The Problem with Using Cloud Storage for Long-Term Data Retention – Nexsan Briefing Note

Compared to on-premises archive storage the cloud seems like an ideal place to archive data. An organization can start small, grow incrementally and only pay for the storage they are using. There is a crossover point however where it is more cost-effective for the organization to build out its secondary storage tier and store its data on-premises. There is some debate over how much capacity qualifies for this crossover point but the industry cannot deny the fact that the crossover point exists. The cost to store data long-term in the cloud also applies to cloud-native data. Ideally, at some point, the organization should bring this data on-premises to save recurring cloud storage costs.

Why Is Cloud Storage More Expensive?

The value of the cloud is that an organization can rent capacity on demand. It does not need to pay for the entire storage system that surrounds that capacity nor the infrastructure that supports that storage system. Just like renting a car though, at some point, it becomes more cost-effective to own the system that stores the organization’s data. The primary problem is that unlike compute, which is temporal, data has permanence; in most cases, an organization can’t or doesn’t want to get rid of it when the current need has passed.

Renting a car makes sense when one travels to another city and needs transportation for a few days. In most cases, it does not make sense to rent a car where you live. IT professionals need to look at data stored in the cloud the same way. Cloud storage is acceptable for short-term use cases, but for data that is inactive but needs retention, it becomes expensive. The organization is renting a car that sits in the garage.

Developing a Cloud Last Strategy

When it comes to long-term data retention, organizations should consider a “cloud last” strategy. Data in the cloud should be part of an active data set. Then as the data moves into a dormant state, IT should archive it to an on-premises archive. A cloud last storage strategy requires two critical elements. First, a data archive that is as scalable and easy to operate as the cloud alternative has to be available. Second, the solution has to provide a way to move inactive data automatically to its on-premises archive. This automatic movement includes moving cloud-native data from cloud storage to the on-premises archive, a capability that the majority of on-premises archive solutions lack.

Introducing Assureon and Assureon Cloud Transfer

Nexsan’s Assureon is an on-premises archive solution that provides long-term retention of data. Unlike many of its competitors, it also provides software to help organizations automatically migrate data to Assureon based on policies set by IT. Assureon can archive data from Windows clients and can present SMB and NFS shares for other clients to use.

Recently Nexsan introduced Cloud Transfer. It can archive unstructured data from Windows servers in Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure. A cloud-native Windows server tends to store its data on the highest performing cloud tier, which is also the most expensive. Technically, the application developer could archive data to a less expensive cloud tier, but repeated studies indicate that the data stays on the most expensive tier. Cloud Transfer moves data from the most expensive and rented tier of cloud storage to the least expensive and “owned” storage on-premises.

Data Management though is valuable for more than just cutting costs. It also provides unstructured data protection, disaster recovery and limits exposure to cyber-attacks like ransomware. The Assureon transfer clients can copy data from the source file system as data changes and remove that data later, providing a near real-time data protection capability. Compared to primary storage, data in the archive is more secure from a ransomware attack. Assureon doesn’t have the concept of a “delete” key. File removal can only occur by pre-defined retention rules. An outside process like a ransomware process can’t delete data even if it finds its way to the Assureon file system.

StorageSwiss Take

Data Management is no longer just about reducing costs. It helps the organization protect its unstructured data and may be the only viable way for organizations to meet data privacy laws like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Solutions like Assureon are a “hard target,” that significantly limits exposure by moving data from primary storage to the Assureon archive. The granularity of the storage method and Assureon’s robust search enables organizations to find and remove data when faced with a right to be forgotten request.

Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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