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Weighing the Risks of Storage SaaS

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.

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