vendor is not the perfect fit, if it has broad adoption, addresses your key pain points, and aligns with your organization's culture and vision, it will be the right choice.

Not all cloud storage or backup providers are created equal, and there is no perfect fit. Examine your needs and readiness, consider suitability, cost, benefits, and the path to adoption and engagement. Research cloud storage options with all of these considerations in mind, and you'll choose the provider that's right for you.

Brian Jenkins, Solutions Architect at DataArt(Opens in a new tab)

See also What is cloud storage?

Share This