How to Migrate Unstructured Data to the Cloud

Growth in the population of unstructured files will soon drive 75 percent of the demand for new storage capacity. By providing an allocation of cloud storage to users, storage and desktop services managers can effectively place storage management of user files into the hands of the departments, with built-in chargeback mechanisms that make them pay for the storage used. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Chip Bates discusses how organizations can establish the process for migrating unstructured data to the cloud and the advantages they will gain from doing so.

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The business benefits of using cloud computing for file storage-including dramatically lower IT management costs, unlimited scalability, and pay-as-you-need resources always on demand-are hard to beat. But the technology is still young and it's not yet practical for a company to give up custody of its entire corpus of information to the cloud. Issues, such as data protection, files subject to regulatory compliance and intermittent service outages, are reasons enough for companies to carefully scrutinize their cloud-based storage policies.

The fact is, not all files are equal. Business-critical files comprise about 20 percent of all information saved on corporate networks. Can companies risk storing them in the cloud? Are the other 80 percent cloud-worthy? The answer to both questions is yes and no.

Based on my experience with helping numerous large organizations develop and manage their file migration strategies, I have identified eight key issues companies should consider when flushing out their cloud storage strategies.

Issue No. 1: Uptime requirements

The first thing to ask is how strategic are specific files to the business? How would it affect the business if they weren't continuously available? If files require five nines (99.999 percent) availability, they're probably not good candidates for the cloud. But for some files, 99.9 percent (which represents a few days' worth of downtime a year) may be good enough; a cloud storage vendor can easily meet that requirement in their service-level agreement.

File availability requirements may sometimes vary. For example, availability of Excel files required by CFOs for financial reporting will be critical when they're racing to close their end-of-year or end-of-quarter books, but much less so after the reporting period. However, since the timing of a cloud-computing outage is unpredictable, these are probably not good candidates for cloud storage outsourcing.