Cloud Storage and Policies: How Can You Find Your Way?

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(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

Cloud storage is one of the hottest topics today. Rightfully so, there seem to be new services being added seemingly daily. Storage services make up one of the most attractive cloud services, so it is only natural to find business problems to solve.

The reality is that storage in the cloud is a whole new discipline. Completely different. Like forget everything you know and let’s start from the beginning. Both Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure have many different storage services. Some are like what we have used on-premises, such as Azure File Storage and AWS Elastic Block Store. These resemble traditional file shares and block storage on-premises, yet how they are used can make a very big difference on your experience in the cloud. There are more storage services in the cloud (such as object storage, gateways and more), and they are different than what has traditionally been used on-premises, and that is where it gets interesting.

Let’s first identify why organizations want to leverage the cloud for storage. This may seem a needless step, but it is more critical than ever. The why is very important. The fundamental reason why should be that the cloud is the right platform for the storage need. Supporting reasons will also include cloud benefits such as these:

No upfront purchase: This is different than the on-premises storage practice of purchasing for the future capacity needs (best guesses, overspend or bad misses of targets are common with this practice!).

Effectively unlimited capacity: Ask any mathematician and they will quickly dispute the cloud is not unlimited, but from most customer perspective the cloud will provide effectively unlimited storage options.

Predictable pricing: While not exactly linear, it is pretty clear what consumption pricing will be with cloud storage.

These are some of the good reasons to embrace cloud storage, but beyond the reasons to go to the cloud the strong advice is to look at storage policies and usage to not have any surprises in the future. Some of this includes looking at the economics from a complete scope of use. Too many times pricing is just seen as how much consumption per month. Take AWS S3 for example, for S3 Standard Storage one can have the first 50 TB per month priced at $0.023 per GB (pricing as of March 2019, US East (Ohio) region). But other aspects of using the storage should absolutely be considered. Take for example the following other aspects:

Getting data into the cloud is often overlooked, but there is a cost to that as well. This makes how data is written to the cloud important. Is data sent in small increments (more write operations or put tasks) or in relatively fewer larger increments? This can change the cost profile.

Egress is where data is read from a cloud storage location, and that has a cost. One practical cost is to leverage solutions with cloud storage that retrieve the right pieces; versus entire datasets.

Deleting data Interesting to think about, not for costs per se; but deleting data should be considered. The data in the cloud will live as long as you pay for it, so give thought to ensure no dead data is living in the cloud.

But what can organizations do to manage cloud storage from a policy perspective? In a way, some of the same practices as before can be applied. But also leverage frameworks from the cloud platforms to help manage the usage and consumption. AWS Organizations is a good example for providing policy-based management of multiple AWS accounts. This will streamline account management, billing and control to cloud services. Similar capabilities exist in Azure with Subscription and Service Management along with Azure RBAC.

Between taking a responsible look at new cloud services from what we have learned in the past coupled with what new frameworks are available to use in the cloud, organizations can easily and confidently embrace cloud storage services to not only solve the right platform question, but also manage it in a way that lets CIOs and decision makers sleep at night.