• Data storage: striking the right balance between cost and security

Cloud services have become a popular option for businesses as the challenges of managing data storage have grown. The costs and level of maintenance required to store large volumes has seen more and more companies choose to make use of cloud service providers. Yet, with the high-profile hacking of cloud services recently - in particular the theft of celebrity photographs from iCloud - many businesses are, quite rightly, starting to question whether cloud storage is safe. They are asking whether they can do more to protect themselves – and whether they should bring storage back in-house entirely.

For some organisations, cloud services will never be appropriate – especially if regulations dictate that specific data needs to be stored in the UK or the EU. Many countries beyond the EU are not required to meet the same standard of data protection, and if cloud providers are storing data in these countries this has to be a worry.

On-premise data storage infrastructure can however, be expensive to install and maintain. And companies, with less sensitive data, may well find the flexibility offered by a cloud service provider makes good business sense.

Option 1: In-house

As noted above, an organisation which is obliged to protect sensitive data may feel it safer to keep their data store on premise. This gives the business responsible for that data the comfort of knowing what technology is keeping it safe and who exactly has access to it. Vitally, the organisation can rest safe that this data will not be moved without their say so.

Of course, the costs of installing and maintaining in-house infrastructure mount up when you consider the necessary equipment, software licenses and other resources required. Some may also decide it is necessary to bring in an IT team to manage this infrastructure on a day to day basis. It may also be necessary to pay for additional support to handle any problems if they arise.  

Option 2: Cloud services

If a company chooses to go with the cloud approach, they will have less of these responsibilities. The cloud server provider will be accountable for maintenance issues and ensuring security.

Engaging a cloud provider is best described as renting space. Overtime, renting may not necessarily be as cost-effective as ownership but the flexible nature of outsourcing can be extremely useful. Additional storage can be deployed at a moment’s notice and then scaled back when it is no longer needed. Meaning that you only ever pay for what you use.

When working with a third party it is essential, however, that the service level agreement is scrutinised before any contract is signed. What will happen in the event of down time?

Some providers will simply give you a credit for future use – which may be prove worthless if a disruption causes you to lose faith in their service. Others suppliers may happier to be held accountable and offer financial compensation in the event of a failure.

It is also vital to know what precautions are in place in the event of a disaster. Is data backed up and will your workforce or customers notice any disruption?

Organisations should also check the Ts & Cs to check whether data is likely to be moved and stored in a different physical location. If so, will you be alerted to this before it happens? 

Asking about these policies up front will reduce the risk of disaster later down the line. Know what your rights are and re-read your contract thoroughly so that you feel confident in recognising the potential risks.

Option 3: A hybrid solution

With pros and cons to both options, it is small wonder why many businesses are now opting for a hybrid approach. It maybe that most data, which requires storage, is not sensitive and is fine to outsource. But at the same time, the business critical data which can only be access by select individuals is kept on premise.

Organisations need to take all of the above into account, before taking a decision over what solution is most suitable. They need to carefully weigh-up the pros or cons and choose what works best for the company with regard to both cost and safety.

To find out more about how we can help with your cloud options, head over to our cloud services page.