How To Help SMBs Meet Their Cloud Storage Needs


Cloud storage can play an important role at small and midsize businesses, because it offers cost reduction as well as efficiency. In addition, the cloud provides true data protection in case of disaster. Brian Findlay, Executive Director of Global Storage Product Management at Imation Corp., offers some advice on how to select the right vendor for the task.—Jennifer D. Bosavage, editor

Small-to-midsize business (SMBs) have encountered the perfect storm of IT and business challenges. The amount of data and content produced by organizations continues to increase, demanding better, more efficient storage infrastructures. But this data-growth-driven storage demand is paired with tightened corporate purse strings. As such, SMB IT professionals are looking for alternate IT services and infrastructure solutions, and are turning to solution providers to advise on and implement a scalable storage strategy. More often now, an SMB’s storage architecture includes cloud storage.

Close to half—48 percent—of SMBs are using at least one cloud-delivered IT service, according to an SMB IT trends survey conducted by Spiceworks. That percentage has increased significantly from last year, when 28 percent of SMBs reported using a cloud service.

Cloud storage is one of the services gaining the most traction. The main benefits of cloud storage for SMBs are three-fold. First, the cloud provides true disaster recovery and business continuity. It adds critical offsite storage to ensure that a business’ most important asset is accessible in the event of a disaster.

Related: How To Choose a Data Backup Appliance That's Just Right

Second, the cloud offers pay-as-you-go options, which and that helps businesses account for storage as an operational expense, not a capital expense. Finally, storage is infinitely scalable and SMBs can use additional capacity when needed. However, it is important to keep in mind that scalability is not just about the size or amount of storage. The speed of access and throughput must also be scalable.

As cloud storage is a viable component of storage architecture and more VARs are adding cloud options to SMBs’ storage architecture, keep in mind these considerations when advising on a vendor selection:

1. Integration: SMBs should work with a cloud storage vendor that supports a tiered solution. SMBs will be best served by utilizing a cloud storage solution that can be integrated with an onsite appliance, which acts as the gateway to the cloud. Integration delivers an onsite copy of data for fast recovery and restore, plus an offsite cloud tier. The onsite tier provides speed for data archiving purposes, while the offsite tier offers a cheaper solution for backup.

2. Security: Data should be encrypted through the entire storage process, including seeding. SMBs need to ensure that data is encrypted on site, in flight and in the cloud. Channel partners can help SMBs navigate a cloud provider’s security policies.

3. Access control: A component of a security policy, SMBs must identify a solution with measures in place to make sure they have control over whom and when individuals can access information.

The Opportunity for VARs
While some SMB IT professionals may execute a storage strategy on their own, VARs and system integrators are valuable resources for advice and best practices. VARs can educate customers on the value of their information, and offer strategies on how to protect and archive data.

By adding cloud storage, a service—not a single, one-time technology sale—VARs shift their own business strategy to become service providers. Many may also consider standing up their own data center to offer SMBs an offsite storage tier. This allows VARs to move from selling individual products to selling services—including cloud services, as well.

In the role of a managed service providers (MSPs), VARs can demonstrate more security and control over the data. If an SMB is using a local MSP, the SMB can go visit them and have the confidence that the MSP can point to exactly where the SMB’s data is and how it is being protected.

When SMBs are developing a tiered storage solution, they must arbitrate access to data, the security of data and the cost of the data. If SMBs work with MSPs to formulate an onsite and offsite tiered solution, their storage infrastructure will be set for success.