Friday, April 5, 2013
Almost anyone you talk to who works in technology is using or exploring how to use the cloud. In the past few years, the cloud has gone mainstream, providing a range of solutions for end users and consumers of all types.
If you own a smartphone, (and who doesn’t these days?) much of your content is already in the cloud. It’s the reason you are able to download the music, contacts, videos, and so on, from your smartphones, tablets, and computers.
While there are many ways to use the cloud, they really boil down to two core use cases:
A consumer who stores personnel data such as files, images, videos, and synchronizes to other devices from anywhere through some apps.
An Entrepreneur hosts their apps in the cloud and consumes components and services from cloud providers, such as computing (Virtual Machines), database, and storage, and so on.
For each of these use cases, storage is a critical component. Storage-as-a-Service (STaaS) is an architecture model offered by a number of vendors, most notably by Amazon with S3, that let users hosting files and assets in the cloud. Both consumers and entrepreneurs use this service to store data in to cloud. STaaS is implemented as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) on a subscription basis. Cloud storage is more cost-effective than most individuals or corporations can provide for themselves.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of cloud storage and what this means for your website:
• Access data anywhere on any smart device
• Frees up IT resources to focus on the core competency of the business
• Provides scale so that you can easily provision additional servers to meet computing needs
• Up to date – Lets you work with the most current hardware and Operating Systems. Some cloud providers manage the VMs, applying patches, and maintenance
• Reduce your IT costs using the PaaS model of cloud
• Provides a low cost, easy way to ensure backup and disaster recovery with offsite backups.
• Enhanced security from Internet services, by preventing loss due to fire, theft, or disaster.
• May keep costs low as you only have to pay for what you use, and don’t need to make significant upfront investments.
• Outages, while unlikely, can impact your business
• Large files on STaaS require large amounts of network bandwidth to conduct storage utilization and internet-based services
• Potential lock-in – Depending how you enable storage for your website. It may be challenging to move to another provider if you write provider-dependent code.
• Privacy – Governments (for example via the US Patriot Act) can potentially access your data. You may need to encrypt your data before storing it in the cloud, if this is a concern.
• Hard to predict costs. Because it’s so easy to get started with cloud services, and with such a low level of investment, if your business scales rapidly you may not have planned for these potential incremental costs.
When it comes to cloud storage for your website, in general the pros outweigh the cons in my opinion. But also realize that how CMS vendors support cloud storage isn’t all the same. To avoid the potential costs and complexities of being locked into a specific platform, you most likely will want to choose a solution that will easily let you switch from Microsoft Azure to Amazon, or vice versa. You can find out more about the technical differences between Microsoft Azure and Amazon cloud storage in my previous post.
If you want to learn a little more about this increasing trend check out how Gartner Predicts Infrastructure Services Will Accelerate Cloud Computing Growth for a little more in depth analysis from a business perspective.