As indicated in our previous post The importance of data storage CANNOT be overstated. It is CRITICAL to your business’ continued growth and success! Having said this, before we delve into why local data storage is still necessary, it’s important to fist understand the differences between cloud storage and local data storage.
Both offer significant advantages but also come with some limitations. Therefore, it’s important to understand the differences between them, in order to decide which one suits your business requirements best or, if using both technologies is the more advantageous way to go.
What is cloud storage?
Simply put, cloud storage is the storing of data in an online space (ex: Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, etc…) , accessible via the Internet, to everyone who has the proper login credentials.
What is local data storage?
As the name implies, this is storage such as disk arrays, hard drives, solid state drives, tape cartridges and other medias, that resides on your company’s premises.
Local data storage vs. cloud storage
Now that we’ve established what is the difference between those two methods of storing data, let’s get into it.
Cloud services offer many benefits to organizations but, as indicated previously, it also comes with some limitations. We’ll outline both here but, as a brief summary, here what it boils down to.
- Cost reductions
- Scalability and Redundancy
- Enhanced security
- File update and synchronization
- Latency and possible downtime
- Internet connectivity
Now let’s go further into details as to what exactly those benefits and limitations are exactly
- Storage systems are expensive whereas the cost per gigabyte cloud storage offers is quite low.
- When you buy storage systems, you need to have the necessary staff on hand to manage, maintain, update and upgrade those systems. With cloud storage, you don’t need that staff. Your service provider takes care of all that.
- As long as you have the proper login credentials and an internet connection, you can access your data and a variety of applications, from anywhere in the world.
Scalability and Redundancy
- MSPs have or use datacenters. Datacenters have server farms, large storage systems and other hardware resources in place, as well as high-speed fiber links connecting them to each other.
Using applications such as VMWare, this last one enables them to share the workload amongst all the various systems and locations as well as, when needed, allocate more resources (scalability) to address the customers’ processing needs.
Datacenter locations can also act as backup for one another as well (redundancy). Thereby making sure that resources and data are always available to their customers.
- Any and all MSP that wants to stay in business and grow, must have security mechanisms such as firewalls in place, to protect their customers’ data from unauthorized access. Security is part of every cloud storage package you signed a contract for.
Security mechanisms MSPs have in place are quite sophisticated and expensive. When signing a contract for cloud services, you benefit from the enhanced security they need to have in place without having to pay the full price of those systems as their costs is split among all of the MSP’s customers.
One last benefit that cloud storage offers is file syncing. When you’re using cloud storage and change a file, upon saving the updated file, the updated version becomes accessible to all the devices you use to access the cloud.
Latency and possible downtime
- Latency is a factor needs to be considered why?
- It is possible that at times, you and / or your provider may have a slow internet connection. This will affect both access and transfer speeds.
- Be it applications, servers or storage arrays, you and other customers share the same resources. If one of those customers is making extensive use of the resources you share, all others who use these resources will suffer a performance impact.
- Downtime is also a possible factor and, it’s definitely one that must be taken into consideration.
- Not all datacenters are equal. Some have generators or independent power generating capabilities whereas other run large uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs). So, if there’s a power outage, it is conceivable that at some point, you may not have access to any of your resources.
- Again, internet connectivity is a possible factor here as for a number of reasons (ex: construction work), it can go down. Thereby preventing you from accessing your resources.
- Last but not least, datacenters often need to do some maintenance on their infrastructures. Often times when that happens, resources are inaccessible. It could be just minutes but, it could also be hours. Murphy’s law being what it is, this always happens when you absolutely need access.
- When it comes to cloud computing and cloud storage, Internet connectivity is key. If you don’t have a good and reliable Internet connection, using cloud services will be very painful and will definitely have a negative impact on your work.
- We’ve previously mentioned that when it comes to cloud computing and cloud storage, you and other customers are sharing the same resources. The more people are sharing those same resources, the bigger the impact on performance (i.e.: latency).
Local data storage
- Access control and data security
- Complete independence from the Internet
- Hardware damages, potentially resulting in loss of data
- Storing your data locally provides you with a performance that the cloud cannot even come close to competing with! The only bottlenecks you have are the speed of your data storage systems and your company’s network.
- When it comes to backups, whether you are running a backup or restoring data, having the resources locally is again offering a level of performance that the cloud cannot ever hope to match.
Access control and data security
- Having your storage locally means that you have full control over who can access your data. All depending on what your security mechanisms and infrastructures are (see our article on Protecting ourselves against hackers in order to assess those), this provides you with data security.
- With local storage, adding capacity to your systems is easy and, with the price of hard drives going down all the time, depending on the type of storage system you have in place, can be a relatively inexpensive proposition.
Complete independence from the Internet
- Local storage means you do not need to connect to the internet to access your data. When you need to access files, applications, databases or other types of data, you just access it, period.
- Although it’s true the price per GB of hard drives keeps going down, depending on the type of storage systems your business uses, it’s also true that those systems are quite costly.
- You need to have staff on hand to manage, maintain, update and upgrade your storage systems. Those resources must be paid a salary. When using cloud storage, you don’t need to worry about that.
Hardware damage resulting in loss of data
- When your server and storage are local, physical damage due to a fire, a flood or any number of other factors, is a real possibility. Unless you do daily backups and you store the backup media off-site, such damages can cause you to completely lose your data!
Now that you know what the differences between local storage and cloud storage are, it’s up to you to decide which technology addresses your business needs best.
Local data storage gives you performance and total access control
If performance and total control over who and what, has access to your sensitive data is what you need, local storage is the option for you.
Cloud storage gives you access to your data from anywhere
If accessibility at all times at the lowest possible cost and from anywhere in the world is your primary concern, cloud storage does that for you.
Just make sure that you have a contract (i.e.: service level agreement [SLA]) in place with your provider, that insures your data is secured at all times and only accessible to the people with the proper credentials.
Managed service providers (MSPs) have sophisticated security mechanisms and infrastructures in place to address those concerns. If the one you’re currently using doesn’t, look for another. Do your research.
Hybrid infrastructures give you the best of both worlds
However, it may be that, just like many businesses and organizations, combining both local and cloud storage is the way to go.
When you combine local storage with cloud storage, you get the performance you need along with control over who accesses your data and, by using cloud services, that data is safely stored off-site. Thereby, protecting it against any kind of disaster at your facilities, and, as per the above, should you need to have secure remote access to it from anywhere in the world, that can be arranged as well.
At the very least, now that you have a clear understanding of the situation, you’re in a better position and, you’re able to make an informed decision.