With the buzz and hype around Cloud Computing there are now more choices than ever for businesses and consumers alike. One of the key areas which businesses are now exploring in vast numbers is secure cloud storage.
Cloud storage is essentially moving an organisations existing file storage requirements into a hosted model – one where an external provider is now being paid on a monthly basis to provide these services.
Microsoft has recognised the market for cloud storage is poised to grow significantly, and introduced SkyDrive Pro and Office 365 which can combine to allow business users access to storage within SharePoint. The key advantage from Microsoft being the compelling argument being that users can stay within the Microsoft/Office ecosystem which is already familiar in most companies.
Google on the flip side has had file storage natively built into the ecosystem of Google Apps suite for years and continues to offer its heavily integrated cloud storage facility as part of their suite of productivity apps.
Then there are specific cloud storage products which do not come as part of an ecosystem. Whilst products such as the widely used Dropbox, and Box.net have gained large mainstream user bases, it has taken longer for them to make such headway in the enterprise. Part of the reason for this is simply that the products lacked security and the features required by corporate IT departments. However, it seems that many of the large cloud storage players have now begun to focus on business customers.
Market leaders Dropbox and Box.net have business offerings which offer more robust security and feature sets to suit business needs as well as active directory synchronisation tools (ensuring that the user only needs to use one username and password). Box.net claims to have over 150,000 business customers now using its service with high profile clients including Proctor & Gamble.
Choosing the appropriate solution ultimately comes with its own risks that need consideration much like any cloud based service. Firstly, there are challenges that need to be considered such as the sovereignty of data – which country is your data hosted and what laws apply in this country? Also, what happens in the event the company goes under? How is the data backed up? What support do they provide for your IT Support company/team? Is it 24×7? Data is the lifeblood of most businesses and therefore these questions must be asked.
The war for cloud storage will begin in the application layer first. People already using Google Apps have an easy decision to go to Google Drive. Similarly, people using Microsoft Office in particular Microsoft’s cloud suite Office 365 will find the transition to SkyDrive Pro easy and painless. Many micro/small businesses will move to Dropbox or similar services because they have had positive experiences with the consumer versions of this product. Ultimately, one thing is for sure – Cloud Storage is here to stay and needs to be evaluated as part of any organisation’s overall IT strategy.