Storage as a service is a vendor-managed storage environment that provides a flexible, cost-effective way for businesses to manage their data. Firms that choose storage as a service (STaaS) can realize significant cost savings by not having to buy expensive hardware or hire engineers with data storage expertise. This guide to STaaS discusses its relationship to cloud computing and explains the advantages and disadvantages of this particular data storage model.
What is Storage as a Service?
Storage as a service is a managed service in which a storage provider supplies a customer with storage space. In a STaaS model, the managed service provider handles most of the complex aspects of long-term bulk data storage: hardware costs, security, and data integrity.
STaaS was originally designed for small to medium enterprises that needed a robust storage platform but lacked the in-house expertise to develop and maintain an on-premises solution. It’s an ideal model for businesses whose storage management needs don’t match existing budgets, physical space, and personnel. Often users only pay for the exact storage resources they need at the time.
Today, STaaS is used by all kinds of businesses. STaaS solutions often integrate with the best storage management software on the market, allowing organizations to streamline multiple storage platforms. This reduces information silos and helps storage teams centralize their data.
Read more about five types of enterprise data storage.
Why Use STaaS?
Storage as a service is beneficial for smaller businesses that don’t have enough storage personnel or staff expertise to maintain a cloud environment. Many small to medium organizations don’t even have an official storage team, and their IT and security teams are occupied with other tasks that leave little room for managing storage. STaaS offloads much of the manual administrative work to a dedicated provider, giving stretched-thin tech teams a strong storage solution without the upkeep that comes with it.
STaaS lowers costs for many businesses, too. Hardware is expensive, and so is the software required to manage it. Many service providers only require customers to pay for the resources they’re actively using, which reduces financial waste.
STaaS also saves physical space. Businesses may not have the office space for the infrastructure to store their data. Data centers have a big footprint, and even large server rooms won’t fit in many downtown high-rises or small-town offices. Storage services give more flexibility to organizations that can’t afford to buy or build the real estate needed to support an extensive storage infrastructure.
STaaS in Cloud Computing
STaaS is not an exact synonym for cloud storage, but the two often overlap. Most STaaS providers will make use of a public cloud to store data. One particular advantage of cloud-based storage is that it’s easier to integrate with cloud-based applications that rely on that data. If companies are using cloud-based accounting software, for instance, linking this to a cloud-based STaaS system can reduce the latency required to work with the data.
Cloud-based STaaS also offers customers a wide range of additional services that can be performed without the expertise of a storage engineer. These include disaster recovery features, data backup, bulk data transfers, encryption, and other cybersecurity capabilities.
Many of these services are critical for protecting data from security breaches and natural disasters. It’s no longer sufficient to just store data—it has to be shielded, too. Multiple copies of data are necessary in case data is damaged or lost through outages or theft.
Advantages of STaaS
The benefits of storage services include reduced costs, cloud data access, improved disaster recovery, and scalability. STaaS makes enterprise-level data storage more available to small businesses that originally wouldn’t have been able to support this kind of infrastructure.
Lower storage costs
Because customers often only pay for the storage resources they need, they’re not wasting money on resources sitting idle. And of course, not paying for hardware and its upkeep reduces costs as well.
Rapid access to data
Cloud syncing allows customers to quickly access their stored data anywhere they have an internet connection. Although their data is stored on remote servers, it’s still readily available.
Potential disaster recovery capabilities
Some STaaS providers offer additional services like disaster recovery, which is critical for stored data. A service provider might set up syncing between their remote data centers so data automatically fails over to another server in the event of an outage or disaster.
STaaS solutions typically support rapid scaling of storage volumes. This is particularly beneficial for smaller organizations that have rapid projected growth over their next few years in business. If their stored data grows exponentially, they’ll want to add storage space rather than migrate the data.
Disadvantages of STaaS
Overall, storage as a service is a beneficial solution for businesses that need additional support to build out their storage infrastructure. It has a few limitations, however, including limited customization, reliance on the service provider’s systems, and potential cybersecurity weaknesses.
Storing data with a STaaS provider does limit a business’s ability to customize its storage environment. For some teams this isn’t an issue, but more advanced IT or storage teams with more experienced personnel may want more intensive customization.
Reliance on providers’ systems
When a business stores their data in a service provider’s storage environment, they’re subject to all the provider’s technology—including downtimes, outages, and any other issues on their end. While many STaaS vendors have technologies to mitigate the effects of downtime and disasters, there’s always a chance that an issue will render users’ data temporarily unavailable.
Potential security risks
Some StaaS providers consistently encrypt data and implement strict access controls for their own teams. This means customers have less control over their storage infrastructure, including security features. This A STaaS provider that emphasizes cybersecurity practices can help businesses with limited security teams, but conversely, a provider less dedicated to security may put customers’ data at risk.
Extra costs from exceeding contract
Businesses that exceed their storage allotments in their vendor contracts can run into significant extra costs. However, this is avoidable—and it’s not a downside as long as they keep careful records of used vs. allotted storage.
Bottom Line: How to Choose STaaS
To determine whether storage as a service is a good fit for you, ask the following questions:
- Does your technology department have experienced storage employees?
- Does your budget allow for STaaS prices?
- Do you have the physical space to install servers and storage arrays?
- If not, how long will it take you to build such an infrastructure?
Your organization may decide to implement STaaS for the moment while dedicating a few years to develop your own storage infrastructure. You may also decide to pay for cloud storage for a particular set of applications while using on-premises storage for others. Data storage is flexible, and STaaS contributes a significant amount to that flexibility.
Read next about the top storage as a service providers.