Ten Tips for Preventing Cloud Storage Problems

Tuesday Jul 19th 2016 by Drew Robb
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Be prepared for some of the most common issues when moving data into cloud storage services.

Along with all the positives, the Industrial Revolution brought us congested cities, polluted rivers and urban ghettos. The automobile brought smog, road fatalities and a heavy dependence on the oil economy. While some may wish for a return to an idyllic rural pre-industrial lifestyle with horse-drawn transportation, there is no going back.

It’s the same with cloud storage. The cloud is a fact of life in enterprise data storage—whether storage managers like it or not. There is no returning to the old days of vast internal data centers holding row upon row of storage arrays. And yet cloud storage problems abound.

Here are the top ten tips for dealing with them.

1. Be Prepared

Greg Schulz, an analyst at StorageIO Group, said many of the problems experienced with cloud storage tie back to not having been prepared upfront. For example, areas of unpreparedness might include how to handle security and encryption, or how to manage and leverage various cloud costs including network traffic.

“Don’t be afraid of the cloud, be prepared and do your homework,” he said. “If you can document your concerns, then you can also work to address those concerns, including workarounds as needed."

2. Define Your Cloud Storage Needs

Another important point is gaining an understanding of the various types of cloud storage options out there. Otherwise, you may end up using cloud storage that doesn’t align with the needs of your applications. Do you need bulk storage for video, image, archiving or a place to park large amounts of data, for example? Other needs might be for file sync and share, cloud storage or a backup or disaster recovery (DR) storage service.

“Know your application needs and requirements besides capacity, include performance availability,” said Schulz.

3. Watch for Hidden Costs

A commonly cited cloud storage problem is hidden costs. Examples include fees to access data and penalties for breaking the storage contract should a buyer decide to discontinue the service.

“When considering cloud storage as a replacement for on-premise data stores, compare the total cost of storage, including the physical hardware, software, power and management, but also consider any legacy application licenses that may be tied to the on-premise data,” said Bob Spurzem, director of field marketing at Archive360. “Cloud storage serves very well for long-term retention of legacy archive data for very low total cost and online access.”

4. Avoid Migration Back and Forth

A major challenge when considering cloud storage is ensuring that the data that is being migrated to the cloud are the correct workloads, as the costs associated with moving data back and forth from the provider back to a local environment can be significant. Such costs could far outweigh the original justification created to move the data to the cloud.

“Assess the storage that you are looking to migrate to the cloud to ensure it is the correct workload,” said Piyush Mehta, CEO, Data Dynamics. “Profile the data carefully prior to any commitment.”

5. Study SLAs

Some cloud storage is largely consumer oriented with lowest costs being the biggest consideration. While a large quantity of capacity is available, it may take quite some time to retrieve it all. For the enterprise market, the way to avoid poor performance is to pay attention to Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

Dave Robinson, senior director of product marketing at EMC, emphasized that not all cloud storage providers are created equal. “Ask yourself a few basic questions when considering cloud storage, and study SLAs,” said Robinson.

He recommends asking questions such as what SLAs are they advertising, do they offer the ability to migrate data from one platform to another, is there a separate charge for data egress, who do you look to for support, and is the cloud storage platform integrated within your existing IT infrastructure so you can seamlessly extend your primary or protection storage solutions to the cloud?

6. Resistance is Futile

As the Borg might say if an episode of "Star Trek" were devoted to the onslaught of the cloud, “Resistance is Futile.” As time goes on, more and more applications are going to be coded to smoothly function in the cloud or integrate with it.

“Every day, more and more applications are refactoring for cloud storage APIs, or are improving their support for cloud storage as a target,” said Joe Arnold, founder and chief product officer, SwiftStack. “This evolution enables organizations to move more and more of their data over time to cloud storage.”

7. Take the Two-Way Street

It’s easy to get data onto some public clouds, but getting it off or transmitting it somewhere else can be problematic. The ability to move data and workloads between on-premises, public clouds and hybrid clouds has to be considered when selecting a cloud provider.

“As workload and data governance requirements change, customers need to be able to move data to different places in the cloud,” said Ingo Fuchs, senior manager, hybrid cloud solutions, NetApp. “Movement to the cloud is not a one way street – data has to flow into the cloud and back.”

8. Use Consistent Management Tools

Fuchs also called attention to consistent management. It’s all very well to have some data in the cloud and other data on-site. But IT doesn’t want to have to deal with cumbersome processes when it comes to managing that data. Consistency is the key.

“Users need to be able to manage data consistently across clouds and move data between clouds – including on-premises deployments, hosted clouds and multiple public or hyperscaler clouds,” said Fuchs.

9. Examine Ingest Options

Not everyone has access to superfast network connections. This can cause a major bottleneck for anyone wishing to utilize the public cloud. Dominic Preuss, group product manager for storage, Google Cloud Platform, said a poor network connection means it can take a long time to move data. That is why public cloud storage vendors offer a number of ways to ingest your data. Preuss mentioned offline ingest as one way around this problem. Various services are available such as Network Connect (carrier and direct peering) and Google Cloud Storage Transfer Service.

10. Start Small

Preuss’ biggest tip for someone beginning to move to cloud storage is to start small. Pick a small well-defined workload, he said, that lends itself well to public cloud such as offsite backups and migrate that workload first. Measure the results and learn from the experience to see which other workloads would be suitable to migrate.

“Get your hands dirty as there can be subtle differences between cloud vendors, so experiment with a small workload on multiple cloud vendors,” said Preuss. “You will quickly learn a lot about each vendor’s approach once you start to use their interfaces and tools. Things like network performance and complexity of pricing can be hard to fully grasp until you try a similar workload on multiple vendors.”

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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