How Cloud Server Storage Benefits Businesses
How Cloud Server Storage Benefits Businesses
What happens when it's no longer practical for large businesses to store all their data in on-premises servers? Enter: cloud server storage.
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Businesses now collect, analyze and store more data than ever and this is set to increase exponentially as technology advances. One of the problems this creates is where to store the data. The question, of course, covers more than the simple need for storage space: it also means looking at accessibility, availability, security, and recovery. For many organizations, the solution is cloud server storage and in this post, we’ll take a detailed look at what it is, how it works and the benefits it provides. We’ll also discuss some of the concerns it raises.
What is Cloud Server Storage?
Cloud server storage is where you save your data to a remote database and access it through an internet connection. The majority of those databases are hosted on servers managed by third-party providers. These are known as public clouds. Alternatively, you can host your own servers in a private cloud or even have a combination of both, in what is known as a hybrid cloud.
There are a wide range of cloud storage systems that most people are already familiar with: Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox being three well-known examples of online storage used by the general public.
For businesses needing to store larger amounts of data, however, you need a provider that specialises in hosting enterprise class systems and which has the data centre infrastructure needed to meet the needs of your business’s growing demands.
How Cloud Server Storage Works
At a basic level, all that is needed to create a cloud storage system is a single data server connected to the internet. With this in place, users can upload files to the server for storage, edit them online, and download them if required. All this can be achieved through a web-based interface not too dissimilar to Google Drive or Gmail.
However, in practice, this isn’t appropriate for businesses. Today’s businesses need to have guarantees that their data is always accessible, that their systems will stay online, and that if there is a sudden and unexpected demand for storage or resources, there is sufficient capacity in the system to cater for it.
For this reason, cloud storage systems are built around hundreds, sometimes thousands, of data servers, many of which are deliberately left as backup machines in case the servers in operation fail or need to undergo maintenance. This is known as redundancy and is a key element of cloud computing. Redundancy is what also enables companies to know there is additional storage or resources available on demand if they should need it.
Indeed, many providers have multiple data centers in different locations so that, even in the event of earthquakes or other natural disasters, if one center goes offline, another center can continue to provide the service.
Whilst no system can ever be completely infallible, cloud server storage provides a level of availability that is unparalleled by any other system. However, even creating a smaller scale infrastructure is beyond the means of most companies as it requires significant financial investment in buildings, technology, and staffing. For this reason, public cloud storage and its pay-as-you-go pricing model offers businesses by far the most cost-effective way of attaining these benefits.
Other Benefits of Cloud Server Storage
Besides the advantages of scalability and availability, cloud storage provides other benefits when compared to traditional data storage. Firstly, as the data is accessed over the internet, it means that users can get to it from anywhere or on any compatible device with an internet connection. There would be no need for employees to carry pen drives or other, easily losable, storage devices.
In addition, being on the internet means that all your team can have access to up-to-the-minute data, helping them collaborate in real-time whether they are in the same office or at opposite sides of the planet. The sales rep on the road will have the same stock data as the warehouse team and your designers in London and Sydney can put their project together simultaneously.
Concerns about Cloud Storage
When you entrust your data to a third-party provider, there are obviously going to be concerns – it’s a bit like moving your savings to a new bank. The two main concerns that most companies have are regarding reliability and security.
As this post has already mentioned, the use of redundancy by most service providers, especially those that run multiple data centers in different geographical locations, means that reliability is not really an issue. In most cases, cloud server storage provides much more reliability than any in-house system: there’s capacity if servers go down or if more storage is needed; backups are in place and can be restored more or less instantly in the case of a disaster; and even if the entire data centre goes offline, another one in a different location takes over. This is why most cloud package providers are able to offer high availability guarantees of 99.95% uptime and above.
When it comes to data security, there are now stringent codes of practice that service providers have to comply with. In order to protect your data, you’ll find multiple security procedures in place. These include:
Encryption – even if data is stolen, without an encryption key the data will be inaccessible.
User Authentication – ranging from username and password to more elaborate authentication methods, no-one can access data without a secure login.
User Authorisation – where different individuals are given access to different types of data depending on their role and needs.
In addition, you will also find that cloud storage providers have extensive defenses against cyber threats including monitoring and defending against intrusion and malware infection.
For businesses looking for enterprise-level data storage solutions at affordable prices, then cloud server storage offers the ideal solution. The pay-as-you-go service offers flexible scalability, high availability and all the benefits of a secure, internet connected system at the fraction of the cost of building a similar infrastructure in-house.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.