Instead of saving and storing files on a computer and accessing them with a type of drive, cloud storage allows users to store and access and work on files online simultaneously. Explore the definition and concept of cloud storage, review some examples of it, and compare its benefits and disadvantages.
What is Cloud Storage?
Cloud storage is a storage space available to store data on remote servers which can be accessed from the cloud (or the internet). The data is managed, maintained, and backed up remotely, for which the users generally pay a monthly or per consumption rate.
It uses data centers with massive computer servers that physically store the data and make it available online to users via the web. Users can remotely upload their content, store them and retrieve the data as and when required. With the introduction of the cloud, now you don’t need to purchase servers, external hard drives and memory sticks to carry your data from one place to another.
How does it work?
Cloud storage is purchased from a third-party cloud vendor who owns and operates data storage capacity and delivers it over the Internet in a pay-as-you-go model. These cloud storage vendors manage capacity, security, and durability to make data accessible to your applications all around the world.
Applications access it through traditional storage protocols or directly via an API. Many vendors offer complementary services designed to help collect, manage, secure and analyze data at a massive scale.
How cloud storage benefits businesses
It helps businesses with major data storage needs to save a significant amount of space and money by eliminating the need for data storage infrastructure on the business premises. The cloud storage provider owns and maintains all the necessary hardware and software so the cloud users don’t have to. Purchasing ongoing cloud storage may cost more in the long run, but it can be significantly less expensive upfront. Further, businesses can almost instantly scale up or down how much cloud storage they have access to as their storage needs change.
The cloud also enables employees to collaborate with colleagues – and work remotely and outside of regular business hours – while facilitating smooth document collaboration by allowing authorized employees easy access to the most updated version of a file. At the personal level, it allows mobile data and enables digital life in the holistic way we live it today. Without the cloud, smartphones would not be able to be the interface of so much data (photos, documents, information on the go). Using the cloud to store files can also have a positive effect on the environment since it cuts down energy consumption.
Pros and cons
As with any other cloud-based technology, cloud storage offers some distinct advantages. But it also raises some concerns for companies, primarily over security and administrative control.
- Off-site management: Your cloud provider assumes responsibility for maintaining and protecting the stored data. This frees your staff from tasks associated with storage, such as procurement, installation, administration, and maintenance. As such, your staff can focus on other priorities.
- Quick implementation: Using a cloud service accelerates the process of setting up and adding to your storage capabilities. With cloud storage, you can provide the service and start using it within hours or days, depending on how much capacity is involved.
- Cost-effective: As mentioned, you pay for the capacity you use. This allows your organization to treat cloud storage costs as an ongoing operating expense instead of a capital expense with the associated upfront investments and tax implications.
- Scalability: Growth constraints are one of the most severe limitations of on-premise storage. With cloud storage, you can scale up as much as you need. Capacity is virtually unlimited.
- Business continuity: Storing data offsite supports business continuity if a natural disaster or terrorist attack cuts access to your premises.
- Security: Data security is the most cited factor that may make companies cautious about using public cloud storage. The concern is that once data leaves a company’s premises, it no longer has control over how the data is handled and stored. Storing regulated data is also a concern. Service providers have tried to allay those fears by enhancing their security capabilities with data encryption, multifactor authentication (MFA), data storage in multiple locations, and improved physical security.
- Data access: Maintaining access to data stored in the cloud can also be an issue and could significantly increase the cost of using cloud storage. A company may need to upgrade its connection to the cloud storage service to handle the volume of data it expects to transmit. For instance, the monthly cost of an optical link can run into thousands of dollars.
- Performance degradation: A company may run into performance issues if its in-house applications need to access the data it has stored in the cloud. In those cases, it will likely require either moving the servers and applications into the same cloud or bringing the necessary data back in-house.
- Cost: If a company requires a lot of cloud storage capacity and frequently moves its data back and forth between on-premises systems and the cloud, the monthly costs can be high. Compared to deploying the storage in-house, the ongoing costs could eventually surpass the cost of implementing and maintaining the on-premises system.
Even if the cloud plays a central role in data processing and storage, the future of cloud and data storage is changing rapidly. Data security is one of the major concerns in cloud storage, and in the future, mass data breaches will be a strong point of concern for businesses that opt for cloud storage.
In such a scenario, will the cloud become obsolete? What are the possible alternatives to store complex data in the future? There are many options on the table, including serverless computing. Our two essential tips for techies looking at optimizing cloud services are conducting regular reviews and identifying redundant tasks on cloud services. The idea is to enjoy the freedom that the cloud offers without overspending.