How to Implement a Cloud Storage Strategy

By John Clancy  |  Posted 2009-11-18

How to Implement a Cloud Storage Strategy

The explosion of digital information-from e-mails and files to instant messages and electronic records-has companies of all sizes and industries grappling with not only how to best manage and secure their data, but also how to do it cost-effectively. It's being predicted that digital content will grow five-fold in the next two years, all while IT budgets are expected to grow a mere 2.3 percent in 2010.

Many IT departments are asking, "How can we ensure that we have the right tools in place to guarantee the security of our data and meet today's regulatory demands, all while keeping costs in check?"

Cloud storage provides enticing advantages to companies that need to drive cost, risk and complexity out of the information management equation. Cloud storage is on-demand, flexible storage that can scale up and down as needed. It requires no capital outlay and offers a pay-as-you-go model. But how can you determine which cloud-based solution is best for your business? Do you need a private or public cloud? Primary or secondary storage?

While increased competition in the cloud storage space is pushing costs lower, it is also forcing IT decision makers to evaluate more solutions and providers. Knowing which data to keep, what to delete, and what to retain to meet the necessary compliance and legal mandates for your business will help make your decision to implement cloud storage easier.

Developing a cloud storage strategy may seem complicated at first, but doing so can reduce costs by utilizing a shared infrastructure and shifting capital expenses to operating expenses.  Before considering cloud-based services, organizations need to assess both the associated risks and benefits involved. They also need to work with service providers to understand key areas from compliance and data location to availability, recovery and viability. Businesses should consider the following seven elements before implementing a cloud storage strategy:

1. For starters, rethink your storage strategy

Take time to evaluate your organization's data and policies. Establish metrics and reports, understand your organization's trends and think about what can be purged. Assess moving away from high-priced Tier 1 storage and consider when it would make sense to utilize secondary storage. Ensure that your storage polices are in line with your legal and compliance policies, as many companies often keep too much. Finally, focus on the bottom line. Rethinking your storage strategy can help you reduce both the risks and costs of managing your information, so it's a good time to start asking these questions.

Understand Your Needs

2. Understand your needs

Are you looking for primary storage for applications and file server replacements, secondary storage for data protection or archiving for business continuance and disaster recovery?  Understand the differences in standardization and cost between closed private clouds, community private clouds, enterprise-class public clouds and public commodity clouds. Most likely, you'll choose a combination, which leads to the next consideration: versatility.

3. Choose a versatile solution

Storing data in the cloud is one thing, but data is diverse in its format and the policies that govern it. Implementing a versatile cloud storage solution is vital in assessing between critical and non-critical data. Further, it's important to understand not just how your cloud storage provider can store your data, but what they can enable you to do with your data.

This is where having a provider with an enterprise-class, storage-as-a-service infrastructure is key so that you can meet an array of information management challenges-from archiving and discovery to PC and server backup to e-mail management and escrow services. Having a full house of services can make an immediate impact on the way your company can capture, store and protect corporate information. This, in turn, impacts the way you can enable cost reduction, optimize compliance and ensure security.

4. Understand your options

Not all cloud storage is the same, and there are distinct differences between standard cloud storage and value-added, storage-as-a-service solutions. Storage-as-a-service models are based on enterprise-class infrastructure not found in standard cloud storage. They come with capabilities and services that make stored data actionable, reduce risk, create efficiencies and control costs. All this can help companies further their peace of mind.

Focus on Security, Access and Control

5. Focus on security, access and control

Ensure that you understand the provider's method for getting the data from your PCs, servers, and/or applications to their data center. Make sure you understand the chain of custody once the data leaves your office, as well as the provider's recovery process should disaster strike. Select a service provider who understands your business, its size and the types of data uses that may arise. Lastly, consider the type of business the solution provider runs and the type of data that needs to be protected before choosing a solution based on enterprise storage infrastructure (which adds levels of security, scale, control and access not found in standard cloud storage).

6. Take an information management approach

Remember that storage-as-a-service is not just about cheap storage or backing up your data to be able to recover it when you need to. It's about the overall management of your data. Storage-as-a-service should reduce the risks and costs of information storage and protection from rising storage costs, litigation, regulatory compliance and disaster recovery.

7. Don't go on faith alone

Investigate the provider's track record. Seek a trusted partner who offers deep experience and a history of protecting and managing vital information. Look at the number of customers the provider has, the number of years it has been providing the service, and the amount of data it currently stores. Ensure that you select a provider that adheres to necessary compliance protocols such as external audits and security certifications. All will be indicators that you're making a wise investment.

When deciding which cloud storage strategy or solution is right for your business, it's important to assess all your needs and options so that you can choose a solution and provider which can meet each and every requirement.

John Clancy is President of Iron Mountain Digital. John is responsible for developing and driving the strategy and execution of the digital business unit. During his tenure, John has directed the international expansion of Iron Mountain Digital. In December 2004, John joined Iron Mountain as executive vice president, digital, following Iron Mountain's acquisition of Connected Corporation. Previously, John was chief operating officer of Connected Corporation. Prior to that, Clancy served as Connected's senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing. John has also held senior sales management positions with SilverStream Software, Number Nine Visual Technology and the Merisel Open Computing Alliance. John holds a Bachelor's degree in political science from Assumption College. He can be reached at

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