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Top hybrid cloud environment tips of 2015

We took a look back at the expert advice on SearchCloudStorage over the past year to bring you the five most important cloud storage takeaways in 2015.

SearchCloudStorage contributors in 2015 gave advice ranging from cloud migration best practices to top cloud storage use cases, but readers were most interested in what experts had to say about hybrid cloud deployments.

Some of the most-read topics over the past year included expert-written content regarding how to determine what to move in a hybrid cloud environment, how hybrid clouds can automate data movement and where benefits, such as agility and elasticity, come into play.

Readers were also interested in how cloud storage relates to other hot topics, including big data and object storage systems. To look back at the year in cloud, SearchCloudStorage compiled the top-five cloud storage tips of 2015.

Determining what data to move and how it will get there is key

The beauty of a hybrid cloud model is that some data can stay on premises. But determining what data will stay at home and what data will be sent into the hands of a cloud provider is one of the most important decisions an administrator needs to make prior to carrying out the project. According to George Crump, president and founder of Storage Switzerland LLC, factors such as the time it takes for a file to be transferred to or from the cloud and where cloud access occurs can influence the ultimate decision. If a file occasionally needs to be accessed, for example, a cloud's typically slow retrieval speed may mean the file is better suited to on-premises storage. Considerations such as this could help an administrator determine a hybrid cloud model is best for the organization's archive, for example, but not for its transactional databases.

Automation and monitoring make hybrid cloud a home run

According to Mike Matchett, an analyst at Taneja Group Inc., in Hopkinton, Mass., in order to have a successful hybrid cloud implementation, enterprises need to view themselves as cloud providers. That means it's up to them to ensure their hybrid setup is meeting service levels and storing data in the most efficient location. Luckily, tools that allow automation and monitoring are available for administrators to take control of their clouds. For example, using storage that can automate the movement of data from on premises to the cloud as it ages is essential to taking full advantage of the cloud's cost and scale benefits.

Management is equally important -- having a management system that allows the administrator to monitor and control the environment will help maintain the performance and uptime that the organization depends on.

Object isn't the de facto storage for cloud

Object storage has been getting a lot of attention in the cloud for its ability to store unstructured data with granular metadata. But that doesn't mean it's best suited for all cloud scenarios. For clouds that provide an application as a service, a traditional block-based storage system may work best. According to Storage Switzerland's Crump, something as traditional as a network-attached storage (NAS) system shouldn't be overlooked either. In many cases, NAS can scale to a size comparable to object. And because many applications don't natively support object storage, NAS may be the next best option. There are also blended storage options available -- NAS systems can work with an object storage layer on top. It's usually best, according to Crump, to first consider whichever protocol is natively supported in your environment.

Hybrid clouds provide additional elasticity, agility

The public versus private versus hybrid cloud debate will continue to echo in the cloud storage world, but it's now safe to say a hybrid cloud can offer a few specific benefits. One of those benefits is agility. Especially when using a prepackaged technology that allows easy movement between on-premises and cloud environments, hybrid clouds allow resources to be spun up quickly and altered should needs change. Elasticity is another big plus. It's no surprise that the low cost of cloud storage means a hybrid setup is great for offloading archives or databases. But hybrid clouds aren't just elastic from a capacity standpoint. According to Taneja Group's Matchett, hybrid clouds have the benefit of economic elasticity, as well. Cloud services shift IT spending from occasional, large Capex investments to smaller, more manageable Opex payments -- most of which can be adjusted as needed.

Big data is a big fit for cloud storage

As big data is becoming more commonplace among enterprises, the cloud is becoming an important resource for storing all that information. Though performance can be a drawback for cloud storage, analytics can still be a prime cloud use case, because CPU can be scaled up or down on demand -- a big advantage over on-premises storage. In big data archive environments, a hybrid approach might be effective, because cached data can automatically be moved from on premises to the cloud service. According to Crump, a good rule of thumb for deciding between a hybrid or all-cloud approach is to know that less than 1 PB of data will benefit from 100% cloud, but more than 1 PB is most likely suited to a hybrid model.

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