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Cloud Conversations: If Focused on Cost You Might Miss Other Cloud Storage Benefits

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Cloud Conversations: If Focused on Cost You Might Miss Other Cloud Storage Benefits

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Drew Robb (@robbdrew) has a good piece (e.g. article) over at InfoStor titled Eight Ways to Avoid Cloud Storage Pricing Surprises that you can read here.

Drew start’s his piece out with this nice analogy or story:

Let’s begin with a cautionary tale about pricing: a friend hired a moving company as they quoted a very attractive price for a complex move. They lured her in with a low-ball price then added more and more “extras” to the point where their price ended up higher than many of the other bids she passed up. And to make matters worse, they are already two weeks late with delivery of the furniture and are saying it might take another two weeks.

Drew extends his example in his piece to compare how some cloud providers may start with pricing as low as some amount only for the customer to be surprised when they did not do their homework to learn about the various fees.

Note that most reputable cloud providers do not hide their fees even though there are myths that all cloud vendors have hidden fees, instead they list what those costs are on their sites. However that means the smart shopper or person procuring cloud services needs to go look for those fee’s and what they mean to avoid surprises. On the other hand if you can not find what extra fee’s would be along with what is or is not included in a cloud service price, to quote Jenny’s line in the movie Forest Gump, "…Run, Forest! Run!…".

In Drew’s piece he mentions five general areas to keep an eye on pertaining cloud storage costs including:

  • Be Duly Diligent
  • Trace Out Application Interaction
  • Avoid Fixed Usage Rates
  • Beware Lowballing
  • Demand Enterprise Visibility

Beware Lowballing

In Drew’s piece, he includes a comment from myself shown below.

Just as in the moving business, lowballing is alive and well in cloud pricing. Greg Schulz, an analyst with StorageIO Group, warned users to pay attention to services that have very low-cost per GByte/TByte yet have extra fees and charges for use, activity or place service caps. Compare those with other services that have higher base fees and attempt to price it based on your real storage and usage patterns.

“Watch out for usage and activity fees with lower cost services where you may get charged for looking at or visiting your data, not to mention for when you actually need to use it,” said Schulz. “Also be aware of limits or caps on performance that may apply to a particular class of service.”

As a follow-up to Drew’s good article, I put together the following thoughts that appeared earlier this year over at InfoStor titled Cloud storage: Is It All About Cost? that you can read here. In that article I start out with the basic question of:

So what is your take on cloud storage, and in what context?

Is cloud storage all about removing cost, cost cutting, free storage?

Or perhaps even getting something else in addition to free storage?

I routinely talk with different people from various backgrounds, environments from around the world, and the one consistency I hear when it comes to cloud services including storage is that there is no consistency.

What I mean by this is that there are the cloud crowd cheerleaders who view or cheer for anything cloud related, some of them actually use the cloud vs. simply cheering.

What does this have to do with cloud costs

Simple, how do you know if cloud is cheaper or more expensive if you do not know your own costs?

How do you know if cloud storage is available, reliable, durable if you do not have a handle on your environment?

Are you making apples to oranges comparisons or simple trading or leveraging hype and fud for or against?

Similar to regular storage, how you choose to use and configure on-site traditional storage for high-availability, performance, security among other best practices should be applied to cloud solutions. After all, only you can prevent cloud (or on premise) data loss, granted it is a shared responsibility. Shared responsibility means your service provider or system vendor needs to deliver quality robust solution that you can then take responsibility for configure to use with resiliency.

For some of you perhaps cloud might be about lowering, reducing or cutting storage costs, perhaps even getting some other service(s) in addition to free storage.

On the other hand, some of you might be

Yet another class of cloud storage (e.g. AWS EBS) are those intended or optimized to be accessed from within a cloud via cloud servers or compute instances (e.g. AWS EC2 among others) vs. those that are optimized for both inside the cloud as well as outside the cloud access (e.g. AWS S3 or Glacier with costs shown here). I am using AWS examples; however, you could use Microsoft Azure (pricing shown here), Google (including their new Nearline service with costs shown here), Rackspace, (calculator here or other cloud files pricing here), HP Cloud (costs shown here), IBM Softlayer (object storage costs here) and many others.

Not all types of cloud storage are the same, which is similar to traditional storage you may be using or have used in your environment in the past. For example, there is high-capacity low-cost storage, including magnetic tape for data protection, archiving of in-active data along with near-line hard disk drives (HDD). There are different types of HDDs, as well as fast solid-state devices (SSD) along with hybrid or SSHD storage used for different purposes. This is where some would say the topic of cloud storage is highly complex.

Where to learn more

Data Protection Diaries
Cloud Conversations: AWS overview and primer)
Only you can prevent cloud data loss
Is Computer Data Storage Complex? It Depends
Eight Ways to Avoid Cloud Storage Pricing Surprises
Cloud and Object Storage Center
Cloud Storage: Is It All About Cost?
Cloud conversations: Gaining cloud confidence from insights into AWS outages (Part II)
Given outages, are you concerned with the security of the cloud?
Is the cost of cloud storage really cheaper than traditional storage?
Are more than five nines of availability really possible?
What should I look for in an enterprise file sync-and-share app?
How do primary storage clouds and cloud for backup differ?
What should I consider when using SSD cloud?
What’s most important to know about my cloud privacy policy?
Data Archiving: Life Beyond Compliance
My copies were corrupted: The 3-2-1 rule
Take a 4-3-2-1 approach to backing up data

What this means

In my opinion there are cheap clouds (products, services, solutions) and there are low-cost options as well as there are value and premium offerings. Avoid confusing value with cheap or low-cost as something might have a higher cost, however including more capabilities or fees included that if useful can be more value. Look beyond the up-front cost aspects of clouds also considering ongoing recurring fees for actually using a server or solution.

If you can find low-cost storage at or below a penny per GByte per month that could be a good value if it also includes many free access, retrieval GETS head and lists for management or reporting. On the other hand, if you find a service that is at or below a penny per GByte per month however charges for any access including retrieval, as well as network bandwidth fees along with reporting, that might not be as good of a value.

Look beyond the basic price and watch out for statements like "…as low as…" to understand what is required to get that "..as low as.." price. Also understand what the extra fee’s are which most of the reputable providers list these on their sites, granted you have to look for them. If you are already using cloud services, pay attention to your monthly invoices and track what you are paying for to avoid surprises.

From my InfoStor piece:

For cloud storage, instead of simply focusing on lowest cost of storage per capacity, look for value, along with ability to configure or use with as much resiliency as you need. Value will mean different things depending on your needs and cloud storage servers, yet the solution should be cost-effective with availability including durability, secure and applicable performance.

Shopping for cloud servers and storage is similar to acquiring regular servers and storage in that you need to understand what you are acquiring along with up-front and recurring fee’s to understand the total cost of ownership and cost of operations not to mention making apples to apples vs. apples to oranges comparisons.

Btw, instead of simply using lower cost cloud services to cut cost, why not also use those capabilities to create or park another copy of your important data somewhere else just to be safe

What say you about cloud costs?

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Published at DZone with permission of Greg Schulz, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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