How Customers Can Benefit from Cloud Storage Solutions
Home may be where the heart is, but the cloud is where the data is.
Since the dawn of the earliest personal computers (PCs), storage has been something inside the computer. Starting with “spinning” floppy disks, larger storage capacity became available with the introduction of the “fixed” disk drive, which was also called the “hard” disk. Some of the nerds amongst us had to call them “Winchester” drives, the name for the IBM technology on which they were originally based.
Prior to the introduction of Solid State Drives (SSD), storage was considered to be the last vulnerable component of a computing environment. Eventually, this device’s moving parts would wear out.
People like internal disk drives, or Direct Attached Storage (DAS), because they always know where to find their data — on their PC. The inherent security comes from having it physically nearby. Some customers still believe that data must be housed “within their own four walls” to truly be secure. We know how inaccurate that is, but we’ll cover it in another post, another day.
The down side of DAS is that it is generally only available to the one user who is the owner of the computer that houses the disk drive. Yes, peer-to-peer networking makes it easy to share storage resources, but that’s not exactly a “best practice” when users may be anywhere in the world.
As with all things cloud, cloud storage suggests devices that are housed somewhere other than where the users are and shared among many users. Good examples of popular cloud storage providers include DropBox, Box, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, etc..
Other examples of cloud storage that we shouldn’t ignore include what is probably the first cloud service most users encounter, cloud data backup. Formerly called “remote” data backup, some users have been backing up their data “to the cloud” for decades. Today, services like Mozy, Carbonite, Axcient and others make cloud data backup a highly flexible service on which many large customers depend.
Storage as a Service (STaaS)
We recently talked about the impending withdrawal of extended support for Windows Server 2003® and the need to migrate away from it here in Insight ON – Service Providers. Microsoft and many others have been suggesting a variety of choices for relocating your workloads, including new servers on your own premises or servers in the cloud.
Many Windows Server 2003 users may find themselves migrating to no new servers at all. Files can be reliably and securely stored in a cloud storage service. Similarly, customers may find themselves moving to managed print solutions, hosted email solutions and others.
Many users have discovered the value of cloud services as a bridge between all the devices in their lives. Where they may have previously used USB thumb drives or pocket drives to copy files off one device and then to another — a definite security risk — today they are using cloud services.
Storage of user data online takes us a step further in the integration of cloud services into each user’s daily life. Where once they had to copy something up to the cloud service from one device and then back down to another, today they can simply set up replication to automate the process.
Cloud storage replication creates a duplicate of the cloud folder structure onto the user’s local machine and continuously updates back and forth. When something is added to the cloud folder or any of its subfolders, it’s automatically replicated on the user’s local hard drive.
Think about offering your customers an environment in which all of their devices, desktops, laptops, tablets and even smartphones are all connected to the cloud storage service. When they take a photo, or record a conversation with their smartphone, it’s automatically replicated to the cloud and then to their desktop and laptop. Documents they’re working on in their home office are available on their tablet while traveling.
Suddenly they no longer need to worry about transferring data back and forth between devices, and making sure they keep versions straight. All devices can simply obtain the latest version from the cloud storage service. Since most popular cloud services offer native apps for access on all of the popular mobile platforms and any web browser, a user with only their smartphone can still access their files to send them to another user or, in most cases, to read them on their phone. Also, should a user who happens to have absolutely no devices on hand still need to access their files, they can do so from anyone’s browser provided they know their ID and password, and can authenticate themselves.
The Next Step: Application Integration
Productivity suite software is directly accessing multiple cloud storage platforms, giving users the ability to directly store and retrieve documents from within the application. This is better than saving it locally and then transferring it to cloud storage.
All great customer relationships are built on trust. When customers trust your cloud storage service with their data, that’s an incredible vote of confidence in your ability to serve them reliably. Data is among the most valuable assets your customers own.