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Getting started with cloud archiving: Tips for smaller businesses

Data archiving should be implemented into all data storage environments, and cloud archiving may be the best cost-effective ways for SMBs to go about doing this.

I was recently asked: "Why would a small- to medium-sized business (SMB) archive to the cloud? Isn't that the same as data backup and restore to the cloud?" In answer to the first question, cloud archiving can make excellent financial and operation sense. In answer to the second, cloud-based data backup is not the same as cloud archiving.

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Cloud-based data backup and recovery is an efficient and cost-effective way to provide data backup and recovery as well as disaster recovery offsite. Recoveries can range from a file, volume, database, system or complete site. But the focus is always on data backup and recovery.

Cloud archiving vs. cloud backup

Cloud archiving is entirely different from cloud-based backup and recovery. There are four essential reasons to archive. The first two are regulatory compliance and E-discovery, and they are typically lumped together. The next is historical reference, which is rarely discussed but can be very important for some businesses. The fourth is content distribution, which is quickly becoming increasingly important, especially for rich media.

Regulatory compliance and e-discovery are perhaps the most urgent reasons for archiving data. The increase in regulatory and legal requirements such as the 2006 amendments to the U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedures (FRCP) have made data archiving, and more specifically, email archiving, a necessity. Regardless of industry or company size, the potential cost of not having an effective archive, especially email, can result in consequences including legal sanctions, fines, litigation costs and judgments. All of which are far greater than the cost of archiving itself.

If you are an SMB, you may be thinking, "He can't be talking about me. I'm too small. I don't even archive now." But before you cast aside archiving just because you're a small business, consider these questions first:

  • Have you ever been sued or are you likely to be involved in legal action as a plaintiff or defendant (or called on to provide evidence even if you're not directly involved in the case)?
  • Are you subject to regulatory compliance (HIPAA, GLBA, SOX, BASEL II, FINRA, SEC, etc.)?
  • Are you concerned with the size of your email storage?
  • Has your email server become increasingly unstable?
  • Is the cost of storage growing more rapidly than you anticipated?
  • Is user generated email data escalating?

If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," then data archiving should be a serious consideration for your business. The key for SMBs is determining how to archive efficiently and cost effectively.

Digital historical reference or permanent archiving is hugely important for engineers (civil, electronic, electrical, aerospace, chemical, etc.), life sciences, pharmaceuticals, architecture, demolition, research and more. This can be incredibly useful. For example, take bridge maintenance. Having the bridge architectural design drawings available before starting any work can drastically reduce time, costs and errors.

Online digital content archiving is quickly becoming a necessity for much of the rich media market (such as video, broadcast, television and film distribution). Nothing is ever thrown away. Everything can be reused if it's stored in a digital archive. Thus, the business potential for multiple uses continues to grow.

Maintaining an on-premise data archive system requires data storage equipment and supporting infrastructure, floor space, power, cooling and most of all, expertise to operate, manage and maintain the system. This is where cloud-based archiving can be a serious and practical alternative for the SMB.

Why cloud archiving can benefit SMBs

Cloud-based email archiving is designed to address the same requirements as on-premise archiving systems; but potentially, at a fraction of the cost. The cost is usually lower in cloud-based archiving systems for several reasons: They are pay-as-you go, provide resources on demand, are loosely coupled to hardware, and best of all are geographically aware (based on network roundtrip time [RTT]), and often geographically distributed. Geographic awareness allows content to be located closer to the user can be highly useful for content distribution.

Although several archiving applications are beneficial to the SMB data storage environment, the e-discovery feature in Sonian Inc.'s cloud-based email archiving service has the potential to truly have a positive impact on a SMB. The vast majority of the e-discovery feature is focused on email. The majority of email systems become unstable when they have too much data to manage. This requires an email archive. Most cloud-based email archiving is budget friendly with a per-mailbox, per-month pricing structure. Plus, there is no need for the cost of on-premise hardware, software, infrastructure, power, cooling or expertise to operate. The cloud-based archive is fully managed for the SMB.

If there is a requirement to provide some level of protection and reduced liability, have an online permanent or historically accessible data, or provide content distribution of older rich media, you should archive your data.. Furthermore, cloud-based archiving should be considered as a viable alternative to on-premise especially if upfront costs, infrastructure or expertise is a concern.

Some examples of cloud-based archiving vendors and their products include:

  • Sonian for email, messaging, and e-discovery
  • Iron Mountain Inc. digital archive for generally archiving, content distribution, email archive and e-discovery
  • i365 (a Seagate company) archive and e-discovery
  • Nirvanix Inc. rich media archive
  • Clearspace for structured data (sold mostly through partners)

Pricing ranges from $.25/GB per month to as much as $12/GB per month depending on the cloud-based archiving service purchased.

About the author: Marc Staimer is the founder, senior analyst, and CDS of Dragon Slayer Consulting in Beaverton, OR. The consulting practice of 11+ years has focused in the areas of strategic planning, product development, and market development. With over 28 years of marketing, sales and business experience in infrastructure, storage, server, software, and virtualization, he's considered one of the industry's leading experts. Marc can be reached at [email protected].


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