Six must-have features when storing data in the cloud

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data cloudCloud storage prices are flirting with free, and capacity limits are on the rise. Just this past March, Google announced its Cloud Storage Nearline service that costs a penny a month for 1GB of storage. Service providers are dropping prices mainly because they can; technology advances – particularly for data that doesn’t need to be accessed often or quickly – has significantly increased storage efficiency, making it possible for providers to offer next-to-nothing prices. But if enterprises are going to take public cloud storage services seriously, they’ll need more than vast bins of low-priced storage to make it work.

“I think the biggest misperception we get when we talk to customers about cloud storage in particular is they view it as complete outsourcing,” said Henry Baltazar, senior analyst serving infrastructure and operation professionals with Forrester, in a webinar. “They think of it as `Okay, if I pull out my credit card, my problems are going to go away.’ And there’s really nothing farther from the truth. You still have a lot of things you have to care about.”

As such, many cloud service providers are offering value-add features, while add-on products such as cloud storage gateways, file sync and share, and hybrid backup are also becoming popular. These are the kinds of features and functions that differentiate one cloud from another. And enterprises should carefully evaluate them when making their decisions. Among the most important considerations are:

Security – Managed users access, authentication, and encryption are essential to protecting data regardless of where it’s stored; this is especially true when moving data outside the confines of the corporate data center. Reporting features for compliance are also necessary.

Redundancy – Having data stored at different geographical locations for redundancy just makes good sense, even if that means a hybrid approach where data is stored in the data center and backed up in the cloud.

Disaster recovery – Essential in case of natural, machine, or human-driven events. Enterprises can adjust these features based on their tolerance for downtime and data loss. If that tolerance is close to zero – for, say, financial services firms that execute trades for clients – those companies must be prepared to pay for advanced capabilities.

Collaboration tools – Employees and partners need fast, simple access to files. Tools that let them drag and drop files in folders, share files with simple links, and manage access to files keep them productive.

Administrative tools – For enterprises to maintain control over their data, they’ll want to be able to do things like manage permissions, set policies, and establish expiration dates for files.

Mobile access – With the explosion of mobility in the enterprise, providing fast, secure access to cloud-based storage from a variety of devices is essential.

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