Cloud Storage for SMB

Small to medium businesses, like larger companies, are seeking ways to squeeze even more costs out of their IT operations without also losing reliability, performance or agility. Increasingly cloud service providers are offering cloud storage services which just might be a key tool to reduce a small organization's capital expenses, power consumption and administrative costs. The suppliers promise that cloud storage will  address quite a number of challenges facing smaller companies today.

Promises of greater flexibility and reduced costs

Some of the promises being made include that cloud storage is more flexible and cost effective than when a company purchases its own storage. Suppliers point out that storage can easily be spun up or down as needed by actual workload requirements.

They're happy to point out that the company is no longer required to invest in the acquisition, installation, maintenance and ongoing operation of its own storage. This, if the suppliers can live up to their promises, could mean that a smaller company will be able to reduce not only their investment in storage devices but also reduce their costs for data center floor space, power and cooling storage requires.

Cloud storage also offers SMB companies the promise of making it easier to pilot a new data-intensive product or service offering without having to purchase systems or storage. If the pilot was successful, the companies would then have a choice of pulling the workload back into their own data center or leaving it in the data center of the cloud service provider(s).

Will Cloud Storage live up to the promises?

The challenges faced by this concept usually fall into one of the following categories:

  • Performance — Will the outsourced storage be able to keep up with the demands of the application? Will the service provider step up and offer a service level agreement?
  • Cost — Will the actual cost of using outsourced storage live up to the promises made by the service provider?
  • Management — Will the outsourced storage fit into the company's management infrastructure easily or will it require training and a new set of management tools?
  • Security — Will the cloud service provider be able to prove that only company authorized individuals will be able to access and use the data stored in the cloud? Stories about widespread snooping by the U.S. Government has increased concerns in this area.

Analysis

Each SMB company needs to take the time to compare what suppliers are promising to the reality of its own requirements and the availability of staff cloud expertise. It would be wise to close examine the following things in each service offering:

  • Suppliers' performance guarantees
  • Ease of moving data into and out of the service supplier's data center
  • Whether data going to the outsourced data center will be encrypted and maintained in encrypted form
  • Will the management tools allow staff members to understand what is happening and deal with the storage requirements of the company's applications.

Rather than feeling like it has to go on this journey alone, it would be wise for SMB IT decision makers to speak with trusted advisers from partners, such as IBM, in order to develop reasonable plans for cloud storage.

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This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I've been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions. 


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