Weighing the Risks of Storage SaaS

Security concerns are among the risks some storage managers just aren't willing to take

March 19, 2008

3 Min Read
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Glance at the headlines, and you'd think software-as-a-service (SaaS) has taken over corporate IT: Asigra has revamped its management to attract SaaS outsourcers; Google and Microsoft are tripping over each other to offer SaaS to universities worldwide; and research firm In-Stat predicts a 7 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for SaaS services in the U.S. through 2012.

But there's some evidence that storage managers, particularly in large firms, aren't buying into the SaaS boom. "Storage was one of the areas, along with security, we found companies are choosing to keep in-house," says Jeff Jernigan, research analyst at In-Stat. Concerns about privacy and security mean storage services will pull in a minority portion of the estimated $42.2 billion domestic revenues from managed services in 2008.

It's easy to understand why storage is lagging the services curve. The risks of outsourcing any sort of IT service are well known. But for storage managers, they are magnified. When it comes to downtime, for instance, some outage is an accepted reality for hosted services. When the data being stored involves corporate data or medical records, that's just not acceptable.

Security and data privacy are acknowledged concerns as well. For colleges and universities, which have been outsourcing email en masse, the risks that some messages could be exposed to the world are worth the rewards in savings and overall value. For companies dealing in trade secrets, compensation details, and legal data, any privacy exposure can't be taken in stride.

There are other risks in data storage outsourcing. These include a hosting firm's possible limitations on scaleability in the face of burgeoning data requirements; the potential for recovery problems if data is lost or connectivity fails; and the chance that maintenance or support could slip in a pinch.What's more, all the nice features of an in-house application may be missing from the hosted version -- or may be an extra cost item, such as archiving and searchability. Analyst David Ferris of Ferris Research, for instance, has listed a number of things that may not be included in outsourced email applications from Google or Microsoft. The same kind of details no doubt hold true for stored data in general.

None of this takes away from the many benefits of hosted storage, including cost savings in equipment and operating expenses. Storage companies know an opportunity when they see one, and since the SaaS model has worked so well for other applications, it's unlikely to be passed up for storage. In the coming months, we're likely to see a range of firms that have pledged themselves to cloud computing -- like EMC and IBM, to name just two -- move aggressively to address customer concerns.Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Ferris Research

  • Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Microsoft Corp.

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