Storage and Back-Up Gets Flexible
The cloud has transformed the storage and business continuity market, but there are still problems and pitfalls to be avoided.
(Note: This news item is a summary of an article published in the Sunday Business Post on May 6, 2018)
Brian Smyth (pictured), technical lead at Codec, notes that smaller customers who would once have gravitated towards on-premise SANs are now using SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) products that remove the need for on premise storage almost entirely.
There are options on Microsoft Azure that emulate the different storage arrays a business may need, but it becomes much more cost effective. You can mix and match standard spinning disks that have lots of capacity with premium service SSDs where speed is more important,
“Rather than buy in SANs, you provision storage accounts,” explained Smyth. “The advantage with any cloud platform is that there are no practical limits. You don’t have to guess what you’ll need any more; we can spin up new storage as required. And the beauty of it is that you can provision 40TB but you don’t pay until you start putting data into it. You can have 90 per cent free capacity and only pay for the 10 per cent you use.”
This is hot tier storage and used for data that is frequently accessed. There’s also the option of cold tier, which is cheaper because you only pay to read it.
“Microsoft archive grade storage is cheaper again,” said Smyth. “It’s ideal for storing something like CCTV video which you only need to access occasionally.”
Disaster Recovery on the cloud
Smyth also makes the point that public cloud services are also helping companies make lighter work of backup and compliance. Microsoft’s cloud services ticks important regulatory boxes: disks are encrypted by default and the Azure Security Centre is compliant with various standards, including PCI.
Office 365 and Azure also come with features that provide business continuity. Not so long ago, DR and business continuity solutions were clunky, expensive and required storage-savvy expertise to run them.
Now Azure has DR functionality built-in and there’s no need to invest in infrastructure. Office 365 even includes DR as part of the service.
“Something like SharePoint Online in Office 365 is nearly a file server for small businesses now, and it accommodates mobile users without the need of a virtual private network,” he said.
“You get DR with the service but you don’t get backups as part of it. At the end of the day, every cloud is still a computer system and something could happen.”
With this in mind, Codec offers a range of other products and services, such as “journaling” to constantly back email up to another system so you can communicate even if the main site goes down. Other features are included if you have the Microsoft enterprise licence, like “litigation hold”, which will indefinitely retain mail items. Without it, deleted mails will automatically disappear after 90 days.
Features in Azure also address regulatory requirements around data storage with a shared responsibility model — Microsoft provides the environment but customers are responsible for its deployment and retain sole access to sensitive data.
“Server replication and backups are all encrypted and they can’t be decrypted in Azure. The only person who can access and unencrypt the data is the client,” said Smyth.
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