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"Know before you go" is a popular maxim. And it very much applies to cloud storage. Here are ten questions to answer before you rush to the cloud.
1. What does the cloud mean for you?
An oft-forgotten step is to define specifically what the company is actually looking for from the cloud. That will help narrow the types of providers to review.
“First and foremost, ask yourself what type of cloud storage service or provider are you looking for, whether than is for backup, disaster recovery, archiving, document collaboration, document or file sharing (e.g. Dropbox), general storage, support for your on-site compute, or cloud-based compute and applications,” said Greg Schulz, an analyst at StorageIO Group.
2. Do you need cloud storage or cloud backup?
A related question concerns cloud storage versus cloud backup. Cheap or free cloud storage is available from the likes of DropBox, Apple’s iCloud and Google’s Drive. For small businesses, that may be enough. But those are places to store data as opposed to backup locations.
“Cloud storage providers provide you with a place to store your stuff, but there is no guarantee, questionable security, no tech support and if a server goes down in one of their data centers, you may never see those documents again,” said Jamie Brenzel, CEO KineticD. “Cloud backup provides you with the ability to backup applications and their associated data files to an offsite server or data center.”
3. What grade of service do you need?
It is important to ask yourself whether you need heavy-duty enterprise functionality or can get away with consumer quality. In some cases, the latter might be enough — for example, in the case of online backup for some mobile employees. But in most cases, the answer will probably be the former.
“Also are you looking for consumer, mobile app-based, or enterprise-type functionality,” asked Schulz.
4. What security measures are in place to protect your data?
A whole article could be written just on the cloud security side. Obvious safeguards include virus/malware protection, data encryption and the use of security keys. However, you'll also need to consider the factor of cost. The highest levels of security come at a premium.
“A lot of talk is about using the cloud, but the cloud has security concerns,” noted Lee Johns, VP of product management, Starboard Systems. “Although you can easily get your data into the cloud, it is not so easy to get it out.”
5. Do you know where your data is?
While it is important to ask a cloud provider how data is safeguarded, you also need a handle on where your own data is and what should and shouldn’t be sent to the cloud.
“The first step is to do an inventory and clearly capture all the devices your employees are using for access to the corporate network, applications and folders, as well as where all of your business data resides,” stated Margaret Dawson, vice president of product management at Symform.