- Pay for what is used. With a cloud storage service, customers only pay for the storage they actually use so there’s no need for big capital expenses. While cloud storage costs are recurring rather than a one-time purchase, they are so low that even as an ongoing expense they may still be less than the cost of maintaining an in-house system.
- Utility billing. Since customers only pay for the capacity they’re using, cloud storage costs can decrease as usage drops. This is in stark contrast to using an in-house storage system, which will likely be overconfigured to handle anticipated growth; so, a company will pay for more than it needs initially, and the cost of the storage will never decrease.
- Global availability. Cloud storage is typically available from any system anywhere at any time; one does not have to worry about operating system capability or complex allocation processes.
- Ease of use. Cloud storage is easier to access and use, so developers, software testers and business users can get up and running quickly without have to wait for IT to allocate and configure storage resources.
- Offsite security. By its very nature, public cloud storage offers a way to move copies of data to a remote site for backup and security purposes. Again, this represents a significant cost-savings when compared to a company maintaining its own remote facility.
An in-house cloud storage system can offer some of the above ease-of-use features of a public cloud service, but it will lack much of the storage capacity flexibility of a public service. Some hardware vendors are trying to address this issue by allowing their customers to turn on and off capacity that has already been installed in their arrays.
Drawbacks of cloud storage
There are some shortcomings to cloud storage — particularly the public services — that may deter companies from using these services or limit how they use them.
Security is the single most cited factor that may make a company reluctant — or at least cautious — about using public cloud storage. The concern is that once data leaves a company’s premises, the company no longer has control over how it’s handled and stored. There are also concerns about storing data that is regulated by specific compliance laws. Cloud providers address these concerns by making public the steps they take to protect their customers’ data, such as encryption for data in flight and at rest, physical security and storing data at multiple locations.
Access to data stored in the cloud may also be an issue and could significantly increase the cost of using cloud storage. A company may need to upgrade its connection to the cloud storage service to handle the volume of data it expects to transmit; the monthly cost of an optical link can run into the thousands of dollars.
A company may run into performance issues if its in-house applications need to access the data it has stored in the cloud. In those cases, it will likely require either moving the servers and applications into the same cloud or bringing the necessary data back in-house.
If a company requires a lot of cloud storage capacity and frequently moves its data back and forth, the monthly costs can be quite high. Compared to deploying the storage in-house, the ongoing costs could eventually surpass the cost of implementing and maintaining the on-premises system.