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Cloud storage use cases: More than just backup

Cloud storage is still a new concept for many enterprises. IT pros are just getting their feet wet integrating it into their environments, and today most are using it for backup and archive purposes. But with more variations of cloud storage -- private, public or hybrid implementations -- cloud storage use cases are beginning to move past the realm of backup. According to George Crump, founder of Storage Switzerland LLC, cloud storage is increasingly being used for storing email or office productivity applications, for example. In this TechTalk from TechTarget's Storage Decisions seminar in New York, Crump discusses how cloud storage use cases are evolving, and how IT pros should go about deciding if it's right for their data.

Can you drill in a little bit and tell us how private clouds differ from on-premises storage?

George Crump: In private cloud storage, typically, but not always, it's going to be object-based. It's going to be scalable in what I would call a nodal fashion in that you'll buy multiple miniservers and deploy those like Lego blocks. Those are two classic views into what private cloud storage would look like.

What should the key criteria be in deciding which data to send to the cloud?

Crump: What they're looking for is a type of data that isn't affected by latency, because no matter what we do, there's going to be some latent nature to transferring data to and from the cloud. Now, the appliances that we talked about earlier, they will help that because they are in the building and they can help with latency, but there's always a sort of unpredictability in that you don't know what exactly is on the local appliance and what's on the remote cloud. So you have to assume worst case, and if that latency is going to cause an application to fail, for example, then that's not a good approach. So the easy things are certainly backup and archive, Tier 2-, Tier 3-type of storage appliances -- those are probably the most common.

We hear a lot about cloud storage use cases beyond backup. Do you see enterprises moving beyond backup?

Crump: Yes. I think there are two use cases. One is what I would call an office productivity use case where, if it takes me an extra three seconds to pull my PowerPoint presentation back, I don't know if that really matters. Especially considering I might be connected through an iPad or a WiFi network, that latency is sort of less of a concern. Another one that is more interesting is in semi-structured data, so a great example for this would be an Exchange email environment or SharePoint, where there's information that we need pretty quick access to but it gets old and almost becomes like an archive. And now there are companies that have sort of intelligence built into their appliances to know how to dissect those storage areas and move the data that hasn't been accessed in a long time off to a public or remote cloud.

You talk to a lot of IT managers. How do most of them today use cloud storage?

Crump: For the IT managers I interface with, they're still in a large part in the investigative mode. I always tell people that when I get bored talking about, it's about the time users are ready to start implementing.

Okay, so right now the cloud storage use cases you see are pretty simple.

Crump: Backup and archive are clearly the number one and two that we're seeing. And I do think the SharePoint and email via Exchange and others will probably be the next big ones. We're not seeing a lot of huge deployment in cloud-as-primary type of storage applications.

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