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Cloud Storage Barriers and How to Bulldoze Through Them

Cloud price wars make Storage-as-a-Service more compelling than ever, but other barriers still delay adoption

Spoiler alert: your secret weapon is cloud-integrated storage

Another week, another cloud storage price drop. The barrier of price is slowly melting away as the cloud storage wars rage and prices drop into the pennies per gigabyte per month. Not familiar with the price wars? Here's an abridged version:

But for many organizations, a drop in price alone won't get them the last mile to cloud adoption: there are many other barriers that stand in their way. Read on to learn how to tackle six of the most common barriers to adopting cloud and some strategies for overcoming them.

Put On Your Hardhat: Bulldozing Through the Six Common Barriers To Cloud Storage Adoption
If you've spent any time with CIOs lately, you're likely to hear a lot of excitement about cloud storage, quickly followed up by an equal measure of concern. Here are six barrier quotes I've collected in my recent CIO conversations, with tips on how to bulldoze through them.

Barrier One: "I can't maintain security and compliance in a multi-tenant environment."
When tackling any public cloud project, security remains the number one concern for organizations. Look for a solution that can provide you with ironclad end-to-end security, so data is encrypted at rest in the cloud (and ideally on-premise) and in transit, all with the encryption keys kept locally. You can also look for solutions that are compliant with industry standards like HIPAA or FIPS 140-2.

Barrier Two: "With bandwidth constraints, it will take too long to send my data to the cloud."
It's true that bandwidth remains a serious challenge for organizations with large volumes of data and narrow pipes. Technologies such as deduplication, compression, and WAN optimization generally found in cloud-integrated storage can help a lot, in some cases reducing data transfer times by up to 75 percent, but it may also make sense for you to take advantage of the physical import/export services that many cloud providers offer today.

Barrier Three: "I'm afraid of vendor lock-in."
The fear of the cloud being too much of a "roach motel" is also legitimate - what if the provider goes out of business like Nirvanix did in 2013? Or, a more likely scenario, changing requirements make it more appealing to move to another provider. Or maybe you just want to take advantage of someone else's lower prices. Whatever the reason, having some amount of data mobility is key, and the ability to seamlessly and painless migrate data from one cloud to another is a feature that is beginning to emerge in cloud-integrated storage appliances.

Barrier Four: "Employees need to access data rapidly, and it takes too long to pull it back from the cloud."
This is a common concern when dealing with backups to the cloud. Backups can be sent relatively quickly to the cloud with incremental-forevers, and deduplication, but getting them back from the cloud may take a bit longer. That's why such a large number of companies are choosing to take a "disk-to-disk-to-cloud" backup strategy, meaning that backups are cached locally (generally for a few weeks) before being sent off to the cloud. That way, the vast majority of restores will actually be from the local disk, and only rarely will data need to be pulled back from the cloud.

Barrier Five: "My current environment doesn't speak cloud protocols."
While ISVs are working quickly to update their applications to work with RESTful protocols, it's true that many still do not have native support for cloud storage. This barrier can easily be overcome with a cloud-connector, such as cloud-integrated storage, that not only speaks REST, but can convert your file or block storage into object storage.

Barrier Six: "I just don't want to."
Now for the biggest barrier of all: the cultural one. For organizations that face resistance without a clear rationale, dig deeper to find the core motivations. Is it fear based? Many individuals may fear that they will lose their job if the organization goes down a cloud-intensive path. If fear is the root cause of the resistance, make sure that you have a strong transition and retraining plan for any impacted employees and distribute it widely. In many of these cases, these fears stem from the unknown, which means that a transition and retraining plan has not been effectively communicated (or may not exist).

Cloud-Integrated Storage: Your Secret Weapon to Winning in the Cloud Storage Wars
While the task may seem daunting, incorporating cloud storage into your environment may not be as complex and full of hurdles as you fear. The move does not have to be "all or nothing," and in fact, it shouldn't be, at least at first (see the sidebar for common scenarios for first-time cloud storage users). One solution that can help make your path a little easier is the introduction of a cloud-integrated storage appliance. These solutions - generally physical or virtual appliances that sit on-premise - erase many of the common barriers listed above, including data reduction with deduplication and compression to reduce bandwidth challenges, multi-cloud or cloud agility features to protect against lock-in, a local cache for rapid access to data, ability to integrate existing software solutions and bridge the gap to REST interfaces, and advanced security capabilities to make sure data loss is never an issue.

Getting Your Feet Wet with Cloud Storage, Where to Begin?
Now is the time to start adopting cloud storage, and once you've overcome these six common barriers, you may be wondering, where do I begin? Here are three low-risk scenarios where cloud storage may be a good fit in your organization:

  1. Backups: For years, organizations have taken a disk-to-disk-to-tape strategy for their backups, where they keep backups on disk for several weeks or a month, before migrating them off to tape, ship them offsite, and then store for the remainder of the retention cycle.  The challenge is that tape is an inherently risky and time-intensive medium due to the fact that it must be physically handled and shipped. By switching to a disk-to-disk-to-cloud backup architecture, organizations are able to immediately and securely get data offsite, while also reducing time and money spent.
  2. Cold storage: Most organizations have massive amounts of unstructured data, and it's growing faster than almost any other type of data. But at the same time, the vast majority of that data is cold data-no one has touched it or modified it in years.  As file servers become the dumping grounds of the rest of the company, IT struggles to find a way to store this data without breaking the bank on expensive NAS filers. Here lies another compelling use-case for cloud-migrating cold, or little used storage, off to a cold storage clouds like Amazon Glacier or Evault LTS2 could lead to huge cost savings, and improve performance for the local filers.
  3. Archive: One of the culprits behind the massive data growth that we've seen over the past few years is compliance: the need to retain data for legal reasons. Certain industries like financial services and healthcare feel this burden very heavily, although almost all industries face some sort of compliance that governs how they keep data and for how long. Many organizations have tackled this for years with archive software like Symantec Enterprise Vault and object storage like Centera, or even tape, but once again, the cloud presents a viable alternative for archive data as it is extremely durable and resilient and has no risk of technology obsolescence (i.e., you won't need to migrate data every few years).

More Stories By Rachel A. Dines

Rachel A. Dines is a product marketing manager at Riverbed Technology, where she focuses on SteelStore, the company’s cloud-integrated storage solution. Previously, Rachel was an industry analyst at Forrester Research covering resiliency, backup, and cloud. Her research has paved the way for cloud-based resiliency and next generation backup strategies.

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