San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) November 29, 2011
With the recent explosion of cloud-based storage products, it’s understandable that many individuals and SMB owners feel overwhelmed with the choices available to them. Without any additional guidance, many are likely to choose the cheapest service or the one that offers “the most gigabytes.” In reality, neither of those variables indicates how reliable and effective any given solution is. Furthermore, no single solution offers a best fit for all or even most customers. For example, the home user who hopes to use cloud storage merely as an automated back-up solution is very different from a small office with numerous remote workers who want to easily share and collaborate on documents. So how should a potential cloud storage customer determine which service is the best fit? The checklist below offers a helpful starting place.
9 Questions to Ask of Your Cloud Storage Provider:
What’s the reason for needing cloud storage? Reasons for utilizing cloud storage services include automatically backing up large amounts of important data, manually backing up small amounts of data, syncing data so that it’s available across multiple computers and devices, storing data in a secure location, and easily sharing data with others or collaborating on shared documents or projects. Every cloud storage service will offer different features which are stronger or weaker (and sometimes even non-existent) in each of these areas. Make sure that a service’s features are a match for your needs.
What’s the total cost? Cloud storage providers offer a variety of pricing models. Some are truly flat-fee, unlimited storage (usually for home oriented back up services which apply to only one computer). Others offer a monthly fee for a set amount of storage but then charge an additional fee for every gigabyte of data exceeding the limit (e.g., 50GB + $1/GB of additional storage). Another popular model is a set dollar amount per gigabyte—say, $0.75/GB. Be aware that some providers who offer an $X/GB model also charge users for transferring data back and forth between their cloud data stores. Amazon’s S3 service, for example, charges $0.14/GB but also charges for data transfers if they occur outside a predefined (and usually fairly small) geographic region. Watch for these hidden costs, as they can add up quickly.
What level of data durability does it offer? Many cloud storage providers offer two important statistics about the integrity of their cloud storage systems. The first is data durability. Durability refers to the level of data loss customers should expect due to data corruption or other unforeseeable factors. For example, a service may offer 99.9999% durability. This means that, given a set of similarly sized files, 1 in every 1 million files will likely be lost (or 0.0001% of files).
What level of data availability does it offer? The other important reliability metric for cloud storage services is data availability. This number refers to what percentage of the time you should be able to access old data or upload new data. A service that offers 99.99% availability means that your cloud storage should be accessible for all but about 4 minutes and 20 seconds per month.
Does it have an SLA or similar set of terms? A service level agreement (or SLA) refers to a document which lays out a company’s promise to its customer about what level of reliability and performance to expect. It also stipulates penalties (for the service provider) if they fail to live up to those promises. For example, a company may provide a substantial credit to a customer’s account if its service isn’t available for the amount of time it promises in any given month.
What data transfer rates does it offer? A cloud storage provider may offer a huge amount of data storage, but that’s next to useless for many potential users if they cannot quickly upload or download their data. For example, a cloud storage service that caps its users’ upload speeds at 100 KB/s could pose a huge problem for a professional photographer with 3TB worth of data. (It would take almost a year of full-time uploading to complete the data transfer.)
Does it offer a “bare metal” service? “Bare metal” or “data shuttle” services refer to hard copy backups—in other words, a service through which users can ship hard drives directly to the company for much faster back up or have a hard drive copy of their already backed up data shipped to them. For businesses with large amounts of mission critical data, this kind of service is a necessity.
For backup services, what does it back up? Most cloud-based data backup services only back up user-created data. That is, they do not back up the operating system and all of the applications installed on a computer or other device. With these types of services, customers will find that they need to reinstall their computer’s operating system and applications. Some services do offer entire system backups, either online or through “bare metal” services, but they are usually much more expensive. The most expensive services will even provide customers with the option of running a crashed system on a virtual server until they manage to redeploy their computer or other IT assets.
What operating systems does it support? For individuals or businesses who utilize a variety of computers and devices, they should ensure that their cloud storage provider has either apps or a web-based interface accessible to all of the operating systems used on such devices. For example, (typically speaking) PCs use the Windows or Linux operating system, Macs use Mac OS, Apple mobile devices use iOS, and Android/Google mobile devices use Android.
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