DATA MANAGEMENT

How Much Cloud Storage Do You Really Need?

August 9, 2023By Ben Bonadies

It may seem counterintuitive to ask, “How much cloud storage do you really need?” Isn’t the whole point of cloud storage that you never have to think about how much space you need? It’s endless, right? Cloud storage is infinitely scalable, at least in theory, but your budget is not. It’s therefore wise to think about how much and what types of cloud storage your organization needs and approach the work of moving data to the cloud in a methodical, measured way. 

Cloud storage is certainly on a growth trajectory. Research from cybersecurityventures.com predicts that global storage volume will reach 100 zettabytes by 2025. That will mean that about half of all the data in the world will be in the cloud. For comparison, approximately 25% of the world’s data was stored in the cloud in 2015. Whatever the zettabyte count, though, cloud storage is a big business. According to Fortune Business Insights, the cloud storage industry is on track to grow from $61 billion in 2020 to over $390 billion by 2028, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26%.  

How many of those dollars will be yours? That’s one of the questions this article will help you answer.   

Understanding cloud storage 

Before we get into how much cloud storage you need, it’s a good idea to work on a definition of cloud storage. On the one hand, that’s easy: Cloud storage is data storage on a cloud platform. On the other hand… buckle up, because this can get complicated.  

Modes of cloud storage and strategies

The first complicating factor in understanding cloud storage is the mode of cloud computing it serves. For most people, the cloud means one of the major public cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure. While AWS and Azure are some of the most popular modes of cloud computing, there is also the private cloud to consider. 

A private cloud puts a cloud software architecture and its self-service, on-demand qualities to work in an on-premises data center or dedicated colocation facility. A private cloud functions like a cloud, but it’s privately owned and managed. Unlike the public cloud, private clouds are finite in capacity. It is also possible to create a hybrid cloud that spans public cloud platforms and private cloud instances. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications like Microsoft 365 and Box.com comprise another cloud storage variant.  

Types of cloud storage 

Within these various modes of cloud computing, users have three basic choices for cloud storage: object storage, file storage, and block storage. Object storage creates an object that contains stored data along with some metadata. This approach is advantageous in situations that demand flexibility and require the use of customized object data, e.g., the storage of unstructured data.   

Cloud file storage, as exemplified by Amazon Elastic File System (EFS), is analogous to network attached storage (NAS) on-premises. It stores data according to a hierarchical file drive directory. Cloud block storage, such as the service provided by Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), is comparable to on-premises storage area networks (SANs). It stores data in blocks, as per the parameters of a specific storage device.  

Customers tend to choose their type of cloud storage based on their needs for a particular protocol and performance, as well as price. The decision was typically driven by a practice of “storage tiering,” whereby the most urgently needed data would go on the “hot” or highest performing—and usually most expensive—cloud storage, while data with slower retrieval needs was relegated to lower-performing and cheaper “cold” tiers.  

Advantages of cloud storage over traditional storage

Why would you choose cloud storage over traditional, on-premises options? Scalability and flexibility seem to be the main drivers of cloud storage growth. While there is an upper limit to the amount of data that can be stored on AWS and Azure infrastructure, in practical terms, no single customer will ever reach it. These services, along with their SaaS counterparts, are effectively infinitely scalable.  

The ability to scale up or down, on-demand, is a huge benefit. For a seasonal business, for example, the flexibility in being able to spin up a large amount of cloud storage, and then spin it down after the busy season, makes good financial sense. The alternative, which is to purchase storage hardware and under-utilize it, is a waste of capital. Cloud storage has no capital expense (CapEx). Rather, the costs for cloud storage are operating expenses (OpEx). For many businesses, avoiding CapEx is an attractive proposition.  

Cloud storage also speeds up and simplifies tasks that used to be slow and complex. For example, setting up offsite backup storage for disaster recovery was always a big project. It involved buying storage hardware, standing it up, arranging hosting and so forth. The process could take months. With the cloud, a customer can set up multiple, geographically distributed backup instances in hours.  

Security is sometimes a factor favoring cloud storage over on-premises alternatives. This may seem wrong, given that cloud platforms are not under the customer’s direct control. However, in many cases, the cloud provider is a much bigger company than the customer, and probably has far more rigorous security practices, so data is safer on their cloud storage platform. Data kept locally is more susceptible to cyberattacks like ransomware, which target networks connected to an infected device.  

Factors to consider: how will you be using cloud storage? 

Your cloud storage use case will determine how much cloud storage you need. For instance, are you planning to use cloud storage for collaboration? It may be a good idea to cloud-enable content so remote team members can easily access it. This can be critical for media production, but almost any knowledge-based organization will benefit from cloud storage of commonly used documents. The challenge in this use case is to figure out governance policies so you don’t over spend storing files from old projects that no one cares about. 

Or, consider backup and restore. The best practice is to think through everything you need to back up. Make a thorough list of all virtual machines, user data, SaaS data such as Microsoft 365, and other applications. The cloud offers an essentially bottomless capacity for backup and disaster recovery, but you still need to scope out your specific needs.  

Your data retention policies will affect your cloud storage use. A well-run organization will have some rules for data retention. For example, a company might purge customer records that are over seven years old. Compliance may affect these policies.  

Access patterns also matter for determining how you will use cloud storage. Given that some cloud storage providers charge for data egress or requests to storage application programming interfaces (APIs), it’s smart to think through your access needs. You may run into unexpected charges if you have more data egress and API calls than you predict.  

Calculating your cloud storage requirements  

Estimating your cloud storage requirements is going to be an inexact process. You’ll be dealing with ranges of storage capacity. One big question to answer up front, however, is what types of unstructured data does your business generate? Unlike databases, whose storage parameters are relatively easy to quantify, unstructured data varies by file type. Documents, such as PDFs, take less space than images, audio files or videos. That said, you may have vastly more PDFs than you do images, and so on. If you can model your needs, that will help you understand your cloud storage requirements. 

Why Wasabi is the sweet spot for your cloud storage needs 

Wasabi Hot Cloud Storage can hit the sweet spot for your cloud storage needs. With a single “hot” tier of high-performing, highly secure, low-latency storage—priced as if it were slower “cold” archival storage—Wasabi simplifies many of the modeling steps it usually takes to figure out your cloud storage needs. Wasabi has a high level of utility. It’s the optimal cloud storage service for a wide variety of use cases, from active archives to offsite backups and hybrid cloud storage. 

There is just one tier for all your data with Wasabi. It’s far simpler to deal with than hyperscaler models, with their complicated data management and tiering models. Wasabi enables you to offload infrequently used data from more expensive on-premises SAN/NAS solutions, or other storage, and avoid capacity/equipment upgrades. Storing all infrequently used data on a “hot” Wasabi cloud speeds up backup times, as well. 

Wasabi further simplifies the cloud storage estimation process by offering straightforward pricing, with no additional fees for egress of API calls. Access patterns no longer matter because there are no surprise charges. Wasabi is affordable and predictably priced. The Reserved Capacity Storage option lets you pay in advance for the cloud storage you need.  

In terms of security, Wasabi offers a distinctive “immutability” capability. Wasabi can be configured to make the data it stores totally impossible to modify or delete. It’s immutable, so accidental deletions won’t happen. This countermeasure also helps mitigate the risk of ransomware, one of the most common and serious cyber threats confronting storage managers today.   

Bottom(less) line 

Wasabi delivers what is effectively a bottomless cloud for data storage. It’s simple, predictable, and economical. No matter how much you plan to store in the cloud, Wasabi is the right choice. 

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