Cloud storage for archiving


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Price vs. performance

Cloud-based archive opens the possibility of a “just right” balance between cost and accessibility. Tape has been, and

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remains, far and away the lowest cost method of storing data for years. A typical LTO tape holding approximately 1 TB of data costs roughly $35 with monthly off-site storage in the range of 25 cents per month. There’s no way for even the cheapest cloud disk to compete with this price. On the downside, the normal retrieval time for a tape from archive is next-day delivery plus the time needed to mount and restore it. This means users will wait about a business day before being able to access the information requested.

Cloud storage, on the other hand, starts at approximately 10 cents/GB per month and up (depending on volumes). This adds up when contemplating hundreds of TBs, but it’s still often less than the cost to procure, deploy and manage arrays in a central data center. Whereas tape retrieval is measured in business days, data hosted on cloud storage can be accessed in seconds. For some apps, this may be the ideal tradeoff between price and performance.

Cloud advantages, disadvantages

Before going all-in on cloud archiving, however, IT needs to weigh the virtues of cloud with in-house archiving. Technologically, cloud providers can’t offer anything that can’t be implemented in-house. So a company may, for example, choose to implement a tiered storage infrastructure with tier 3 high-capacity SATA disk to achieve a lower average cost per GB stored. Generally, organizations will lean toward an in-house solution if they can’t risk the loss of connectivity to a remote location, have regulatory requirements that require strict data security oversight or have data retrieval requirements where remote latency would be unacceptable. This is a fairly restrictive list, but there are still many applications that are candidates for cloud archiving.

IT organizations can quantify the logistical effort to migrate to cloud, but shouldn’t overlook a predictable but unforeseen challenge: a mind shift from a technology-centric perspective to a service-level management perspective. IT staff used to making technology choices and deployments often want to delve into the cloud vendor’s architecture and “suggest” product or technology-specific implementations. Rarely are such requests warranted, as the vendor maintains full responsibility for managing the cloud infrastructure. IT departments really shouldn’t be concerned with the underlying technology, provided contractual service levels are met. With experience, staff attention will gradually shift from low-level details to higher-level governance.

This was first published in May 2012

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