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Mike Nikzad, chief operating officer at Iomega, explains the risks involved with cloud data storage, and offers tips for VARs who are moving in that direction with their SMB customers.— Jennifer Bosavage, editor
The decision to manage data, applications and websites in the cloud has developed an impressive track record of success. By keeping IT overhead low, this flexible, efficient and scalable method of storing and accessing corporate data from nearly anywhere would seem like a silver bullet for small businesses and enterprises alike.
[Related: How To Help SMBs Meet Their Cloud Storage Needs ]
Yet outsourcing IT to the cloud is not risk-free. Recent high-profile outages and data vulnerabilities provide a sobering reminder that there is no substitute for experience when it comes to a successful installation. The following experience-based tips are meant to aid VAR/Integrators in helping small business and enterprise customers in moving data to the cloud.
1) Evaluate your customer's current and future storage needs
To steer your SMB customer toward the right cloud-based storage solution, take these points into consideration:
• Price/performance: Large-scale solutions can scare off a SMB. Customers will aim for the best performance/space for the least cost. This is where you need to consult; make your customer aware of options that will meet (or exceed) their space capacity needs at a price they can afford.
• PC or Mac? Be ‘environmentally’ friendly: Is your customer operating a mixed environment (PC and Mac, perhaps Linux)? If so, you will need to look at options that support this environment. If you are considering a network attached storage (NAS) device, make sure it’s agnostic and supports PC and Mac files alike, because not all do.
• Back it up: If you decide to use a network attached storage combined with the cloud, once you get your data on the device, consider how to back it up and where redundancy is needed. You can deliver data to a cloud-based NAS device on a remote site using a private cloud, or stream it to a public cloud like Mozy or Atmos.
• Automate: You’ll want to automate the process of moving data to the cloud alleviating the need to change tapes or move hard drives. Secure your customer’s NAS appliances in facilities where nothing can get lost due to theft or natural disasters.
• Contingencies and expandability: Rather than continually adding storage capacity with supplemental USB hard drives, consider using a NAS device. Some NAS solutions can expand up to 36 TB or more, enabling storage capacity to grow with the business.
2) Private vs. public cloud storage
After you and your SMB customer have determined that a cloud-based storage solution will be part of their go-forward strategy, you need to direct them toward the type—private or public—that will best fit their requirements and budget. Business critical applications, regulatory concerns, required service levels, workload usage patterns and integrating applications with other enterprise functions are all considerations that drive a decision toward private or public cloud storage.
• Private cloud: In a private (or internal) cloud installation, the company installs its own server and storage hardware; they have the flexibility to shift workloads among servers to account for usage spikes or new application deployments. Though more secure, a private cloud could be cost-prohibitive due to the need to purchase servers and software. Businesses with highly critical applications, which operate in heavily regulated compliance environments like banking and pharmaceutical, typically choose internal private clouds.
• Public cloud: Public cloud companies, like Amazon Web Services and Mozy, appeal to companies that want to immediately start using storage and other services via an online portal. These companies have relatively few regulatory limitations, a need to go-to-market quickly and data that doesn't need to be tightly integrated with other parts of the business. Storefronts, bank branches and franchisees without dedicated IT resources also find a public solution compelling because it eliminates the need for onsite servers, operating systems and a large support staff. A word of caution: the more you store in the cloud, the more that storage capacity costs. Encourage your SMB customer to be focus on business critical files that need to be backed up in multiple places.