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Cloud Storage and the Providers

Cloud Storage and the Providers

The traditional methods of storing data on hard drives and thumb/pen drives or any other storage device has a lot of advantages associated with it. But what if the storage device gets corrupted, lost/misplaced, stolen?  Oops!

A cloud storage solution can be that replica to traditional storage devices.  It offers components that provide compliance & regulations and backup & recovery to ensure that your data is protected and accessible.  With this compliance and governance for cloud-based storage and archival systems being met it was bound to be adopted by the software industries as a variant of SaaS (Software-as-a-Service – a distribution model in which a third-party provider hosts applications and makes them available to customers over the Internet).

But we are always stressed out when it’s time to switch over to new technologies.  Maybe your first thought is… it’s time to hire more employees?  But with the amount of cloud storage solutions available the investment has been significantly reduced.  Also, by it being adopted by the industry it has introduced various competitors to ease our search for a “complete” storage solution and AWS’s solution is right on top of that list.

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How To Choose Best Cloud Computing/Storage Service

Finding the best cloud storage provider is easy, it’s finding the one that suits your company’s needs.  So which one is the best for you and your business?  We will outline some the most important features you should look for when choosing.

Storage space:
This is maybe the most important things to look for, the best cloud storage is the one who provides you with unlimited storage for an affordable monthly fee, with these providers you can set it up & relax and you don’t have to worry for capping your storage space.  If the storage space is not unlimited, choose from the lowest cost provider per gigabyte.

Upload Features:
Most of the cloud storage providers provide many features to speed up your upload or to make it easy to restore your data, most important feature you will need to look for is ‘automated backup’ and again, you setup the application and forget it.  Another feature is file versioning (file system which allows a computer file to exist in several versions at the same time) so in this case you won’t have to deal with any accidently deleted and/or reverting back to previous versions of files.  Features like file sync and easy file sharing are also on the top of the list.  Lastly, drag and drop is also important so you don’t need to search for the file location.

File access:
When you choose a cloud storage you will need to make sure that your data will be accessible from any device, anytime, from anywhere in the world.  It can be easy as providing/sharing a URL!

Help and support:
If you’re paying a cloud storage service to store your data, it should be responsive to your needs and the customer service should be available 24 hours per day by email or live chat. Technical support and FAQs information also should be available on the company’s website.

Suitability and Sustainability Assessment:
What this means for applications regarding complexity and suitability on a cloud platform.  Some applications are resource intensive and may better be suited for dedicated hardware.  Others might be built on a legacy OS and create issues.

Cloud Migration Strategy and Tactics:
Keep in mind dependency mapping for identifying all applications and their dependencies, including 3-tier/n-tier application dependencies is very important before choosing your service provider

Identify and create cloud migration “groups” based on business rules & roles such as application class, dependencies, machine tags, cost, migration phase, and more. Based on your individual/business needs, you may have to keep in mind a cost effective platform for migrating storage to various cloud platforms for your easiness.

Application Discovery and Dependency Analysis:
Focus not just on each application but the dependency to other resources and servers that build the overall service.

Right-Sized Resource Allocation:
Analyze data and determine why one might want to change the amount of resources around both current and projected operating environment & performance demands (storage space, latency, etc).

Seeding:
If you have a lot of data and you want or need to backup all of it up, your initial online backup could take days.  To get around that, some services offer seeding, in which you make your first backup on an external hard drive and then send it to the data center.  The provider will then load your backup onto your cloud stores.

Syncing and sharing:
Since you’ve backed up your data to the cloud, wouldn’t it be nice if you could also sync it to other computers you own (as you can do with AWS, Dropbox or SugarSync), or share selected items with friends or colleagues directly from the cloud? A few apps offer either or both of those features.

Native apps:
A number of the desktop apps that online backup services use are written in Java. That means they don’t have quite the same look and feel as a native Mac or Windows apps, and the apps themselves may not be as responsive as native apps. Java has been implicated in a huge number of security holes, to the point that Apple and Microsoft no longer include it by default in macOS and Windows.

A Side-by-Side Review of Some Top Cloud Services Providers:

Amazon Web Services (AWS): Amazon’s AWS offers a wide range of cloud hosting services. Plans include Pay as you go, Pay less when you reserve, Pay even less per unit by using more, Pay even less as AWS grows, and Custom pricing. “Pay as you go” allows one to pay only for the resources actually used, without any long term commitments or upfront costs. The “Pay less when you reserve” plan allows one to invest in reserved capacity, and later get discounts and savings. “Pay even less per unit by using more” allows one to get benefits of reduced costs with increased storage space and data transfer. “Pay even less as AWS grows” plan allows one to receive benefits when AWS optimizations result in reduced operational costs. Custom pricing, as you might expect, is for clients needing customized solutions. AWS claims its unique selling proposition (USP) in computation and dedicated application services, including website hosting, mobile data backup, business apps hosting and gaming. Pricing details vary widely across multiple product offerings, and one can start with AWS free tier to get a firsthand experience of services and expected costs.

  • Amazon CloudFront – Web service to distribute content to users w/ low latency and high data transfer speeds up to 50 GB of data transfer out & 2,000,000 HTTP or HTTPS requests
  • Amazon EFS – Simple, scalable and shared file storage service for Amazon EC2 instances – 5GB of storage
  • AWS Storage Gateway – Hybrid cloud storage with seamless local integration and optimized data transfer – Up to 100GB/month free, up to $125/month maximum charges & No transfer charges into AWS
  • Amazon Glacier – Long-term, secure, durable object storage & 10 GB of Amazon Glacier data retrievals per month for free. The free tier allowance can be used at any time during the month and applies to standard retrievals
  • Amazon S3 – Secure, durable, and scalable object storage infrastructure – 5 GB of standard storage – 20,000 Get requests – 2,000 Put requests
  • Amazon Elastic Block Storage – Persistent, durable, low-latency block-level storage volumes for EC2 instances – 30 GB of Amazon EBS: any combination of general purpose (SSD) or magnetic – 2,000,000 I/O (with EBS magnetic) – 1 GB of snapshot storage

Microsoft OneDrive: The tech giant Microsoft offers its cloud hosting services through OneDrive. Individual users can opt for 15 GB storage for free, while higher capacities such as 100GB, 200GB, and 1TB cost $1.99, $3.99, and $6.99 per month, respectively. The business plans start at 1TB per user for $5 per month, and comes with a free trial. Beyond the storage, cross-platform syncing and powerful searching are the key features of OneDrive. It has its own downloadable software to keep remote and local data in sync, and also supports many third-party apps to seamlessly work with cloud data. It also offers hybrid options that integrate your on-premises solutions with the cloud services offered by Microsoft.

Google Drive: Google Drive was launched a few years ago, but it has quickly caught up with the competition to be one of the leading cloud storage platforms. Google Drive for Work is a premium version of Drive that was created for business users. Apart from the usual features of cloud storage platforms like synchronization, sharing, and more, Drive for Business also gives users access to Google tools like Docs, Sheets, Forms, Slides, and others. This allows you to create and edit documents easily.

Google Drive is compatible with iOS, Microsoft, and Android. It can be used to store all types of files including pictures and videos. Drive is recognized as one of the best platforms for storing videos.

You can enjoy the features of Google Drive by signing up for the G Suite. There are three packages (Basic, Business, and Enterprise) which cost $5, $10, and $15 respectively. You get 30GB of storage with the Basic plan and unlimited with the Business and Enterprise plan. All three plans entitle you to a suite of Google online productivity and communication tools.

MEGA: MEGA is an alternative cloud storage option for businesses that want high security at a low price. When using MEGA, you can create your encryption key. This key is unique and is only accessible to you. Not many cloud storage platforms offer this security option. Although MEGA sounds like a hi-tech platform, it has a simple interface. There is virtually no learning curve, and it is compatible with both Android, iOS, and Microsoft devices.

Another thing that makes MEGA unique is that it offers a whopping 50GB of free storage space. Also, you can get an additional space by inviting new users and installing the MEGA app.The only issue with using MEGA is that you have to memorize your encryption key. Also, it does not come intergrated with online productivity and communication tools.

Box: Box for business offers features such as secure file sharing, enterprise-level security, file sync, cross platforms, IT and admin controls, reporting and dedicated technical support. Their personal plan is free, offering 10GB of storage, and the personal pro plan costs $11.5 per month for 100 GB storage. Business plans include a starter plan costing $6 per user per month with 100GB of storage; for $17 per user per month, and with at least three users, businesses can get unlimited storage. Clients can request customization under the enterprise plan. Features, such as Microsoft Office 365, active directory, and maximum allowed file size, vary across business plans and users can choose what best meets their needs.

Dropbox: Dropbox claims to serve more than 100,000 businesses through their Dropbox for business cloud-hosting solutions. Hyatt, Yahoo!, Macquarie Bank and National Geographic Channel are a few of the well-known brands in Dropbox’s esteemed clients list. Beyond the cross-platform sharing, storage, sync, backup and seamless integration features, Dropbox allows file sharing even with users who don’t have a Dropbox account. The basic plan for individuals is free, offers 2GB of storage and comes with Microsoft 365 integration, allowing one to edit files directly through Dropbox. The Pro plan for individuals offers 1TB of free storage. The Business plan offers unlimited storage, with a standard charge of $15 per user per month for at least five users. It also offers full audit records of user activities, sharing, and controls. Business users get priority dedicated support. 

JustCloud: JustCloud offers more than 50 features, including an admin control panel, network drives, access and permission management, geo-redundant storage, file versioning, and hourly backup. The business plan costs $35.94 per month and includes 100GB of storage for five computers, while the enterprise plan costs $71.94 per month and includes 500GB of storage space for 20 computers. You can also get a custom plan if you’ve got greater backup requirements.

IDrive: IDrive is one of the most reliable cloud storage platforms around. It is compatible with different operating systems including iOS, Android, and Microsoft. Also, you can back up different devices on this platform. Like MEGA, you can choose to create your encryption key when using IDrive. There is also the option of using the default encryption key. IDrive is easy to use and it has the same host of features that you will find on most cloud storage platforms.

Conclusion:

There are many other remarkable cloud storage platforms deserving to be on this list including IBM Cloud, Mozy, Sugar-Sync, OpenDrive, iCloud, and more. However, it is safe to say that the eight cloud platforms mentioned above are among the best on the market today in terms of providing multiple features, safety, affordability, and ease of use. Ultimately, startups have different options to choose from for cloud storage. Obviously it’s essential to select the platform that will give you the best value for your money.

The key elements to look at when choosing a cloud storage provider include financial stability, proven infrastructure, established customer base, geographically distributed data centers, security and encryption, third-party validation, and service level agreement (SLA) terms and execution. Essentially, cloud storage should efficiently simplify and make your established workflows portable, while maintaining the security & availability of your data.

The cloud storages nowadays have become a prized possession for small to large businesses. We try not to rely on hardware which is costly and hard to maintain. How about availability of space at your facility for it?  With AWS you can quickly deliver the exact amount of storage you need, right when you need it!  We also have a limited knowledge of cloud storage and are surrounded by the blind beliefs of the traditional storage devices.  But AWS provides a complete solution for storing, retrieving and sharing data that’s simple, reliable and scalable!

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1 Comment

  1. AWSCC Staff

    Thanks for this informative post! This is very timely as I was starting to upload some of my important files that I need to open often on cloud so I can easily open it with different devices. I used to depend on a hard drive but I’ve found how convenient utilizing the cloud is! It’s awesome that you were able to provide so many good choices here as well, I would have only know the giants but it’s great to see there are still other great though lesser known alternatives in the market. I will definitely check them out.

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