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Clouds can be used for data protection, file sharing, collaboration, archiving, test and development, pre-staging of new applications, disaster recovery, and other storage-related tasks that in the past were grounded in physical infrastructures.
They will also be the way queries to large databases will be handled, said Dave Hitz, executive vice president and co-founder of NetApp.
A database search might be wrapped in a kilobyte of data that is sent to a data store in a cloud, Hitz said. "The search will be done on the cloud, which will return two to three kilobytes of results," he said.
Meanwhile, nearly all the headaches related to storage, including data management and making sure data is properly secured and backed up, becomes someone else's problem. And that is a beautiful thing for the IT manager who can now invest in better ways to use a company's data to gain business value rather than in the money pit that is the day-to-day problems of managing all that data.
It's a decision that smaller companies are already making whether or not they realize it, Pertino's Krautkremer said. Many companies sit in what he called a "partly cloudy" world.
"Part of their business is in the cloud, like their Exchange data, and part is in on-site legacy apps, like MPR [manufacturing resource planning]," he said. "For these customers, who make up the majority of SMBs today, a cloud-based network can seamlessly bridge both worlds and aid in migration between them while providing unified access, visibility and control."
Indeed, in an ideal world, the biggest decision about how to store most or all of a company's data in the cloud in many cases comes down to which cloud storage provider to use. However, cloud storage is no silver lining. Unlike all the hype surrounding it, cloud storage is not cheap. Issues related to Internet bandwidth, security, and longtime archiving are in flux but remedies are in the works.
For example, IT administrators can mitigate cloud latency issues by taking advantage of new cloud gateway technologies coming to market. Cloud gateways combine a storage appliance, which keeps more frequently accessed data available locally for high-performance applications, with the moving of the bulk of a business' data to the cloud where it can sit, usually undisturbed after 60 or 90 days of lessening access to it.