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Four cloud-integrated storage drawbacks

Cloud-integrated storage is a good way to move data to the cloud, but users should be aware of these four caveats before implementing the technology.

Cloud-integrated storage has become a popular way for businesses to experience the benefits of the cloud without...

needing to immerse themselves in the intricacies of object storage technology.

Users gain access to storage from an on-premises cloud-integrated storage (CIS) system, which typically functions as a front-end cache and transparently stores data in the appropriate on-premises or cloud storage tier, based on policies established ahead of time. This approach enables speedy access to active or business-critical data stored locally, as well as cost-effective storage of secondary and/or less active primary data in the cloud. Users enjoy advantages inherent to the cloud, including low-cost capacity and scalability, ideally without sacrificing application performance. But there are four potential cloud-integrated storage drawbacks users should be aware of:

CIS drawback No. 1: Time to access data

Cloud storage access performance may not measure up to the response times and/or throughput achieved using local networked storage due to network connectivity or bandwidth constraints. You should test the cloud-integrated storage deployment in advance to ensure it meets the performance needs of your use case and applications.

CIS drawback No. 2: Inadequate security policies

Cloud-integrated storage security may not be compatible with or as rigorous as existing on-premises policies and approaches. You should verify the CIS offers integration with existing on-premises authentication. Though most CIS systems provide encryption for data in motion and at rest in the cloud, they may take a different approach to managing and protecting encryption keys. Check to see where and how the keys will be stored and protected. You should also determine whether cloud storage through the CIS will satisfy any industry regulations your business must adhere to.

CIS drawback No. 3: Unanticipated cloud costs

Though the cloud offers simple, low-cost storage, expenses can add up over the long term. To avoid cost overruns or other nasty surprises, you should institute controls that allow you to track cloud storage usage and costs as the deployment scales over time.

CIS drawback No. 4: Potential for vendor lock-in

Data moved to a cloud-based object storage repository via a CIS system can generally only be accessed through that vendor's specific CIS platform. Ask the vendor or a third-party expert what processes would be required to move to an additional or different vendor's CIS system down the road, and decide what you can do to minimize the risks of lock-in to that vendor's offering. Eventually, cloud storage interface and access standards may mitigate this risk, but today they are nowhere near being agreed to, let alone widely adopted.

To avoid lock-in to a single cloud storage provider, look for cloud-integrated storage appliances that support multiple back-end public cloud providers. Most CIS solutions now support more than one provider, allowing you to "shop around" for the best cloud storage option to meet each of your application and use case requirements.

Despite this list of potential drawbacks, cloud-integrated storage systems satisfy the needs of a rapidly growing set of customers. If users take the time to qualify prospective vendors upfront, they will find a CIS offering that meets their requirements while avoiding the pitfalls presented.

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This was last published in July 2015

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