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6. Cloud storage services

If you need any evidence that cloud storage is a hot technology, just look at the number of companies rushing to market with some type of offering or strategy. But even as technology giants like Amazon, Google, Iron Mountain, Microsoft and numerous hosting service providers are in the process of a massive build-out in this area, to date cloud storage has been more of an emerging technology as users test the waters by moving some of their backup applications into the cloud.

"Customers worry about security," said Ashar Baig, senior director of product marketing at Asigra Inc. "Adoption of the cloud has been slow. It could be much faster."

One reason behind the slow pace of adoption is that there's still much discussion about what types of data would be suitable for cloud storage. For now, it's mainly unstructured data that's being moved to the cloud, and the majority of users have chosen backup for their initial foray into cloud storage because there's less perceived risk than using the cloud for primary storage.

But as users become more willing to test the cloud, startups are offering cloud gateways -- devices that act as cloud access points for non-backup data. Some of the vendors offering these primary storage cloud gateways include

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Cirtas Systems Inc., Nasuni Corp., Panzura, StorSimple Inc. and TwinStrata Inc.; all have launched either hardware or virtual appliances in the past year.

Furthermore, Storage magazine research shows growing interest in the technology, with more users planning to deploy non-backup cloud services. Although the numbers are still modest, the gains are significant: Almost 10% of respondents to a fall 2010 survey use the cloud for data center primary storage vs. just 4% six months earlier. And another 10% said they plan to start using cloud services for near-line data.

In addition, industry experts say that compliance, and reference and archived data are other obvious choices for cloud storage.

Iron Mountain has built a good part of its cloud strategy around data protection, governance and archiving. "Cloud makes it cheaper for keeping information that needs to be preserved for a long time," said T.M Ravi, chief marketing officer at Iron Mountain Digital. "The next step in the evolution of cloud storage is infrastructure as a service."

Staci Cross, CIO for the City of Bradenton, Fla., found cloud storage services to be a good fit for her organization's needs. With a small IT staff and limited expertise, the City of Bradenton looked to the cloud to handle several storage functions. It has been using cloud provider Yotta280 to handle its backups for approximately a year, and Elephant Outlook to manage email for more than two years. Plus, the city has been migrating public data from its document management system to cloud service provider SpringCM.

"We've had no issue with performance and security," Cross said. "We have had continuing constraints in budgets and staff, and they have economies of scale that I don't have."

This was first published in December 2010

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