Businesses now collect, analyze and store more data than ever. This growth as technology advances is expected to be exponential. One of the problems that arise along this path is finding a place to store data. Of course, the question does not just cover the need to find storage space. Convenience, affordability, security and resiliency must also be ensured. For many organizations, the solution is cloud storage, and in this article we will take a closer look at what it is, how it works, and what benefits it provides. We will also discuss some of the problems that may arise.
What is cloud storage?
Cloud storage is a place where the data of organizations or individuals is separately stored in a remote database with subsequent access to them via the Internet. Most of these databases are hosted on servers managed by third-party providers — cloud providers. They are known as public clouds. In addition, you can host your own servers by creating a private cloud, or even have a combination of both in the so-called hybrid cloud.
There are many cloud storage systems that most people are already familiar with: Google One, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox are three examples of online storage used by the general public.
However, enterprises that need to store large amounts of data require a provider specializing in enterprise-class systems and have a scalable data center infrastructure to meet the growing needs of the business.
How cloud storage works
At the basic level, all that is needed to create a cloud storage system is a single data server connected to the Internet. Thanks to this, users will be able to upload files to the server for storage, edit via the Internet and upload back if necessary. All this can be achieved using a web interface that is not too different from the interface of popular web services.
However, in practice, this option is not suitable for business. Modern enterprises must have guarantees that their data will always be available, that storage systems will remain on the network, and that if the amount of resources needed to store all the data suddenly and unexpectedly grows, the provider’s system has sufficient capacity to serve needs.
For this reason, cloud storage systems are built from hundreds, and sometimes from thousands of data servers or storage systems, many of which intentionally remain backup machines in case of server failure or in case of their maintenance. Redundancy is one of the key features of cloud computing. Redundancy allows companies to know that there is always additional storage or resources available on demand if they need them.
Many providers have a geographically distributed network of data centers. Therefore, even in the event of earthquakes or other natural disasters, if one center is disconnected, the other center may continue to provide the service.
Despite the fact that no human-made system can be completely trouble-free, cloud-based server storage provides a level of availability that is unparalleled when using other systems. Even building smaller infrastructure goes beyond the capabilities of most companies, as it will require significant financial investments in the construction of facilities, technology and staff. For this reason, public or hybrid cloud storage and pay-as-you-go pricing offer businesses the most cost-effective way to achieve these benefits.
Other cloud storage benefits
In addition to the benefits of scalability and availability, cloud storage offers other advantages over traditional data storage. Firstly, due to access to data via the Internet, users are able to access information in the repository from anywhere and on any compatible device connected to the Internet. Employees are not required to carry flash drives or other portable storage devices with them. The result of this is also an increase in information security.
In addition, accessibility via the Internet means that the entire company team can have access to the latest data, helping to collaborate in real-time, regardless of whether employees are in the same office or on different sides of the planet. Sales managers on the go will have the same inventory data as the warehouse team, and your designers in London and Moscow will be able to combine their project at the same time.
Cloud Storage Issues
When you trust your data to a third-party provider, obviously, you may have concerns. This is a bit like transferring your savings to a new bank. The main concern most companies are experiencing is reliability and security.
As mentioned above, the use of redundancy by most professional cloud providers, especially providers who work with multiple data centers in different geographical locations, means that reliability is not a problem. In most cases, cloud storage provides much greater reliability than any local system:
- There is a stock of storage capacity if more memory is required;
- Backups are performed regularly and data can be restored in the event of a disaster relatively instantly;
- And even if the entire data center is disconnected, another data center from a network of provider data centers is located remotely and remains available.
That is why most cloud service providers can offer 99.95% availability guarantees for SLA. For the client, the risks in this case become insured by fines.
When it comes to data security, the current strict rules and regulations that the cloud service provider must comply with come into play. To protect data, several procedures are required. These include:
Encryption – even if data is stolen without an encryption key, it will be impossible to obtain valuable information.
User authentication – from the trivial “username and password” to more complex methods, thanks to which no one can get unauthorized access to data.
User authorization is the process of providing individuals with access to various types of data, depending on their role and needs.
In addition, while researching the market, you will also find that cloud storage providers as services (Storage-as-a-Service) have an extensive arsenal of protection against cyber threats, including monitoring and protection against intrusions and protection against malware infection.
For businesses looking for an enterprise-level storage solution at competitive prices, cloud storage offers the perfect solution.
Storage as a pay-as-you-go billing service offers flexible scalability, high availability, and security, as well as other advantages of an Internet-connected system for a fraction of the cost of building a similar infrastructure within the company.