Storage-as-a-Service (STaaS) has only been with us for a little more than a decade, but it is hard to find someone who isn’t using it. Whether it’s via Microsoft OneDrive on their home computer, iCloud for their phone, or Dropbox, most people are using some form of online storage. And, many are using a lot of it, including entire businesses.
These days, online storage is being offered at excellent rates. Relatively small amounts of storage are given for free, and then most providers offer multiple tiers. From instantly available high-performance storage at the highest rates, service tiers grade down to lower performance and slower retrieval. The bottom, archival tier is very cheap with longer retrievals.
As well as performance and retrieval pace, the volume of storage can factor into costs as can the degree of security, availability, and other service guarantees. Put simply, the more data you want to be able to retrieve faster and with the highest possible degree of security, the more it is going to cost.
Unfortunately, more than a few companies have been burned by the allure of cheap online storage by not doing their homework. They dump it all online without reading the small print. Then they decide to migrate the data or bring it all back inhouse and suddenly the costs spiral out of control. Therefore, it is important to select a provider that fits your usage profile and budget.
Also read: What is Storage as a Service?
Storage-as-a-Service Use Cases
STaaS has a variety of use cases. These include:
- Centralized storage of primary enterprise data
- Backup of enterprise data
- Disaster recovery of enterprise data
- Archiving of older or inactive data
- Temporary data sets made available for testing, research, or other short-term purposes
- Sudden increases in capacity due to seasonal or unusual spikes in usage.
Selection Tips for Storage-as-a-Service
Those purchasing Storage-as-a-Service are advised to select carefully based on the following:
- Start small. Use a relatively small amount of storage from a few provider candidates to determine how costing actually works out in the real world.
- Determine your precise usage needs. Select the tier and service level that most closely matches your needs. If you do move data around, it may be best to pay a higher rate for storage if it comes with easier data retrieval and migration.
- Avoid long-term contracts. Storage-as-a-Service vendors often adjust their rates. Lower rates may appear at any time and price wars are common.
- Conduct a complete cost/benefit analysis. A comparison of cloud storage prices against the cost of buying new disk arrays is too simplistic. Consider all costs including internal payroll, array lifecycle costs.
- Online storage must be managed. Low price is not the best reason to switch to Storage-as-a-Service. Typically, hidden costs tend to reduce the perceived savings. Someone needs to manage online storage, ensure it is properly secured, available, and usable in the ways needed by the organization.
Top Storage-as-a-Service Providers
Enterprise Storage Forum reviewed a variety of providers. Here are our top picks.
Google Cloud Storage
Google is one of the giants of this field. It offers object storage for companies of all sizes for any amount of data that can be retrieved as often as you like. The company provides worldwide access and unlimited storage with no minimum object size at low latency with an annual durability rate of 99.999999999%. Google offers several tiers of cloud storage at different price points and performance levels. Once users decide which tier suits their needs, they are not stuck with it. Everything can be reconfigured as time goes on.
- Standard Storage is intended for hot data accessed frequently or stored only briefly. It can be purchased in one or multiple locations for redundancy. It comes with a 99.5% service level agreement (SLA) guarantee for dual-region and multi-region storage.
- Nearline Storage is aimed at data that is expected to be stored and available for at least a month. It is cheaper than Standard Storage and is a good place to retain less frequently accessed data. Availability is a little lower than the higher tier, and there is a 30-day minimum storage duration.
- Coldline Storage is even lower cost and designed for data that is rarely going to be accessed. It has a 90-day minimum storage duration, and has higher costs for data access.
- Archive Storage is the lowest-cost tier and is good for data archiving, online backups and disaster recovery data.
- Google offers Object Lifecycle Management to transfer data after so many days to a lower-cost storage class.
- The Storage Transfer Service is used to move data from on-premises storage or from another cloud provider to the Google Cloud, as well as from one cloud location to another within the overall Google Cloud.
Oracle Cloud Storage
Oracle’s storage capabilities are part of its Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) product set. It offers block, file, and object storage. The Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Data Transfer Appliance allows users to securely move large volumes of data into Oracle Cloud quickly by means of a secure, encrypted appliance at no charge. Oracle object storage just added a new infrequent access tier. This tier costs less than the Standard tier, but objects in it can be immediately retrieved, unlike Archive storage tiers (a retrieval charge applies). The company also just introduced auto-tuning for object storage that enables users to configure a policy to automatically move little-accessed objects from Standard to the Infrequent Access tier.
- A data transfer service moves very large amounts of data into the cloud with a physical appliance.
- Block Volumes use advanced, low-latency NVMe Solid State Devices (SSDs) and non-blocking network connectivity for every host, which provides high IOPS to Oracle compute services.
- Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) Block Volumes offer strong storage performance SLA
- Volumes are up to 32 TB each and up to 32 can be attached to a running compute instance.
- File Storage is a fully managed elastic POSIX and NFSv3-compliant file system that scales automatically to accommodate growth of up to 8 exabytes.
- File Storage eliminates the need to provision capacity in advance, so users pay only for the capacity they need.
- File Storage also offers snapshot and clone capabilities to simplify business continuity for enterprise applications.
- OCI File Storage employs 5-way replicated storage, located in different fault domains, to provide redundancy for data protection.
- OCI Object Storage is best for building modern applications that require scale and flexibility as it can be used to consolidate multiple data sources for analytics, backup, or archive purposes.
- OCI Object Storage provides API compatibility with the OpenStack Swift API and Amazon S3 through Oracle Cloud’s Amazon S3 Compatibility API.
- Additional performance options up to 300,000 IOPS per volume.
- Cross-region replication with recovery point objectives (RPO) as low as 60 minutes and RTO that only takes a few minutes to complete.
Dropbox offers a range of plans so that businesses of any size can access the collaboration tools they need to work together in one place. Team folders allow files to be shared, stored, and accessed from authorized computers, phones, and tablets in any location. Dropbox offers a number of plan options that can be integrated into workflows to provide a way for organizations to bring content, tools, and collaborators together.
- Integrated tools like Dropbox Paper allow teams to collect ideas, create project timelines, assign tasks, and review and comment on work in real-time
- Standard plan offers 5 TB of secure storage per user, encryption, sharing permissions, and support
- Advanced plan adds single sign-on integration and invite enforcement
- Professional plan adds sending of files up to 100 GB with Dropbox Transfer, mobile offline folders, remote account wipe, and document watermarking
- Enterprise plan provides additional deployment tools, advanced controls and services and support designed specifically for large organizations. This includes data protection and collaboration, productivity, administrative and support tools, unlimited storage, sync technology, and anytime, anywhere access to accounts via Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android devices
- The Dropbox admin dashboard enables IT to review user activity and take relevant action as needed, see which outside domains teams are sharing with and how often
- HelloSign enables multiple teams within an organization to use eSignatures, without sacrificing security. HelloSign can streamline multi-team management with centralized visibility and delegation controls, providing oversight over documents, templates, branding, and team usage.
Amazon Cloud Storage
Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a range of services to store, access, govern, and analyze. This includes object storage, file storage, and block storage services, backup, and data migration options. For example, Elastic File System is the NAS offering, FSx is a managed filesystem for Windows and Lustre, and S3 Glacier is a long-term archive. Further offerings include backup, data transfers, and physical appliances to transmit large volumes of data.
- Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service with management features to organize data and configure access controls. It offers 11 9’s durability, and stores data for millions of applications for companies.
- Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS) provides a serverless file system to share file data without provisioning or managing storage. It can be used with AWS Cloud services and on-premises resources, and is built to scale on demand to petabytes.
- Amazon EFS offers four storage classes: Amazon EFS Standard and Amazon EFS Standard-Infrequent Access (EFS Standard-IA), and two One Zone storage classes, Amazon EFS One Zone, and Amazon EFS One Zone-Infrequent Access (EFS One Zone-IA).
- Amazon FSx for Windows File Server provides fully managed file storage that is accessible over the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. It is built on Windows Server, delivering administrative features such as user quotas, end-user file restore, and Microsoft Active Directory (AD) integration.
- Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) is a high-performance, block-storage service designed for use with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) for throughput and transaction intensive workloads at scale including relational and non-relational databases, enterprise applications, containerized applications, big data analytics engines, file systems, and media workflows.
- There are six different volume types for EBS to balance price and performance.
- Single-digit-millisecond latency for high-performance database workloads such as SAP HANA or gigabyte per second throughput for large, sequential workloads such as Hadoop.
- EBS volumes are replicated within an Availability Zone (AZ) and can scale to petabytes of data.
- EBS Snapshots have automated lifecycle policies to back up volumes in Amazon S3, while ensuring geographic protection.
Box Cloud Storage
Box includes enterprise-class offerings to securely store and share any type of file including presentations, design documents, videos, and photos. The platform helps multiple people to collaborate without the risk of version-control issues. It provides quick access to files from any device and includes online backup.
- Encryption of documents in transit and at rest.
- Admins can manage files and folders at a granular level by setting classifications, sharing options, and access controls.
- Employees can set auto-expiration and password protection on shared links for particular files, or manually delete a link when that file is no longer needed.
- Upload files and folders and use shared links to actively collaborate on them in real time, with people inside and outside of the organization.
- Control permissions on a per-user basis.
- Enable view-only access by locking a file from edits with Box Drive.
- Satisfies international data residency requirements in North America, Europe, Asia, Canada, and Australia.
- Box Zones allow stronger data protection, encryption, and privacy adherence to fit regional requirements.
- More than 1,400 applications and platform integrations.
- Share content in real time for faster collaboration and increased productivity.
Microsoft Azure Cloud Storage
Microsoft Azure offers a great many storage services. They include block storage, object storage, file storage, data lake storage, enterprise cloud file sharing, and appliances for shipping data back and forth. These services offer tight integration within the Microsoft Portfolio, including Office 365, Exchange, SharePoint, and other Azure services.
- Azure disk storage offers high-performance, highly durable block storage with four disk storage options: Ultra Disk Storage, Premium SSD, Standard SSD, and Standard Hard Disk Drive (HDD).
- Sub-millisecond latency for throughput.
- Zero percent annual failure rate for consistent enterprise-grade durability.
- Dynamic scaling of performance without disruption on Ultra Disk Storage to meet demand.
- Azure Blob Storage creates data lakes for analytics needs and provides storage to build cloud-native and mobile apps with Sixteen nines of designed durability with geo-replication.
- Authentication with Azure Active Directory and role-based access control (RBAC), plus encryption at rest and advanced threat protection.
- Fully managed serverless file shares accessible via SMB and NFS protocols.
- Azure file shares can be mounted concurrently by cloud or on-premises deployments of Windows, Linux, and macOS.
- Provides support for multiple protocols enabling data to be stored from different source
- Azure NetApp Files can run file-based apps with no code change.
- Cloud Files maintains three copies of each file.
- Over 200 global edge locations around the world.
- Store and manage files using the online control panel or desktop software or programmatically via the Cloud Files API Developer Tools available for Java, Python, Node.js, Ruby, PHP, and .NET.
- Cloud Files integrates with a variety of third-party tools built for object storage, such as Cyberduck, Jungle Disk, and FireUploader.
- Can be used for non-dynamic web hosting for websites such as blogs, brochure sites, and company sites.
- Containers for CDN can provide a web-ready URL that can be shared with anyone.
- All traffic between applications and Cloud Files uses SSL to establish an encrypted channel.
- Advanced features include: temporary URLs that provide access to Cloud Files objects for a specified period of time; and large file uploads for HD movies or backups.
IBM Cloud Object Storage
IBM Cloud Object Storage supports data growth and cloud-native workloads with high-speed file transfer capabilities, cross-region offerings, and integrated services. The IBM Aspera high-speed data transfer option makes it easy to transfer data, and many storage tiers help manage costs while meeting data access needs. IBM Cloud Object Storage stores encrypted and dispersed data across multiple geographic locations. It is a highly available, durable, and secure platform for storing unstructured data using object storage.
- IBM Cloud Object Storage is encrypted, erasure-coded, and dispersed across three locations.
- The distance between locations ranges from within a single data center, across a Multi-Zone Region (MZR), or across multiple MZRs).
- All requests and responses are made over HTTPS and all requests support the use of hash-based integrity checks.
- Supports a subset of the S3 API for reading and writing data, as well as for bucket configuration.
- IBM Aspera high-speed data transfer capabilities are natively integrated with IBM Cloud Object to improve data transfer performance by uploading and downloading data over long distances, and under various network conditions.
- Standard class is for active data that’s accessed multiple times a month.
- Vault is for data that’s accessed once a month or less. Data is immediately available when needed. A low retrieval charge applies for reading data.
- Cold Vault is for data accessed only a few times a year. A larger retrieval charge applies for reading data.
- Smart Tier stores ever-changing data without cost overruns and automatically bills at the optimal storage rate each month at the Hot, Cool or Cold rate based on the amount of storage and access.
- No retrieval charges, no minimum object size, no minimum duration requirement, and no other overhead charges for Smart Tier.
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