Is the Cloud fit for purpose as a storage repository for business data?

The bandwidth bottleneck

In fact, it is probably bandwidth that represents the greatest factor that could stifle the widespread adoption of cloud storage as a standard business practice. This is because the fundamental relationship between improvements in bandwidth and data growth has worsened over the past 20 years, not improved.

For a typical consumer, internet bandwidth has seen performance grow from a 28.8k modem to around 5Mbps - an improvement of more than 170 times. Data growth during that time has exploded, from perhaps 100MB per user to well over a terabyte - more than 10,000 times. As long as this disparity continues, offsite storage as a primary data store in many ways becomes less rather than more feasible.

Other limitations of the cloud, aside from bandwidth, reliability and security are also high on the agenda. A company placing its data in the cloud becomes highly dependent on its cloud storage provider for the safety and availability of that data. It's very hard for many firms to get past the emotional barrier of letting go of their data and entrusting it to those outside their business. Addressing reliability and security concerns are paramount for there to be sufficient trust for firms to move to a cloud storage model.

Where the cloud fits well, once the above shortcomings are addressed, is when you start to back up your data. Once the initial backup has been completed onsite, a copy can then be hosted in the cloud for offsite protection. Technologies that support automated incremental backups are best suited since only the new data needs to be backed up and moved into the cloud. This provides the most efficient strategy since its incremental approach conserves bandwidth while the automated aspect removes the time factor for employees to manage the process every day.

Clearly, the cloud does offer an opportunity, but it's an opportunity that must not be treated lightly by businesses. IT managers need to become highly familiar with their cloud storage provider's policies and methodologies and fully understand the consequences of a worst-case scenario.

They say that every cloud has a silver lining. For cloud storage, once its wrinkles are ironed out, this may one day turn out to be true.

Geoff Barrall is chief executive and founder of Data Robotics

Based on an article that originally appeared in Channel Pro