Category Archives: Cloud Storage

Cloud Storage Topics – SearchCloudStorage

The Cloud Backup and Recovery topic section offers resources and best practices for data storage professionals who are mapping a disaster recovery strategy using cloud storage and cloud services. Get the latest news and tips on cloud disaster recovery, and find out how cloud storage impacts restore times, business continuity and the organization of sensitive data. Cloud-based disaster recovery can bring benefits to your IT shop, but should be considered in the larger context of a long-term DR plan. More about Cloud Disaster Recovery

The Cloud Storage Backup and Recovery topic section offers resources and best practices for data storage professionals who are mapping a disaster recovery strategy using cloud storage and cloud services. Get the latest news and tips on cloud disaster recovery, and find out how cloud storage impacts restore times, business continuity and the organization of sensitive data. Cloud-based disaster recovery can bring benefits to your IT shop, but should be considered in the larger context of a long-term DR plan. More about Cloud Storage Backup

The Cloud Storage Management and Standards topic section offers comprehensive resources for data storage professionals looking for information on cloud storage management and cloud standards. Find out how to properly manage your data in the cloud and read our expert advice and guidance on cloud management. Get the latest news and tips on cloud storage strategies and what steps to take for better data management in the cloud. Read our essential guides, special reports and tutorials to keep up with the latest trends in cloud storage management, and see what tips and improvements you can apply to your own management strategy. More about Cloud Management

The Hybrid Cloud Storage topic section offers comprehensive resources for data storage professionals looking for information on hybrid storage clouds. Learn about the pros and cons of hybrid cloud storage and read our expert advice and guidance on hybrid clouds. Get the latest news and tips on using a hybrid cloud model in your environment and what types of environments are suited for hybrid storage clouds. Read our essential guides, special reports and tutorials to catch up on the most recent developments and advances in the hybrid cloud arena, and see what tips and improvements you can apply to your own hybrid cloud. More about Hybrid Cloud

The Private Cloud Storage topic section offers comprehensive resources for data storage professionals looking for information on private clouds. Learn about the pros and cons of private cloud storage and read our expert advice and guidance on private cloud infrastructure. Get the latest news and tips on private cloud providers, private cloud services, plus implementation tips, costs and private cloud management advice. Read our essential guides, special reports and tutorials to catch up on the most recent developments in the private cloud storage space, and see what tips and improvements you can apply to your own private cloud environment. More about Private Cloud

The Public Cloud Storage topic section offers comprehensive resources for data storage professionals looking for information on public clouds. Learn about the pros and cons of public cloud storage and read our expert advice and guidance on public clouds. Get the latest news and tips on public cloud services, public cloud providers, plus costs, implementation tips and common problems storage managers run into when using public clouds. Learn about the best practices regarding public clouds. Read our essential guides, special reports and tutorials to catch up on the most recent developments in the public cloud storage space, and see what tips and improvements you can apply to your own public cloud. More about Public Cloud

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Cloud Storage Topics – SearchCloudStorage

Cloud Storage – 2017 News, Articles and Trends – Tom’s IT Pro

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January 30, 2017 in Best Picks

Before settling on a cloud backup option for your business, check out our buying advice and top picks, which include Amazon S3, Code 42 CrashPlan, OpenDrive, Microsoft Azure and more. Read More

October 13, 2016 in News

PDF signing, sharing through iMessage, viewing files without unlocking are all new business features of Dropbox for iOS. Find out what else is news. Read More

September 2, 2015 in Reviews

eFolders Anchor is a unique EFSS option targeted at MSPs and VARs that offers customers the choice between cloud and on-premises storage, flexible security options and a customizable user interface. Read More

August 11, 2015 in Reviews

Egnyte is one of the few enterprise file sync and share vendors that has a true hybrid cloud strategy bolstered by veteran thought leadership, flexible UI options and a strong focus on security, encryption, as well as auditing and reporting capabilities. Read More

June 25, 2015 in News

Red Hat announced the updated Red Hat Ceph Storage 1.3 and Red Hat Gluster Storage 3.1 software-defined storage solutions. The new versions offer improved performance and data integrity for petabyte scale deployments. Read More

June 18, 2015 in Reviews

Box Enterprise is more than just a simple cloud file sync and share tool. With a strong focus on security, integration and consistent cross-platform usability, Box has a lot to offer business customers and more to come in the near future. Read More

June 4, 2015 in Reviews

Citrix’s ShareFile is a strong enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) solution that offers plenty of security controls and can leverage both cloud and on-premises storage. It’s especially an attractive option for current Citrix customers. Read More

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Cloud Storage – 2017 News, Articles and Trends – Tom’s IT Pro

Cloud Storage Pricing Comparison: AWS, Azure, Google, and B2

So why do some vendors make it so hard to get information about how much youre storing and how much youre being charged?

Cloud storage is fast becoming the central repository for mission critical information, irreplaceable memories, and in some cases entire corporate and personal histories. Given this responsibility, we believe cloud storage vendors have an obligation to be transparent as possible in how they interact with their customers.

In that light we decided to challenge four cloud storage vendors and ask two simple questions:

The detailed results are below, but if you wish to skip the details and the screen captures (TL;DR), weve summarized the results in the table below.

Our challenge was to upload 1 terabyte of data, store it for one month, and then downloadit.

Cloud Storage Test Details

For our tests, we choose Backblaze B2, Microsofts Azure, Amazons S3, and Google Cloud Storage. Our idea was simple: Upload 1 TB of data to the comparable service for each vendor, store it for 1 month, download that 1 TB, then document and share the results.

Lets start with most obvious observation, the cost charged by each vendor for the test:

Later in this post, well see if we can determine the different cost components (storage, downloading, transactions, etc.) for each vendor, but our first step is to see if we can determine how much data we stored. In some cases, the answer is not as obvious as it would seem.

At the core, a provider of a service ought to be able to tell a customer how much of the service he or she is using. In this case, one might assume that providers of Cloud Storage would be able to tell customers how much data is being stored at any given moment. It turns out, its not that simple.

Backblaze B2

Logging into a Backblaze B2 account, one is presented with a summary screen that displays all buckets. Each bucket displays key summary information, including data currently stored.

Clicking into a given bucket, one can browse individual files. Each file displays its size, and multiple files can be selected to create a size summary.

Summary: Accurate, intuitive display of storage information.

Microsoft Azure

Moving on to Microsofts Azure, things get a little more exciting. There was no area that we could find where one can determine the total amount of data, in GB, stored with Azure.

Theres an area entitled usage, but that wasnt helpful.

We then moved on to Overview, but had a couple challenges.The first issue was that we were presented with KiB (kibibyte) as a unit of measure. One GB (the unit of measure used in Azures pricing table) equates to roughly 976,563 KiB. It struck us as odd that things would be summarized by a unit of measure different from the billing unit of measure.

Summary: Storage is being measured in KiB, but is billed by the GB. Even with a calculator, it is unclear how much storage we are using.

Amazon S3

Next we checked on the data we were storing in S3. We again ran into problems.

In the bucket overview, we were able to identify our buckets. However, we could not tell how much data was being stored.

Drilling into a bucket, the detail view does tell us file size. However, there was no method for summarizing the data stored within that bucket or for multiple files.

Summary: Incomplete. From the file browsing user interface, while summaries of folders can be found, there is no reasonable way to understand how much data is being globally stored.

Google Cloud Storage (GCS)

GCS proved to have its own quirks, as well.

One can easily find the bucket summary, however, it does not provide information on data stored.

Clicking into the bucket, one can see files and the size of an individual file. However, no ability to see data total is provided.

Summary: Incomplete. From the file browsing user interface, there is no reasonable way to understand how much data is being stored.

Test 1 Conclusions

We knew how much storage we were uploading and, in many cases, the user will have some sense of the amount of data they are uploading. However, it strikes us as odd that many vendors wont tell you how much data you have stored. Even stranger are the vendors that provide reporting in a unit of measure that is different from the units in their pricing table.

The cloud storage industry has done itself no favors with its tiered pricing that requires a calculator to figure out whats going on. Setting that aside for a moment, one would presume that bills would be created in clear, auditable ways.

Backblaze

Inside of the Backblaze user interface, one finds a navigation link entitled Billing. Clicking on that, the user is presented with line items for previous bills, payments, and an estimate for the upcoming charges.

One can expand any given row to see the the line item transactions composing each bill.

Heres more detail.

Summary: Available on demand, and the site clearly defines what has and will be charged for.

Azure

Trying to understand the Azure billing proved to be a bit tricky.

On August 6th, we logged into the billing console and were presented with this screen.

As you can see, on Aug 6th, billing for the period of May-June was not available for download. For the period ending June 26th, we were charged nearly a month later, on July 24th. Clicking into that row item does display line item information.

Summary: Available, but difficult to find. The nearly 30 day lag in billing creates business and accounting challenges.

Amazon S3

Amazon presents a clean billing summary and enables users to drill down into line items.

Going to the billing area of AWS, one can survey various monthly bills and is presented with a clean summary of billing charges.

Expanding into the billing detail, Amazon articulates each line item charge. Within each line item, charges are broken out into sub-line items for the different tiers of pricing.

Summary: Available on demand. While there are some line items that seem unnecessary for our test, the bill is generally straight-forward to understand.

Google Cloud Storage (GCS)

This was an area where the GCS User Interface, which was otherwise relatively intuitive, became confusing.

Going to the Billing Overview page did not offer much in the way of an overview on charges.

However, moving down to the Transactions section did provide line item detail on all the charges incurred. However, similar to Azure introducing the concept of KiB, Google introduces the concept of the equally confusing Gibibyte (GiB). While all of Googles pricing tables are listed in terms of GB, the line items reference GiB. 1 GiB is 1.07374 GBs.

Summary: Available, but provides descriptions in units that are not on the pricing table nor commonly used.

Test 2 Conclusions

Clearly, some vendors do a better job than others in making their pricing available and understandable. From a transparency standpoint, its difficult to justify why a vendor would have their pricing table in units of X, but then put units of Y in the user interface.

Transparency: The Backblaze Way

Transparency isnt easy. At Backblaze, we believe in investing time and energy into presenting the most intuitive user interfaces that we can create. We take pride in our heritage in the consumer backup space servicing consumers has taught us how to make things understandable and usable. We do our best to apply those lessons to everything we do.

This philosophy reflects our desire to make our products usable, but its also part of a larger ethos of being transparent with our customers. We are being trusted with precious data. We want to repay that trust with, among other things, transparency.

Its that spirit that was behind the decision to publish our hard drive performance stats, to open source the infrastructure that is behind us having the lowest cost of storage in the industry, and also to open source our erasure coding (the math that drives a significant portion of our redundancy for your data).

Why? We believe its not just about good user interface, its about the relationship we want to build with our customers.

Ahin enjoys writing in the third person, cookies (digital or baked), and the new Chris Stapleton album.

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Cloud Storage Pricing Comparison: AWS, Azure, Google, and B2

18 free cloud storage options | Network World

The cloud is full of free storage, if you know where to look.

From Box to DropBox, Google to Apple, theres plenty of free storage to be had in the cloud. Many companies use free cloud storage as a way to entice users into their clouds in hopes that they will pay more for additional storage.

Below, in alphabetical order, are 18 free cloud services but a word of warning: The market for free cloud storage is volatile and offers from these vendors can change frequently, including being eliminated with little or no warning.

+ ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD: 7 ways to supercharge your personal cloud storage+

The deal: 5GB free in S3; free unlimited photo storage for Amazon Prime customers.

Details: Amazon Web Services business-oriented cloud storage service named Simple Storage Service (S3) has a tier of up to 5GB of free storage. On the consumer side, Amazon Prime members get free unlimited cloud storage for photos in Amazon Cloud Drive with their subscription, which costs $99 per year and includes free two-day shipping on eligible Amazon.com products. For non Amazon-prime members, unlimited photos can be stored for $11.99 per year after a three-month free trial. For $59.99 per year Amazon offers an Unlimited Everything plan, which allows any file or document to be stored.

More information: Amazon Cloud Drive and Amazon S3

The deal: 5GB of free cloud storage

Details: Apple iCloud Drive comes with 5GB of free cloud storage. Users looking to bump up their storage can do so for $0.99/month for 50GBs; $2.99/month for 200GB; $9.99/month for 1TB and $19.99 for 2TB. ICloud is meant for Apple users, but there is an iCloud app for Windows. A third-party app is needed to access iCloud storage from Android devices.

More information: Apple iCloud

The deal: 10GB free cloud storage

Details: Backblaze offers personal computer backup and business cloud storage services. But it also has an offer for 10GB of free cloud storage. Additional storage is $0.005/GB/month. There is a limit in the free version of 1GB downloaded per day. Mac and PC backups are $5 per computer per month, or $50 per year. Business plans start at $5 per computer per month, or $5 per month per TB.

More information: Backblaze pricing

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18 free cloud storage options | Network World

Best Cloud Storage Solutions For Your Small Business – CBS Chicago – CBS Chicago

With the internet of things, cloud storage has become more than just a way to conserve business resources by storing files and data online. It has become an essential business tool. It allows users to share and collaborate on projects from any location using a variety of devices. Cloud storage is also a vital component of any security system. Storing critical backups on the company server has inherent dangers, such as ransomware attacks or system failures. Keeping backups in the cloud is the best way to ensure a quick recovery. Here is a rundown of the most popular options that provide all the cloud storage features small business owners need to safely share and store digital assets.

Dropbox

Dropbox is a favorite among users. It is known for its reliability and compatibility with other services. Users can integrate with Microsoft Office Online to edit stored Word, PowerPoint and Excel files. To collaborate on a document, simply create a shared folder and set permissions. Dropbox offers 2 GB of free storage. An upgrade to Dropbox Plus is $99 a year and expands storage space to 1 TB.

Google Drive

Google Drive really shines when it comes to collaborating. The intuitive dashboard allows users to quickly set permissions for each file stored in the cloud. Gmail, Google Docs, Google photos and Google Calendar all work together seamlessly with Google Drive. With a few clicks, users can save Gmail attachments to Google Drive for storage. The first 15 GB of storage is free. Upgrades start at $19.99 a year for 100 GB of storage.

Microsoft OneDrive

OneDrive is built into the Windows operating system making it easy to sync Windows devices. Documents, photos and videos are automatically organized and tagged. Microsoft offers 5 GB of free storage. Premium plans, starting at $6.99 a month, expand storage capacity and come with the newest versions of MS Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote.

IDrive

IDrive is another great way to store your backups of files and databases. It has multiple backup and data restoration options, and file size is unlimited, which is an important consideration when doing complete website backups. There is up to 5 GB of storage available for free. An upgrade to 2 TB is $69.50 per year.

Box

Box is loaded with privacy and sharing options making it ideal for collaborative projects. Users can upload almost any type of file, add comments to shared documents, assign tasks and receive notifications when a file has been changed. Business plans start at $5 per month. This includes access for three to 10 users and 100 GB of storage.

This article was written by Gillian Burdett for CBS Small Business Pulse

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Best Cloud Storage Solutions For Your Small Business – CBS Chicago – CBS Chicago

How Secure Is Cloud-Based Data Storage? – HuffPost

Do you trust “the cloud” to securely store computer files? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by John L. Miller, Worked on several distributed and cloud storage services. PhD in distributed systems, on Quora:

Files stored in reliable cloud services are some of the most secure files you can have, provided you have good passwords. Google, Microsoft, and Amazon all provide reliable cloud services for consumer file storage.

Personally speaking, my home machines have lost hundreds of gigabytes of data (video, audio, and some important stuff) to hard disk failures. Ive neverlost anydata I put in cloud services.

Some cloud storage has versioning of files to help you recover from accidental deletes and overwrites.

Overall the cloud is a great place to securely store data.

This question originally appeared on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

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How Secure Is Cloud-Based Data Storage? – HuffPost

Best Cloud Storage Solutions For Your Small Business – CBS Detroit

With the internet of things, cloud storage has become more than just a way to conserve business resources by storing files and data online. It has become an essential business tool. It allows users to share and collaborate on projects from any location using a variety of devices. Cloud storage is also a vital component of any security system. Storing critical backups on the company server has inherent dangers, such as ransomware attacks or system failures. Keeping backups in the cloud is the best way to ensure a quick recovery. Here is a rundown of the most popular options that provide all the cloud storage features small business owners need to safely share and store digital assets.

Dropbox

Dropbox is a favorite among users. It is known for its reliability and compatibility with other services. Users can integrate with Microsoft Office Online to edit stored Word, PowerPoint and Excel files. To collaborate on a document, simply create a shared folder and set permissions. Dropbox offers 2 GB of free storage. An upgrade to Dropbox Plus is $99 a year and expands storage space to 1 TB.

Google Drive

Google Drive really shines when it comes to collaborating. The intuitive dashboard allows users to quickly set permissions for each file stored in the cloud. Gmail, Google Docs, Google photos and Google Calendar all work together seamlessly with Google Drive. With a few clicks, users can save Gmail attachments to Google Drive for storage. The first 15 GB of storage is free. Upgrades start at $19.99 a year for 100 GB of storage.

Microsoft OneDrive

OneDrive is built into the Windows operating system making it easy to sync Windows devices. Documents, photos and videos are automatically organized and tagged. Microsoft offers 5 GB of free storage. Premium plans, starting at $6.99 a month, expand storage capacity and come with the newest versions of MS Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote.

IDrive

IDrive is another great way to store your backups of files and databases. It has multiple backup and data restoration options, and file size is unlimited, which is an important consideration when doing complete website backups. There is up to 5 GB of storage available for free. An upgrade to 2 TB is $69.50 per year.

Box

Box is loaded with privacy and sharing options making it ideal for collaborative projects. Users can upload almost any type of file, add comments to shared documents, assign tasks and receive notifications when a file has been changed. Business plans start at $5 per month. This includes access for three to 10 users and 100 GB of storage.

This article was written by Gillian Burdett for CBS Small Business Pulse

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Best Cloud Storage Solutions For Your Small Business – CBS Detroit

Deals: A Lifetime Of 2TB Cloud Storage For 90% Off – Gizmodo Australia

Free speech is often raised as a defence in the court of public opinion, particularly when people are called out by their ideological opponents. Youre attacking my right to free speech! However, either through forgetfulness or ignorance, many Australians dont appear to realise free speech is not a legal right they hold.

A year after the disastrous Galaxy Note7, Samsung is back with another Note, its flagship big-screen smartphone that is the best it’ll build in 2017. Welcome to the Note8 — it’s a masterpiece, an agenda-setting phone that’s the first of a new breed of devices that could well replace your entire PC.The Galaxy Note8 faces stronger competition than ever, but that’s a great thing for you, the customer. It catches up to Apple and its competitors with an excellent dual camera, and it streaks ahead with the best screen of any phone ever. If this is the benchmark for top-end phones, I’m really excited to see what this forces everyone else to come up with.

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Deals: A Lifetime Of 2TB Cloud Storage For 90% Off – Gizmodo Australia

Microsoft Azure: 8 Ways to Save on Cloud Storage – Enterprise Storage Forum

Data storage vendors are pairing up with cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure as a way to broaden their offerings and lower storage costs for their customers. After all, the economies of scale offered by the likes of Google, Microsoft and Amazon make it hard for others to compete on raw cloud storage. But these providers offer further services to add additional value. That can be a blessing or a curse depending on how smartly you deploy them.

Here are eight tips from the experts on how to maximize the value of the cloud storage services provided by Microsoft Azure.

Augie Gonzalez, director of product marketing, DataCore Software, advises others to take small steps before they throw all their storage eggs into an Azure basket. There are so many factors to take into account that a mere reading of the pricing sheet wont suffice. You have to experience how it all works and see how that translates into a monthly bill before you can really appreciate the nuances of cloud pricing.

Explore the variables that you can rapidly adjust to meet variations in the capacity and performance of the Azure cloud storage by starting with a modest pilot program, said Gonzalez.

Plenty of enterprises are evolving all-cloud strategies at a top management level. But its up to those on the ground floor of storage to inject some reality into the equation. Those at the top are attracted by the huge potential cost savings of the cloud. They have lived through years of on-prem IT and storage cost overruns and budgetary bickering. They are keen to simplify, cut costs and move storage over to more of a utility model.

But caution is advised. Its up to storage managers to figure out tactically how to make actual savings. And in most cases, that means the avoidance of an all-cloud now approach. That doesnt mean that its an undesirable long-term goal. But in the short term, the best way forward is to find the low-hanging fruit, learn the ropes and add more cloud from there.

Identify spot uses for Azure cloud storage where its flexibility and convenience bring immediate payoff, without having to deliberate on long-term strategic decisions that tend to bog down the initial taste, said Gonzalez.

Many in IT have experience in using colocation facilities. They are aware of the way colos work and how to factor in the different elements to determine what is worth collocating and what is not. So for those less familiar with Azure pricing, yet who are being urged by management to head for the cloud in a big way, Gonzalez advice is to think of the cloud in a similar way to colocation economics.

Look at Azure the way you might assess a colocation facility, but with someone else taking care of the day-to-day chores necessary to keep the servers and storage infrastructure running well, he said. Tap the services of experienced hybrid cloud solution providers to expedite the process.

The above points all add up to gaining an understanding of all the real-world costs of cloud storage. This goes far beyond storage capacity, and delves into bandwidth, compute fees, the cost of API calls, event monitoring, and the oft-forgotten inter-region, intra-region and intra-cloud communication charges, said Greg Schulz, an analyst at StorageIO Group.

Likewise, understand the difference between ephemeral local on the instance and persistent storage, as well as other cloud storage options, he said. Its not just about blobs, objects, containers and buckets.

Schulz added that flexibility is key, and that means finding the right balance. A blinkered look only at very low storage costs in the cloud may appear to save a bundle. But the corresponding compute charges or network and gateway as well as API fees may kill any real savings. Its best to view the various services and see which one works best for you. That may mean paying a little more for storage in order to get more compute and lower latency. That might either be cheaper or gain the organization greater productivity.

Look at all of your options, including where your applications are going to be located in order to maximize cloud efficiency, said Schulz. Also, understand how licensing works. There can be pricing advantages which are constantly changing, as are the resiliency, regions and location support.

An important consideration in any cloud strategy is latency. You dont want your users to have to go out to the cloud every time they need to access data. That could mean delay. After all, the request has to come from your own internal systems, be fed over the Web to the cloud, be processed there, and then make its way back.

There are ways around this, of course. Azure provides compute resources for a premium to greatly reduce latency. Similarly, storage providers add value by taking the latency out of the process via various strategies. Nasuni, for example, has a cache-from-cloud architecture.

Azure is used to store the authoritative gold copies of all files, but frequently accessed files are stored locally in edge appliances for fast access, said Warren Mead, vice president, alliances and business development, Nasuni.

To paraphrase Scottish poet Robert Burns, The best laid plans of mice and storage managers often go astray. This is particularly the case when security is not taken into account in an otherwise carefully thought out plan to slash storage costs when heading for the cloud. The plan may save millions, but if it violates security policies or leaves the organization less in control, it wont be approved.

Many cloud storage services either do not use encryption, or hold the encryption keys themselves, said Mead. You also need to consider what authentication and access procedures will be used for cloud storage.

Again, storage providers are coming up with ways to address security concerns and give enterprises greater control. Nasuni, for instance, lets customers hold their own encryption keys, which means neither Microsoft nor Nasuni can access sensitive data. Similarly, it integrates with on-premises Active Directory (AD) implementations and uses standard CIFS/SMB protocols to present access to file shares on the edge appliances the same as traditional NAS. Access to the cached local data is governed by standard AD authentication, and the usual drive letters still apply. As a result, user drives dont have to be re-mapped, and automation scripts and workflows dont need to be changed.

Yes, caution is advisable, and Azure storage and services sometimes cost more than expected. But for everyone who has gotten an unfortunate surprise at the end of the billing period, there are many more who have reaped the benefits of cloud storage financially and otherwise.

Thats why Schulz recommends doing a proof-of-concept for functionality, management, day-to-day operations, troubleshooting and how to refine process and procedures, as well as testing performance before you leap. Also, know what tools you have in your toolbox for moving, migrating, optimizing and managing cloud services and cloud storage.

But dont be afraid of using cloud services, just be prepared and informed, said Schulz.

In other words, be bold. Fortune favors the bold, after all.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Microsoft Azure: 8 Ways to Save on Cloud Storage – Enterprise Storage Forum

There’s a lot more to the Cloud than storage these days and competition is getting crowded – Financial Post

Cloud storage was once primarily thought of as a place to keep data online securely or to host a website, but tech giants increasingly want their customers to think about what can be done with the data once its put there and, of course, to pay for services that manipulate it.

Large corporations have traditionally used servers to store big quantities of data that can then be analyzed for trends or to predict results. Now the cloud is also hosting analytic programs that smaller organizations can use to get much-needed results.

For example, a car insurance company could do instant on-site assessments: agents upload photos of an accidents damage through an app to the cloud where machine learning and artificial intelligence analyze them and quickly send back a quote. That eliminates the need to return to the office where it could take hours or days to do an assessment.

Or perhaps a small medical office in a remote community wants to do a screening for diabetic retinopathy by uploading a photo of the patients eye to a cloud-based machine-learning platform. The doctor would get instant results instead of sending a patient away to a larger city for a proper diagnosis.

The demand for such applications and others that save time and bring in more revenue is growing and the tech giants want a piece of the action.

Cloud is the great equalizer. It allows very small organizations to compete with very big organizations, said Jim Lambe, Google Clouds country manager for Canada. Historically, the big organizations beat up on the small ones, but now it is the quicker organizations that are going to beat up on the slower ones.

The worldwide public cloud services market is expected to grow by 18 per cent in 2017 to US$246.8 billion, according to a report earlier this year by research company Gartner. By 2020, cloud adoption strategies are expected to influence more than 50 per cent of IT outsourcing deals.

Google has long harnessed the cloud for its own web-based services such as Gmail, YouTube and Google Docs, but the tech giant decided to double down on the space after seeing the number of other companies that want their own cloud platforms to quickly grow.

Google said it considers itself one of the few which can properly lead the space given the high upfront cost for new entrants to develop the infrastructure, such as large data centres, needed to provide cloud storage.

If you are not already an incumbent with the DNA to do this, you cant really enter this market because you have lost the last 15 years, said Brian Stevens, chief technical officer of Google Cloud, in an interview during a recent visit to the companys Toronto office.

The size of the opportunity is well understood to be massive and Google believes this is going to be one of the biggest businesses, if not the biggest business, inside of Google sometime in the future. We feel like we are really set up for it.

Its not just Google that offers the cloud for both storage and data analysis. Other major players have existed in the space for just as long, if not longer. So far they have more market share, too.

Amazon.com Inc. helped pioneer cloud-based storage platforms by creating Amazon Web Services back in 2006. Microsoft Corp.s Azure debuted in 2010 and Google Cloud Platform came along in 2011 to round out the heavyweights, but others such as IBM and speciality companies like Box Inc. have been offering cloud storage solutions as well.

Amazon, Microsoft and Google in particular emphasize their computational and large-scale advantages rather than just their ability to securely host files.

Amazon is still the juggernaut with 40-per-cent market share as of February 2017, according to Synergy Research Group, but Microsoft is growing at twice the pace.

Google is also ramping up its efforts, opening data centres in new international markets such as Canada, something Amazon and Microsoft were already doing (the latter still leads the way with a presence in 42 announced regions).

Cloud is really driving the data centre expansion strategy for Google, Stevens said. Typically, there is a longer cycle for bringing up a new data centre, but now with cloud and, for example, places like Montreal, we are bringing up new data centres in under a year, which is pretty fast paced.

In addition to opening data centres within Canada which allows companies to keep sensitive information from leaving the country, important for regulated sectors such as banking and health care Googles myriad cloud initiatives have Canadian ties.

The tech giants Waterloo, Ont., office of about 500 has long been responsible for helping with web-based services such as Gmail, so the company has been looking north of the border for expertise as it focuses more on its Google Cloud offerings.

We have teams working here on a number of different efforts within cloud that contribute to the way that the Google Cloud platform will be successful for all of the different services around the world, said Derek Phillips, an engineering director at Googles Waterloo office and an 11-year employee with the company.

The Waterloo office is a big contributor to the success of cloud and this is a really good place for us to be as we have really been looking for other ways to make a big contribution to Google, Canada and the world.

Googles Montreal office also has engineers who work on cloud-related products (and others), but Waterloos advantage is its proximity to the University of Waterloo, one of the tech giants top schools for recruitment.

Canada is well positioned as a big contributor in this space. People have heard a lot about the cloud and they dont really know exactly what it means, Phillips said. There is a lot of ways Canada can contribute here and one way is on the engineering side and being involved in what is developed, how these things come together and how it serves customers all around the world.

The battle in the cloud is still in its early stages, but it is already fierce. Companies such as Google and Microsoft are playing catch-up with Amazon, but say their platforms have more appeal because they are companies known for their machine learning, artificial intelligence and algorithms. Amazon, though the market-share leader, isnt necessarily the first company that comes to mind for big data analysis.

Google also releases the source code to some of its cloud platforms for others to see, use and build upon, hoping to create a better end product and be recognized as a company that cares about the space, even if that means people take the code to a competitors service.

The company said it is important to be welcomed in the open-source community first and then business will follow.

We could have just said we have the best machine learning technology and you can only use it on Google Cloud. Instead we said no, we are going to open it up, Stevens said, adding that the response has been positive.

That gets you to a place where it has long-term sustainable impact for the end user and for us.

Financial Post

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There’s a lot more to the Cloud than storage these days and competition is getting crowded – Financial Post