Storage wars – On the Ground or Up in the cloud

Article by Govind Desikan



Most organizations are faced with two options when they deliberate the ideal way to store the massive amount of data generated every day – choose between an on premise storage system or an external hosted solution. Though many companies till invest in on-premise storage solutions, many of them are also moving to cloud based storage model. It is estimated that by 2016, 36% of all data will be stored on the cloud. However, as the two sides of a coin - there are pros and cons for each storage approach whether local or cloud based.

There is no one size that fits all, therefore, it is important to understand and identify the correct approach based on an organization’s unique needs. The key business drivers for organization’s looking to adopt Cloud based storage varies from off-site backup, reduced cost of disaster recovery, providing easy access to information that can be shared with appropriate users etc.

Not all storage requires equal treatment. For e.g. a desktop/ device backup need not be stored in an expensive in-house Storage environment, and at the same time the tiered storage can help in moving not-often used data to lesser expensive storage environment.

However, three key factors must be kept in mind when considering the best storage option for an enterprise. These are:

Management and control of data

Management and control of data is an important determinant in identifying the correct storage option for an enterprise. On premise infrastructure for storage is ideal for organizations that want more control over their data. Having a physical storage infrastructure is ideal for business enterprises looking at optimizing performance for different applications and data within a single system. The simple reason - it offers greater support for data replication and tiering and backup capabilities. Moreover, having an on-premise storage infrastructure greatly increases the ability to directly manage and fine tune storage performance of the entire application stack – an important factor for optimum application performance. An added advantage of an on-premise storage infrastructure is the ease in adhering to data security and compliance guidelines, as the infrastructure is on-premises.

Companies who opt for cloud based storage services do not have the same level of control as those with an on-premise storage infrastructure. The terms are governed by the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) between the organization and the cloud based storage provider. Cloud based storage is ideal for organizations who do not want to invest in setting up a storage infrastructure themselves but would like to have a robust and a scalable storage solution. Organizations can benefit from the unlimited capacity, multi-tenancy and built-in DR facilities of the cloud to help them solve their data storage challenges. Cloud storage’s custom metadata provides unprecedented layers of security. Some cloud storage products also provide erasure codes that add another layer of security. Moreover, storage systems get refreshed every three years, which is in itself a tedious process. Cloud storage options take the pain out of data migration during a storage technology refresh by adding new nodes and retiring old ones. This reduces the incidences of downtime during a technology refresh, thereby, avoiding disruption to the business.

Latency and availability

A data storage solution’s ability to store and permit access to data at any given point in time is an important factor in deciding whether an organization should opt for a cloud based storage or an on-premise storage infrastructure. Cloud storage has built in redundancy at all levels of the infrastructure - redundant cloud storage gateways and redundant WAN links help companies avoid protection gaps that could result in outages or data loss. Latency or delay in accessing data/information in cloud storage can be minimized by opting for a hybrid cloud storage solution. Hybrid cloud storage solutions overcome latency issues by caching data locally and using WAN optimization techniques to reduce data traffic.

Having an on-premise storage solution has its own advantages – one of them is that they can be configured for high availability, albeit at the array level.  Multi array and multi site availability with an on-premise storage solution still comes at a high cost and requires greater expertise. On-premise storage gives an organization the flexibility to create a high level of data protection, DR and point in time recovery through actively supporting file system replication, tiering, snapshots and backup at the most granular levels. It is ideal for workloads requiring high performance, low latency storage i.e., server and desktop virtualization, or database applications.

Cost efficiencies (OR NOT)

With pay as you use or utility computing model, cloud storage becomes an attractive proposition for organizations looking at reducing cost overlays for having a fully functional on-premise storage solution. As you are basically paying for the amount of storage you use on a monthly (subscription) basis, you are spared of the capital costs for setting up the cloud infrastructure as well as other associated costs of power, space and expertise required to manage it. Though cloud storage solutions do significantly reduce overall capital outlays, they may come with some hidden costs that may increase the operating costs. Organizations are advised to conduct a due diligence with respect to pricing structures to ascertain that there are no incremental costs. 

Cloud Storage or On-Premise – which is better

The choice between cloud storage and on-premise storage depends on the specific needs and requirements of an organization. Cloud storage offers you a flexible, mobile, and a cost efficient storage option where you can scale your storage as per your business requirements. If data governance and compliance is your main criteria of selecting a storage solution, then opt for an on-premise storage option.

If you would like more information on cloud/on premise storage solutions and what they can do for your business, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our experts.