How Apple's iCloud Changes Business
by Bassam Tabbara
The announcement of Apple's new iCloud service, which lets users store music documents, applications, calendars and contacts, is a great validation for the concept of cloud storage.
I think most business executives are very familiar with the general cloud concept.
For instance, if they have a webmail service like Gmail, they know that they're storing their email in the cloud. But the idea of a space reserved for me where I can store my documents and photos is a newer concept. All major vendors -- Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Google -- are offering cloud storage now.
What You Should Consider About Cloud Storage
All this provides more validation for the idea that a cloud-storage strategy is important. But at the same time, IT experts have some questions when they consider storing company data in the cloud. Where will my data actually be stored? How safe will it be? Will it be spread across more than one location?
There's an implied promise that data stored in the cloud is safe. For the most part that's true, but not always. You have to drill down and find out exactly how and where data is stored. Large vendors, like Amazon or Apple, might have many different data centers, but that doesn't mean your data is mirrored across more than one location. Amazon had a cloud outage that lasted several days. The companies that survived are the ones that had data in more than one location.
The second question is cost -- how does cloud storage affect my bottom line? Businesses often turn to using applications hosted in the cloud as a money-saving measure, but cloud storage can be 20 to 30 times more expensive than the same storage at your facility. For instance, a hard drive that can hold two terabytes of data costs about $80. Storing that same terabyte with Amazon might cost several hundred dollars a month.
That also means you have to be careful about what data you put in the cloud. It makes sense for some small subsets of your data, but not all your data. It's too expensive to do that, and we believe it's not sustainable. It's important to be very selective about what goes into the cloud.
Smart Cloud Storage Guidelines
I suggest a simple three-step checklist for cloud storage:
1. Shop smart.
Look for a solution that offers unlimited cloud storage for a fixed fee. Your data is only going to grow. You don't want your data-protection budget to grow with it or to have that force you to choose what data to leave exposed.
2. Protect data.
Make sure you have no single point of failure -- this applies to servers and locations.
3. Understand restoration.
Test the restore feature of any service you are considering. Make sure you understand how it works and how long it will take to restore your data.