9 things you need to know before you store data in the cloud

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff

3. Understand the bandwidth limitations. "If you are going to be using cloud as part of a backup strategy, you need to understand the bandwidth limitations both for the initial backup of a large amount of data, as well as what will happen should you need to restore a large amount of data," says Ed Featherston, enterprise architect, Technology Services, Collaborative Consulting. "Does the provider offer a bulk transfer capability? What are the bandwidth limitations to the provider's locations?"

"Cloud storage requires moving data outside of the enterprise's local area networks into a wide area network, often resulting in a higher cost and bandwidth requirement for cloud storage," says Paul McClure, chief technologist, Cloud Solutions Group, at data management provider CommVault.

"Bandwidth and transfer speeds drive the time expectations on how long it will take to move data over the wire. This can be minutes, hours or even days," McClure says. "Bandwidth cost, potential and time are important factors to consider."

4. Make sure data is encrypted. "Protect your sensitive data with strong encryption before transferring it into the cloud," says Jonathan LaCour, vice president of Cloud at DreamHost. "Some storage providers may offer server-side encryption, but encrypting your data on your own might be wiser."

"Should you decide to leave the cloud or the cloud provider goes out of business, have a business plan ready to go to move to a new cloud with minimal disruption."

-- Brian D. Kelley, CIO

Portage County, Ohio

"Keep in mind that if your service provider encrypts your data, then the service provider can decrypt your data," says Lawrence Garvin, head geek, SolarWinds, a provider of IT management software and monitoring tools. "If the data is encrypted before it is transferred, then only you can decrypt the data. Be sure that your data is encrypted before transferring to the cloud, or even to off-site storage."

5. Carefully read the provider's SLA before signing up. "Providers offer choices of storage service levels, and storage services should include on-demand scalability to keep applications running, snapshots for crash-consistent local and/or offline backup, available off-site backup and/or disaster recovery and high availability storage without disruption due to maintenance/upgrades," says Tom Hobika, senior vice president, IT services, EarthLink, a provider of IT, data, voice and Internet services for businesses.

"The vendor's SLA should include guarantees for the applications and data it will host. At a minimum, it should cover availability of data and systems, response times for normal-issue severity levels and response times when dealing with specific security issues," says Hobika.

6. Know how much the cloud will actually cost you. "When pricing out cloud services, understand completely what is covered in your monthly service and what is extra," says Casey Burns, senior product marketing manager, Cloud and Virtualization at Quantum, a provider of data center and scale-out storage solutions.

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