Unstructured Data In the Cloud

cloud collaboration

As cloud-based data strategies continue to take hold as a strategic undertaking in enterprises across the spectrum, the transformation is taking place because of a number of advantages are becoming clearer as technologies evolve and success stories emerge.   One such realm is exemplified by a range of concerns about data in the cloud that are actually quickly distinguishable advantages after some analysis and evaluation.

Unstructured data for one provides one such issue for analysis, which is data that is present throughout most environments that feature long retention policies.  This type of data often sits ‘at-rest’ untouched for extended periods of time.  The storage this data sits on may be lower-tier architecture and therefore lower cost than top-tier data.  There are a number of features that a cloud-based data strategy can provide to benefit the organization.

Many organizations are still locked in to traditional storage models.  This can certainly be expected to change as solid-state drive (SSD) costs continue to drop and the permeation of SSD integration into existing SAN networks continues to grow.  Strategies around tiered storage will certainly shift in relation to this adoption trend.  Still, today it is relatively easy to point out the prime storage tiers in an organization.  This type of data has to be fast, available, and feature high IOPS – applications, databases, email, and more may lay in this  category.  This is where SSD can and should provide the most benefit in the infrastructure.  Unstructured data however can encompass such things as file directories, images, reference files, and more.  This data, being at a lower tier of storage strategy doesn’t require that same performance profile that SSD and top-tier storage provides.  The issue is that even with lower-tiered storage, there are still considerable costs to consider that are around it such as the cost of having administrators, datacenter costs, backup costs, failover technology, site recovery technology, and more.

One answer is building a strategy of putting that unstructured data into the cloud.  There are a number of solutions that address cloud storage that fit well into this type of strategy.  A big challenge of implementing such a cloud-based data strategy focuses on dispelling a number of notions of cloud technology and the perceived risk around utilizing such services.  For one, the integrity and security of enterprise data must be maintained at all times without question.   The enterprise must be assured that data can be audited if required, verified if required, compliant with all business requirements, and as completely safe as the in-house alternatives.  How these things are addressed is critically important to evaluate.

Evaluating solutions

Among the many elements in such a solution to review are concerns such as security.  Today, cloud-based data services have attained in many cases, a range of specific and stringent compliance certifications, including HIPPA, PCI-DSS,  SAS70 and more.  This particular concern is well documented and therefore there are many options to finding a solution that fits needs.  In many cases, the built-in certification of these environments provides an instant benefit to the business as their own data center may not possess a number of these certifications.  The overall security of the solution, from a compliance perspective, may actually be better as a result.  Costs are another consideration and they continue to trend downward, making the solution that much more attractive.  In terms of deployment and integration, there are a number of simple solutions for integrating cloud-based storage into the enterprise, in the form of cloud gateway services.  These services feature significant datacenter technologies and scales of economy that a typical organization may not be ready to incur nor sustain.  Another common and dated misconception is a loss of control of data center placement.  Extensive options and agreements can be constructed with most cloud service providers that cover data location and even where geo-redundant data is stored.   In case after case, the strategy of putting enterprise data in the cloud has had enterprise concerns around risk satiated and even exceeded for the good of the enterprise.

A pretty neat success story popped up recently about the services of StorSimple, a Santa Clara based enterprise cloud-storage provider.  StorSimple boasts a number of unique firsts in the business and solution accolades.   The StorSimple solution delivered a number of cost-saving efficiencies that met a number of critical business requirements set forth by the First Church of Christ, Scientist and The Christian Science Monitor.  As told in the following video from the Amazon Web Services Summit in New York, Terry Barbounis shares his experiences with this solution and encourages those on the bubble to run a proof of concept.  Hat tip: Marc Farley.


Cloud-based data strategies have significant advantages in the enterprise as the options, features, and price advantages increase.  The advantages for an enterprise can be more secure data, lower costs (CAPEX and OPEX), and features that work directly with your existing enterprise.  Unstructured data is a natural fit for cloud-based data strategy and there is no shortage of mature, enterprise-grade solutions at hand to fill that gap and benefit the enterprise for the enterprise to consider.