Cloud-based storage has been a hot topic of late, drawing both fans and foes into an often contentious conversation. If you’re new to the term, storing data “in the Cloud” simply refers to using an outside vendor to own and maintain the storage media where your data resides, as opposed to traditional in-house hosting. While the idea has a lot of appeal, it’s not a cut and dry, right vs. wrong, decision. Every organization’s needs are different, and what’s sensible and cost-effective for one might be a nightmare scenario, or at least a headache, to another.

When considering moving vast amounts of electronically stored information to cloud-based storage, there are a number of considerations. Understanding the pros and cons of cloud storage is crucial in deciding whether it is something worth considering.

Some of the advantages (translation: cost savings) are obvious. First, you’re gaining access to potentially unlimited storage space, yet it’s completely scalable: you pay only for what’s actually needed. So, not only are you no longer paying for the actual hardware itself in the short term, you’re freeing yourself from having to worry about upgrades and backups. And the benefits don’t stop there. There’s also the savings with not having to provide the physical space to house a data center, along with the requisite expenses associated with providing power to the equipment itself as well as creating acceptable security and environmental conditions. Plus, having the data isolated from your physical location could be an advantage in the event of a natural (or other) disaster. Disaster recovery and restoration is the vendor’s problem, not yours. And not having to maintain the physical components in-house may even translate to personnel savings, as fewer people will be needed to maintain the equipment and associated physical facilities.

Then there are the intangible benefits. Since cloud-based data is, by definition, accessible from anywhere via internet or WAN, you’re potentially laying the groundwork for a more collaborative, mobile workplace.

So what’s not to like? Well… all kinds of things, but let’s sum it up with one word: CONTROL. The performance, integrity, reliability, and recoverability of your data rests with your vendor. That’s a lot of trust to place in a third party. What if they prove to be unreliable, or even worse, what if they go under? What happens to your data?

And it’s not just a doomsday scenario that should give you pause. Cloud-based storage requires an internet connection and performance is tied to internet bandwidth. If service is disrupted, your employees are potentially idled until the problem can be rectified.

Availability isn’t the only issue. Just as there are intangible benefits to cloud-based storage, so too are there unexpected and intangible disadvantages. Specifically, there are issues of security and confidentiality. If your data is being stored off-site, who might have the ability to access or alter it without you even being aware? Not only do you need to worry if your data is secure, who’s to say it’s even genuine? Hardware may be expensive, but so is litigation. Couple these concerns with the very real e-Discovery implications such as the potential for Court-ordered searches and legal holds, and suddenly sending your data offsite may no longer seem like such a good idea.

On the surface, the cost savings associated with cloud-based storage has a lot of appeal. But before jumping on any bargains, be sure you’ve thought through the implications thoroughly.

Whether you decide to go with a cloud-based solution or not, research your vendor carefully. Sherpa Software’s cloud and on-premises software and services provide solutions for data archiving, file and email management, PST administration, content filtering, electronic discovery and policy enforcement. These solutions address issues related to storage management, e-discovery and compliance within Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino. Our SaaS platform, Attender Online, joins other Sherpaware file and email management solutions designed to be easy-to-use, cost-effective alternatives to complex enterprise “one size fits all” and “do it yourself” options.

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