Benelux: Cloud storage grows as traditional storage alternative

In Benelux countries cloud storage is increasingly seen as an alternative to traditional storage and backup

Security, flexibility and cost reduction are the main reasons organisations in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg (Benelux) opt for cloud storage. As cloud storage costs drop quickly, organisations are increasingly looking at it as an alternative to expensive, conventional storage systems. But there are limitations to cloud...

storage that should not be overlooked.

According to Forrester Research, hybrid cloud – which combines on-premise storage with public and hosted cloud services – is the future for enterprise storage.

But despite the many advantages cloud storage offers, Forrester analyst Henry Baltazar predicts the route to the cloud will be long and slow for many organisations. This is largely because of long migrations, the risk of lock-in and security and compliance issues

Moving large amounts of data over long distance remains a struggle for companies. This applies to the move to the cloud, but also to moving data when an organisation wants to change cloud provider. 

The costs of such a migration – in bandwidth and time – makes changing providers difficult and contributes to a lock-in effect.

Private cloud unlocks data

Until now, cloud storage has been seen by Benelux organisations as an additional storage silo to support next-generation analytics and to provide storage for unstructured data. But cloud storage has much more to offer, says Baltazar.

Benelux cloud storage providers

There are numerous cloud storage providers in Benelux. Here is a small selection from the wide range (besides the well-known providers such as Google and Amazon):

  • Akamai Technologies
  • KPN Online Backup
  • Multrix Benelux
  • Previder
  • Proact
  • Rackspace

Next-generation hybrid cloud storage products are already available and can bridge the gap between on-premise applications, resources and cloud storage services. This is exactly the choice that Fokker Aerostructures made.

“We were looking for a new solution for data storage, as our data grows annually by 100% to 120%. We wanted an alternative to expensive, traditional storage solutions for backup, and primary and nearline storage of data,” says Henk Smit, CIO at Fokker Technologies Holding. 

The company opted for a private cloud system from Proact. A three-tier architecture has been developed, with a private cloud at Fokker sites in Papendrecht and Hoogeveen in combination with centralised backup and replication. All data is mirrored to Proact's datacentre.

“With this we have reduced our costs, increased our flexibility and can meet all data integrity and availability requirements,” says Smit. “With our global expansion it is necessary to unlock all the data in an efficient way.”

Data is an asset

There are lots of options available for cloud storage, with capabilities for storing primary and nearline data, and for making and storing backups and archives. Primary data is data that must always be up-to-date and instantly available. Nearline data needs to be available, but with less emphasis on instant access speed.

The difference between a backup and an archive is that backups are made to be thrown away. It is a snapshot of the IT environment at a time when everything is going well. In the event of a failure the environment can be restored to that moment. 

With an archive the reverse is true - data must be preserved. 

Cloud options are available for each type of data. The differences are mainly in the service-level agreement (SLAs), largely concerning availability and speed. To make the right choice, it is important that an organisation is aware of the value data has for the company. Data is an asset. The importance or value of the data determines where it should be stored.

Always up-to-date in the cloud

Burst Digital works almost entirely in the cloud. The company develops websites for renowned brands with an international focus. The international presence of its customers was a big consideration for Burst when choosing cloud storage.

Managing partner Jop Bröcker says: “Everything we do runs in the cloud at Rackspace. There are full customer websites, including images, documents and backups of databases.”

All the company's own data is online. “The main reason to opt for cloud storage is the backups, the certainty nothing is lost. It also provides a great deal of flexibility. It is important the software is always further developed, the systems are easier to maintain and everything is up-to-date.”

Private corporate data now totals about 2TB in the cloud and customer data comprises multiples thereof, says Bröcker.

Read more about Benelux storage and backup

One of the reasons for choosing Rackspace was the geographical spread of the cloud provider, he adds. “You can put a website in the cloud and then people think it's a global site, but if a site only runs in one server park, you get delays at locations far removed from that datacentre,” says Bröcker.

“The response time of websites is often tied to the physical geographic location. Therefore, we want the websites of our clients to run in a local datacentre in different regions of the world. That means anyone in the US looking at our client's website is looking at the site running on a US server.”

Cloud storage keeps growing

The use of cloud solutions is set to grow in the Benelux region with research showing, for example, that almost half of Dutch small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) use cloud. Nearly one third (32%) opt for an online product because of safety, 25% choose the cloud for cost reduction and 23% for reasons of flexibility.

Burst and Fokker also expect their use of the cloud to expand.

“At this time we do not have archiving in the cloud,” says Fokker's Smit. “It resides in special datacentres at specialised providers and many of our archives still exist in paper form. We will move archiving to the cloud in the future, although we are satisfied with the contracts we have and our experiences with current suppliers.” 

For Burst the focus in the near future is to make client websites faster and better using the cloud. “By making use of geographic spread, we can offer visitors a better user experience,” says Bröcker. “That seems simple, but loading a website equally fast regardless of a visitor's location is a real challenge.”

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