5 Cloud Storage Questions CIO Should Ask Before Moving to the Cloud

Article by Govind Desikan

Recently we have witnessed cloud storage becoming increasingly seen, or heard of, or even used, in the Indian context. Now, I know the concept is relatively new and most CIOs are skeptical in using it. The key reason I believe in the skepticism, is that they are unaware of what questions to ask and answer.

Here are five key questions that CIOs should ask and answer before jumping into the bandwagon of cloud storage.

What performance level is required for the application?

My application’s need for storage is based on what performance of access is needed. Technical terms, such as IOPS, become a key discussion point. Cloud storage is feared to have lower latency than that is hosted within the organizations data center. So if the application is using access intensive / high performance database or OLTP based application, then cloud storage may not be the way to go.

For instance all applications such as CRM, Analytical Applications etc. where the cloud storage performance is acceptable, can be readily moved over cloud, as these applications are not OLTP intensive.

How about the service levels and support – who will guarantee uptime?

The SLA for Cloud Storage should be in terms of data-availability as well as data-resiliency. SLAs by most cloud storage providers are 99.99% for data availability. Data Resiliency should be much higher, to the tune of, 99.9999%. Here it is important to understand a little deeper into the agreement and who is actually guaranteeing this SLA.

It is important for the IT stakeholders to evaluate the hosting provider’s connectivity, redundancy, availability as well as resiliency at the bandwidth level. In case of cloud storage providers hosted at a different hosting provider, it is also important to understand who is responsible for potential non-deliverance of committed SLAs such as loss of data being covered by – the cloud storage provider or the underlying hosting provider?

Is the cost dependent on the access or space, or both?

Another key element to consider is the costing models of cloud storage. Most cloud storage providers charge based on storage access, type of storage, type of access and space utilized. It is acceptable when the application access on storage is organic.

In case of applications where caching is high, with longer times of scanning for viruses or for temporary file storage, then cloud storage may not be cost effective.

What kind of encryption should be used or is available?

It is important to understand the security of the data that is being stored on the cloud. What level of security is needed for the data is something the IT stakeholder needs to evaluate and determine, in line with both technology and business requirements.

Most cloud storage providers offer encryption for data in flight or data in wire. If the data that is being stored is sensitive to the business, one might also need to encrypt the data is residing in the cloud storage – not only when it is in wire – even when data is at rest.

So it is important for the service provider to have the capability of offering encryption for data at rest.

Can the service provider offer faster access for recent files and slower for older ones?

Most in-house storage systems can use caching appliances or systems to offer faster access to recent and more relevant or often-used data and slower access to older and rarely used data.

The cloud storage system can also provide this facility if the provider is open to adding the caching system at their data center. This system will store most recent data that is being moved on the cloud storage, with a high chance of being accessed more or faster.