Cloud Storage—Bursting Through the Hype 

 
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By now, you have definitely heard:  Cloud is clearly the next big thing. But, is it just hype? Do cloud and cloud storage really deliver on the promise of cost savings, faster deployment times, and scalability?

Looking Closely at Cloud

To understand the value of cloud, you must first understand the technology behind it. A recent article in Forbes reports:  “Cloud computing, as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology is a model for enabling ‘convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources’.”1

By most reports, cloud goes way beyond an emerging technology trend. What’s actually happening is that the very manner in which companies conduct business is changing: “Cloud computing is often referred to as a technology. However, it is actually a significant shift in the business and economic models for provisioning and consuming IT that can lead to significant cost savings.”2

Simply put, cloud gives companies a way to expand their IT resources without making significant upfront IT capital expenditures. And that’s a good thing, because infrastructures simply cannot keep up with the amount of data being generated. That’s what we found when we dug a little further.

Keeping Up With Information

Much like data, at DiCicco, Gulman and Company, the digital universe of information is exploding, and there’s simply no place to put it. The vast amount of email, Word documents and spreadsheets that the enterprise encounters is growing so fast, there simply is not enough data storage equipment to house it. Analyst firm, IDC reported that the digital universe of information was expected to reach 2 zettabytes in 2011.3 This is nearly twice the number reported in 2010.

IDC also expects stored data to double every two years: “The amount of data being stored is more than doubling every two years, and could grow 50 times by 2020, showing the need for new ways to manage data and derive value from it…The new survey has serious implications for those who store and manage data.”4

Need some perspective? Well, IDC offers ways to think about 1.8 zettabytes of data in other terms. How about the following:

  • Three tweets per minute from every person in the US for 26,976 years
  • More than 215 million high-resolution MRI scans per day for everyone in the world
  • A pile of data and information 25 times larger than Mt. Fuji

That’s a lot of data. And, DiCicco and Gulman was feeling it and decided that, perhaps, cloud storage was the solution.

Cloud by the Numbers

Driven by the explosion of data, the cloud market is responding. Recently, Forrester Research estimated that the cloud computing market will reach US $241 billion by 2020.5 That is an increase of US $200 billion in just 10 years. IDC reports that spending on equipment for both public and private cloud storage systems will hit US $72.9 billion by 2015.6 And looking at the expanding digital universe, it is not hard to see why companies are making the investment.

DiCicco and Gulman knew that there was something there. It knew cloud storage would reduce the need for physical storage. This would mean less capital expenditures and the ability to scale faster, bigger. Businessweek even said that it is time for companies to actually believe in the hype that is cloud storage:  “With most emerging technologies, the hype is bigger than the reality. A welcome exception is cloud storage, which is enabling many organizations to achieve major economies of scale and greater control of growing data volumes. Companies of all sizes can reap the benefits of cloud storage.”7

That sounds great in theory, but does it work in the real world? Could cloud storage really transform DiCicco and Gulman’s business and drive these cost savings? The team at the firm certainly thought so, and set out to try.

A Brief History

Based in Woburn, Massachusetts, USA, DiCicco, Gulman and Company is a public accounting and business advisory firm in New England. With more than 100 employees, it specializes in helping privately held companies become successful.

For years, the firm’s IT environment relied on the tried- and-true physical infrastructure. During that time, it spent a lot of time changing, storing, cataloging and testing tape-based storage. This caused problems for a number of reasons.

First, the IT department is run very lean—with only three employees managing the entire infrastructure. Second, and perhaps more important, were the security and disaster recovery issues. The firm handles sensitive financial information. Critical data of billions of dollars of transactions are regularly stored and managed by the enterprise’s accountants. If any of this information is lost or compromised, it could spell disaster for the enterprise. Just look at the industry in general.

An article in USA Today estimates that US businesses stand to lose more than US $18 billion per year due to data loss. The article also points out that 70 percent of all business people have experienced data loss.8 This can be due to disk failure, accidental deletion, viruses, data breach or natural disaster. But, it is not just about the direct costs. For most enterprises, every piece of lost data means lost business.

Beginning the Journey

DiCicco and Gulman’s journey to the cloud started several years ago. The enterprise began using electronic documents because they made life easier, but realized a significant strain was placed on storage capacity. Tapes run out, they are hard to restore and they are not very reliable. Additionally, the firm needed to upgrade its backup and disaster recovery planning to meet higher standards for protection. At this point, the enterprise began exploring options for cloud backup.

Immediately, it became apparent that not all cloud solutions were created equal. Technology needed to provide adequate storage capacity, while costs down. After exploring numerous options, Venyu’s cloud-based enterprise backup and storage proved to be the most effective fit to achieve the enterprise’s cost-efficiency and security goals. Venyu’s RestartIT platform can work across Windows, virtualized servers and IBM equipment, allowing companies to put a solid recovery plan in place in the event of a disaster.

Calculating Results

The great thing about this project is that it made DiCicco and Gulman’s transition away from tape easy. There was one secure storage device delivered to the facility. The staff loaded the device with the entire contents of the network. This served as the starting point for the backup process.

The team at the firm saw the results of the new cloud storage system right away. Immediately, the team sent gigabytes of highly sensitive encrypted data to the cloud using deduplication and compression to keep costs down. The system eliminated the painful process of keeping up with old tapes—meaning no more digging through boxes of tapes to change, store, catalog and test.

Furthermore, the burden of backup was now eliminated. All backups are automatically created over the Internet and placed into a secure cloud environment using data deduplication. The process monitors each file, recognizes when it is changed, and only transmits those pieces of the file altered. The enterprise has also placed management of the backup process, including server provisioning, file transfer scheduling and process management, with the web-based Venyu management console.

Finally, there is a disaster recovery plan in place that lets the team sleep at night. The enterprise has weathered a significant number of natural disasters over the years, including hurricanes, ice storms and tornadoes. With an offsite disaster recovery plan in place, the firm can continue its day-to-day operations without worrying about “what if.”

Moving Forward

DiCicco and Gulman’s road to cloud storage was not easy, but it is already saving the enterprise hundreds of hours of manual labor each year. The up-front investment has paid for itself, and now the enterprise can focus on goals more critical to its business. The firm has completely transformed the old backup system into a modern, highly-effective component of its overall disaster recovery strategy.

Cloud-based storage is significantly transforming the manner in which businesses protect, access and restore their critical data and information. Based on our experiences at DiCicco and Gulman, it is a project that should immediately move to the top of any enterprise’s to-do list.

Endnotes

1 Jackson, Kevin L.; “The Economic Benefit of Cloud Computing,” Forbes, 17 September, 2011, www.forbes.com/sites/kevinjackson/2011/09/17/the-economic-benefit-of-cloud-computing/
2 Ibid.
3 Kovar, Joseph F.; “IDC Digital Universe Study: Issues, Opportunities From the Data Explosion,” CRN, 28 June 2011, www.crn.com/news/storage/231000629/idc-digital-universe-study-issues-opportunities-from-the-data-explosion.htm;jsessionid=-d-9Gy0x6GBZG7TY9sEzcg**.ecappj01
4 Ibid.
5 Kirilov, Kiril; “Cloud Computing Market Will Top $241 Billion in 2020,” CloudTweaks, 26 April 2011, www.cloudtweaks.com/2011/04/cloud-computing-market-will-top-241-billion-in-2020/
6 Op cit, Kovar
7 Echols, Jeff; “Why Cloud Storage Is Feasible in 2010,” Businessweek, 31 March 2010, www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/tips/archives/2010/03/why_cloud_storage_is_feasible_in_2010.html
8 Armour, Stephanie; “Lost Digital Data Cost Businesses Billions,” USA Today, 12 June 2006, www.usatoday.com/tech/news/computersecurity/2006-06-11-lost-data_x.htm

Rico Barrasso is IT manager at DiCicco, Gulman & Company.

Matt Wallace is vice president of marketing, research and development at Venyu.


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