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Volume 27, Issue 4

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How to Protect Against Your Cloud Storage Provider's Demise

Written by  Nicos Vekiarides Monday, 28 October 2013 00:00

Worried about outages & vendor shutdowns? Here's what you can do


Last month’s news about cloud storage provider (CSP) Nirvanix has lots of organizations thinking about and, in some cases scrambling to deal with, the repercussions of a cloud provider shutting down. While pundits may speculate about what happened to this particular CSP and ponder the various “what-if” scenarios of how the outcome might have been different, such analyses offer little consolation to the customers who are affected by this sudden change and loss of their trusted cloud vendor.

Adding to the hysterics, cloud opponents on the sideline may find time to revel in the momentary superiority of traditional IT infrastructure which is unaffected by such disruptions. However, those who understand the intrinsic value of cloud storage solutions and have been perceptive of prior happenings in the cloud industry may recall this week’s incident is not unique, as a major vendor shut down their CSP services over three years ago. Instead, they may ask whether the events of three years ago have improved the ability of customers to react to an event of this nature.

At TwinStrata, we’ve built a business on enabling organizations to utilize one or many cloud providers and/or their local storage infrastructure to store and protect their data. What’s relevant to this post is that our team is spending this week helping migrate a number of customers to new cloud providers on a very urgent basis.
The reality of the past few years - particularly the past day or so - has included occasional cloud outages and cloud providers exiting the business. While many cloud providers tout a near-bulletproof infrastructure consisting of multiple copies of data spread across multiple data centers, exceptionally high data durability and always-on data availability, these capabilities cannot always prevent the unexpected: the accidental user account shutdown, a significant network outage from your premises or the natural evolution that inevitably occurs in the provider landscape. While the latter are rare, they remain the types of events for which business and IT leaders ought to plan when preparing a data storage strategy with provisions for recovery and business continuity.

When it comes to storing data in the cloud, facilitating the migration of cloud storage should factor into the overall contingency plan. So what are some of the provisions businesses should take to ensure they can protect data stored in the cloud from the unknown?

  • Ingress and egress of data. One of the first questions organizations may ask is how they can pull their data out of the cloud, followed by how long it will take. Some internet providers allow bandwidth bursts during short intervals lasting days or weeks for unusually large transfers. If additional bandwidth is not available, all is not lost. Objects stored in the cloud can be transferred from one cloud to another cloud using a cloud provider’s bandwidth, without having to upgrade on-premise networking. Finally, a third option is utilizing an import/export processes for cloud providers having the capability to physically ship data on disks.
  • Multiple copies of data. While this may seem like an obvious consideration, having multiple copies of data either across clouds and/or a cached copy locally can take the edge off of a cloud outage or a cloud provider ceasing operations. A local copy on low-cost storage can be relatively cheap insurance and can ease the bandwidth needs if it is necessary to pull the data back on premise.
  • Protocol compatibility across clouds. Cloud storage gateway and cloud-integrated storage technologies are often a key part of enabling a migration path to a new cloud if and when needed, offering the same application interface to storage across a number of different cloud vendors having different APIs. If you are not using a gateway today, it is not difficult to add as part of the migration process, and you also gain advantages around performance and data security.
  • Working with a trusted vendor. Always work with a vendor that understands the needs of your business including recovery time and recovery point objectives. Complying with these objectives will give you a plan that keeps your business on it’s feet, no matter where your data lives.

    While the prospect of a cloud provider outage or shutdown can seem daunting, it is not an insurmountable problem. Careful planning that accounts for the different dimensions and scenarios of data stored in the cloud can replace the worry with peace of mind.