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Unlimited vs. Storage-Based Cloud Storage

Which one is right for your enterprise?

When deciding on your preferred method of cloud storage, you will inevitably be faced with storage-based and unlimited storage options. While storage-based "pay as you go" pricing might seem like a way to save some dollars now, it's important to evaluate what it will end up costing in the long run.

Storage-Based Pricing: The Hidden Costs
Storage-based plans require you to pay for a limited amount of storage space. If you choose this type, you usually determine an appropriate amount of storage for your organization's current circumstances, knowing that you can buy an additional chunk of storage as your company expands. Organizations will select this route as a short-term cost-saving measure, claiming that it reduces capital expenses since you pay for only the storage amount you immediately need. However, this approach can end up actually costing more than an unlimited storage plan over time. Consider that in addition to purchasing the storage plan, the organization will need to engage in some due diligence, including:

  • A multi-year storage needs analysis. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) we will have produced up to 40 Zettabytes (that's 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes!) of data by 2020. The same study revealed that most businesses experience between 40-60 percent growth in data volume annually. In short: data doesn't shrink, and you need to have a plan for its expansion, whether it's continuing to buy more storage as needed or attempting a data cleanup operation every time you get close to your limit. Also, don't forget to plan for backing up all that data, which won't just consist of the total amount of current data, but also every version of that data that has ever existed. Estimating the amount of storage you need now as well as in the future involves a lengthy calculation process, including analyzing the amount of current data you have, new data over time and the rate of change for your data.
  • A risk mitigation and communications plan. In the event your data cap is exceeded (and it almost certainly will be at some point), how will administrators be notified when the limits are close to being reached? What is the plan when that notification is received - buy more storage or spend time purging, cleaning up and relocating data? How quickly can this plan be executed with not just the current number of employees in place but with the number of employees the company is expected to have in the future? Failure to plan for when your storage limit is reached could result in data loss or productivity grinding to a halt while things get sorted out.
  • Additional budgeting, approval and purchasing decisions. Depending on the organization, the approval process to buy something might not be arduous and more storage can quickly be purchased when needed. Or every purchase approval might need to go through a formal procurement process and several levels of management before it's approved, leaving end-users unable to do their jobs as usual or vulnerable to data loss while management is deciding on a course of action.

Each of these items has a monetary cost, an opportunity cost and are based on estimates of growth determined by IT. But what happens to all this planning if the organization acquires a company, brings a design team in-house or falls under temporary spending holds? All the research and planning might need to be redone, which means more time and money being spent. Is it all really worth it?

Unlimited Storage Pricing = Simplicity
With an unlimited storage plan for your data, you pay one rate and store all of your information, no matter how much, in one convenient location at one consistent price. That's it.

Eventually, the capital it takes to continuously monitor, manage and acquire more storage will outpace the cost of holding an unlimited storage account. Adding to the long-term benefits of an unlimited storage package for your data is the ability to more easily and predictably plan your company finances. Organizations know the exact cost of adding each user and are thus able to budget appropriately, no matter the fluctuations in how much data each user produces.

It is easy to see that unlimited data storage plans are more simple, convenient, and cost-effective than storage-based pricing structures. Though it may sound too good to be true, the option for unlimited storage is one that's increasingly available at affordable prices, and over time, has the potential to save those few dollars that everyone is looking for in their budgets.

More Stories By Mat Hamlin

Mat Hamlin is the Director of Product at Spanning where he oversees the development of the industry’s most trusted, highest-ranked enterprise-class backup and recovery products for cloud applications including Google Apps and Salesforce.

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