Outsourcing your storage to someone offsite is not without its risks. Here are three problems you might experience when using storage as a service, and how to avoid them.

  • Dropping the data ball: Unfortunately, there’s always the possibility that your backup solution partner, due to some man-made or natural disaster or simply because the firm is incompetent, could lose your data. It is important to understand what kind of protection is being offered. Does your provider have a continuous data protection scheme in place that provides for data replication to another site beyond the local one? If your storage-as-a-service provider is in Toronto, is your data going to be replicated in Montreal or New York? “And by the way, SMBs in the financial community are subject to the same rules and regulations as larger companies,” says Trainer. “So you may have a corporate governance policy that says you must retain all data for 10 years, for example. The government may say seven years, but you need to find out what the service provider’s retention period is, and how quickly the company can reproduce documents in the event of a legal action against your company.”
  • Trouble in transit?: Consider security from an encryption perspective. Since hackers can recognize standard file formats quite easily, data is transit is often encrypted. Ask your provider how it will protect your data as it travels to and from the data centre(s). Insist that it be encrypted. Then ask, “Are you encrypting at the disk level?” And, “If you’re using tape drive backups, are you using encrypted tape drives from Sun or IBM, for example? What is the mechanism for protecting the data from being accessed?”
  • Be in the know: “The more you disaggregate, the further away you get from reality,” says Trainer, so you need to know from your storage-as-a-service provider exactly what kind of storage will be used to hold your data. Even better: if you have the knowledge, you want to specify yourself what type of storage should be used. If you can’t specify this because you don’t know, it may make sense for you to become a little more storage familiar. If so, you can always do some research on your own. Or, there are numerous analyst firms and consultants that can quickly provide some level of explanation about the kinds of storage products many service providers are using and their perceived risks and challenges.

Tom Trainer is senior analyst at the Denver-based Evaluator Group, which provides objective analysis of online storage products, hardware and software and storage-related issues.

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