How to Choose a Storage as a Service Provider

In the face of an unstable economy and organizations preparing for lower IT budgets, where does storage fit in? What can IT departments do to ensure that they are meeting heightened regulatory compliance requirements, the need for real-time litigation response, the ever-present need for disaster recovery readiness, and the requirement to contain storage costs? To address these concerns, Knowledge Center contributor Mike Wipperfeld suggests considering an outsourced storage as a service model.


One solution to help struggling IT departments with potential budget cuts is for businesses to consider an outsourced storage-as-a-service model. IT might be able to cut back in certain areas, but there isn't much choice when it comes to data storage and security. Enterprises that utilize storage as a service-including PC and server off-site backup, recovery and archiving-find that costs are steady and easy to predict, while enterprises that manage these activities on their own will have to deal with unexpected cost spikes to meet their growing storage demands.

Additionally, instead of building a system and running it themselves, many businesses are seeing the value in partnering with a storage-as-a-service provider-experts that live and breathe storage-leaving their IT department to focus on supporting key strategic business initiatives.

As digital data continues to grow at an exponential rate (it is estimated that, by 2010, we'll reach zetabyte sizes-that's a number with 20 zeros!), regulatory requirements continue to mandate how and what information organizations must keep. And, given the fact that you simply can't avoid some disasters but you can be better prepared, organizations cannot afford to cut data protection and archiving solutions from their budget.

What to do before selecting a storage-as-a-service provider

Before selecting a storage-as-a-service provider, it's important to note that storage as a service is more than simply the warehousing of data or cloud storage. True storage as a service goes beyond simply filing away data for the rainy day; rather, an effective storage-as-a-service system reduces the risks, cost and complexity of managing information by providing secure and efficient data capture, protection and storage (as well as services that enable organizations to better utilize their stored information).

These value-added services may include e-discovery, recovery, classification, retention and destruction. In other words, storage as a service offers businesses peace of mind that their data is safely preserved and able to be accessed in a timely manner, benefiting the organization. Once your business recognizes the many values of storage as a service as the right choice for digital data management, it becomes even more crucial to evaluate carefully which provider can offer you the best plan.

But how do you choose a vendor that's right for your business? When choosing a storage-as-a-service provider, businesses should consider the following five elements:

Element No. 1: Trust and reliability

Investigate the vendor's record of accomplishment. Ask if they can provide customer references with storage environments and restore requirements similar to your own and compatible with your infrastructure. Understand the provider's financial strength; you want to ensure they will be in business when you need your data.

Element No. 2: Security is key

Consider the type of business you run and your business requirements with regard to security. Ensure appropriate security for the capture, transmission, and storage of and access to your data. How and where is the data encrypted? What are the provider's disaster recovery plans and methods?

Element No. 3: What matters most to your business?

The type of business often determines the type of data it produces. Consider the types of files you will be storing (such as databases and multimedia) and be prepared to discuss your unique needs. Will the vendor work with you to tailor a solution to meet your particular needs, or is it just one-size-fits-all? Can it adjust to keep up with the growth of your business or changes in the amount of data being stored?

Element No. 4: Access to your data

Understand how easily you can access the data stored-from where and how frequently. Who has access to your data? What service-level agreements does the storage-as-a-service provider offer? How will they deliver your data in the event of a major restore and recovery?

Element No. 5: Backup, recovery and beyond

Remember that storage as a service is not just about backing up data and being able to recover it; it is about the overall management of the data. For example, consider the practices the vendor has in place for managing 7-year-old data versus data created today. Does the vendor have e-discovery and archiving services? How knowledgeable is the provider with regard to compliance rules and regulations?

The checklist above demonstrates the importance of choosing not just a vendor, but a partner in managing and protecting corporate data. Trust and security are the most critical factors in the decision-making process for selecting the best storage-as-a-service partner for your business. Choose a vendor with leadership and experience in storage as a service that has worked with businesses of similar size and industry as your own. Also, choose a partner who will be with you for the long haul and can evolve your storage needs as your business develops.

By choosing a vendor knowledgeable in your business, industry and storage requirements, your company will benefit not only from a predictable storage cost but also from valuable expertise beyond backup, including e-discovery, recovery, classification and retention, and destruction-for if and when your business needs it. /images/stories/heads/knowledge_center/wipperfeld_mike70x70.jpg

Mike Wipperfeld is vice president of product management for Iron Mountain Digital. Mike is a 20+ year veteran of the software industry, having spent much of his career in the data management and integration product/market space. Prior to joining Iron Mountain Digital, Mike held several executive marketing and product management positions at SAP and Ascential Software in the Boston area. Mike started his career at Hewlett-Packard and spent over eight years with database vendors Informix and Sybase in California. He can be reached at [email protected].