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Key differences between cloud storage offerings
Cloud storage offerings are often largely similar. We run through the key areas where they can differ, such as location, range of services and data protection
Two key IT challenges that seem to come up a lot right now are how to take advantage of the cloud and what to do about ever-growing storage capacity needs.
The fact is that the answer to each can also part answer the other question.
When we consider what cloud is good at – scale, cost and capacity – it is possible to see how it can enhance areas where traditional enterprise solutions can be weak.
Another challenge for organisations adopting cloud storage is selecting the right cloud service for the business.
The choice of services from the main providers – Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform – is vast, but in this article we will look at what to consider when choosing a cloud storage provider.
Where to start
First, it’s important to know two things, namely what cloud storage can provide for your organisation and what your storage requirements are.
The first is easy. Anything that can be done in your own datacentre can also be done with cloud storage. The main cloud providers offer a wide range of storage types that cover the capacity, performance and resilience demands of most organisations.
This makes the second question even more fundamental. You must fully understand your organisation’s storage needs, be that a quick scalable storage layer for your application, a long-term backup archive, disaster recovery provision, or file sharing over geographically dispersed regions.
All of these can be done with cloud, but all require careful thought and robust definition before settling on a particular cloud storage provider. It is vital to do the research and take the time to understand what can be done and how to do it.
What not to worry about
While all parts of a cloud storage solution should be understood, some things in all the suppliers’ offerings are so similar that they shouldn’t be a major part of the decision process.
This may sound counter-intuitive, because the biggest challenges with cloud storage often concern cost. Understanding cost is essential, but when it comes to cloud storage, costs do not deviate much between providers.
Each of the major providers offers a range of support services from basic to premium, and free to chargeable support levels, for cloud subscriptions.
It’s not choice of provider but physics that limits performance when moving data into and out of the cloud. All the major providers offer bandwidth that should be sufficient for any business.
Having said that, this can be a consideration when it comes to the location of the chosen storage provider. If your business needs to move data to and from the storage platform, then the further from the cloud provider you are located, the bigger the impact of latency.
Key choices in cloud storage
Range of services
The three major cloud providers all offer the same basic storage services. But if your organisation needs a variety of and more granular choices in its storage requirements, you will need to consider whether a provider can offer all the services required.
Moving data to cloud storage doesn’t negate the need to protect it. The cloud provider won’t do this by default, but AWS and Azure can provide this service natively and protect workloads housed on their storage services. Currently, however, there is no native backup for Google Cloud Platform, and data protection is only offered via partner solutions.
Choosing where to put storage is important for multiple reasons.
First, it affects availability options, so it is important to know whether a storage provider offers zonal, regional or geographical resilience appropriate to your organisation’s needs.
As mentioned earlier, location can affect performance. If your business is likely to want to access cloud storage or move data from on-premise to the cloud, you will need to understand which cloud provider offers services nearest your location. The further a business is located from a cloud provider’s datacentre, the higher the latency will be.
Data residency must also be considered. The big three providers offer services in almost every region in the world, but organisations should check their chosen provider offers the storage service they want in a region that can meet their residency requirements.
Cloud and datacentre integration
Cloud storage is unlikely to exist in isolation from the on-premise infrastructure. It is going to form part of a wider data strategy, so it is important to consider how cloud providers can integrate with traditional enterprise infrastructure.
AWS and Azure have the widest partner ecosystem, but breadth of choice isn’t the most important thing here. You will need to find providers that offer the most well-featured and comprehensive storage integrations for your organisation’s particular needs and datacentre infrastructure.
Cloud and datacentre skillsets
The range of cloud storage solutions is vast, and ordering cloud storage is straightforward. But the complexity of deploying it must not be under-estimated, especially when integrating with an enterprise datacentre.
Businesses need to consider whether they have the internal skills to work with a major cloud provider, and if not, whether they have a partner or trusted advisor that does.
While not explicitly about technology, this should play a major part in the decision-making process. Each cloud provider’s ecosystem has its own complexities and nuances that need to be understood before deploying cloud in production.
The reality of choosing cloud storage is not only about technology from the major providers. They offer services that are increasingly similar, and while AWS continues to offer the widest range, Azure, Google Cloud and other providers such as IBM and Oracle offer a range of storage services that will meet many enterprise use cases.
The differentiators are elsewhere, such as in location, integration, knowledge and support.
The starting point for a cloud storage deployment must be to understand your requirements and then find the partner which can most closely match them.
While this article has not focused on the technical differences between providers, these tips should help organisations ask the right questions during the design and selection process.
Read more about cloud storage
- We run through key questions to ask when specifying cloud storage, such as disk type, performance, availability and the possible hidden cost of getting data out of the cloud.
- We run through the main items charged for by the big cloud storage providers, such as capacity, storage type, transactions, data egress, networks and data protection.