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On-Premises versus Cloud-Based Storage

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On-Premises versus Cloud-Based Storage

By Michael Thompson, Director, Systems Management Product Marketing, SolarWinds

Data continues to grow at exponential rates and it shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

That basic fact has kept storage technology as an active pain point for IT for more than a decade. But at the same time, all that growth (and technology spend) has brought new vendors and technology approaches into the mix, including the ubiquitous cloud discussion. Thus, a good starting point in just about any IT decision making process is: Will I keep growing and maintaining my on-premises storage environment, move to the cloud or establish a combination of the two?

Here, I'll try to highlight some of the key things to consider when making that decision.


There are really two main aspects of control that come into play when comparing on-premises versus cloud storage. The first and perhaps most obvious one, which is probably why it gets much of the attention, is that when it comes to cloud storage, your important customer or business data sits in someone else's datacenter. In places like Europe, this can present challenges with local law, such as those that prohibit moving customer data outside of a given country.

All that said, it's important to keep in mind that when it comes to security, it's hard to say whether the average on-premises storage environment is substantially safer than a cloud environment for the average company. Still, you have to answer the question: Are you willing to have another organization maintain physical possession of your business critical data?

The second aspect of control is really around performance and management. If you own the storage infrastructure, you have the ability to fine tune the storage performance metrics to match the varying needs of your different applications. Some might require the ability to handle huge read I/O, others a demanding mix of read and write I/O and still others long term capacity might be the driving issue. The point is that with on-premises storage you have the ability to control performance and align it with specific application-centric needs. With cloud storage, you are part of a massive storage pool all designed to meet a lowest common denominator type of SLA. You can usually pay for a higher tier of service, but again, these won't be fine-tuned to your very specific needs.

However, for many that level of tuning might not be necessary, so this can be less of a problem and more of a benefit. After all, you don't have to worrying quite as much about the details of data security, and you don't have to have as much storage expertise.

Really, this all comes down to individual needs.

Cost Savings

Are cloud offerings more cost effective than on-premises storage? As far as up front capital cost goes, cloud usually comes in as an operational expense, so that is pretty clear. As far as total cost, however, it often depends on the mix of the tier of storage required, level of HA/DR and backup systems, level of scale for on-premises storage and the staffing costs to determine that.

As a result, the answer may be different for everyone. The other factor that often gets ignored is the cost of bandwidth-if you're moving huge amounts of data between cloud and on-premises systems, you need to make sure you factor costs associated with that into your calculations.


When you lose a server in the cloud, often you can just re-provision the image and have essentially the same server running again in seconds. It doesn't necessarily work that way with data. If your storage system dies even in the cloud, you don't have access to your data until it's repaired or recovered, unless you go to the expense of replicating it and paying for two copies, that is.

While a typical cloud provider will implement a number of measures to prevent such downtime and often offer things like backup and replication services, these will usually cost more and typically have the same issues in the cloud that they do in your own datacenter.


Some systems can tolerate high latency and others can't. Being close to your cloud provider or paying for high-speed bandwidth can help, but there are still limits to what can be done about latency. If a cloud approach would require you to move a lot of data a long ways for an application that needs very low latency, you can probably rule out the cloud out.


In summary, a couple of factors can make the decision between on-premises and cloud storage a simple one: If you have no IT or storage staff with appropriate skills or time, cloud is the easy choice. The same goes if you just don't have the up-front capital to buy adequate on-premises storage hardware. However, on-premises storage is an easy choice if your company isn't willing to let their data move outside of their control or if latency is too high for an application's requirements. However, more often than not, the decision won't be quite that simple, and will be based on a combination of factors including cost, skills and performance requirements. 


About the Author

Michael Thompson, Director, Systems Management Product Marketing, SolarWinds. 

Michael has worked in the IT management industry for more than 14 years, including leading product management teams and portfolios in the storage and virtualization/cloud spaces for IBM. He holds a master of business administration and a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. 

Make sure to also read, "Virtualization Security on the Front Lines" , "Is Your Application Sick? The Application Performance Management (APM) Doctors Are In" and "In the New Wild West of Storage, the Virt Admin is Sheriff"

Published Monday, August 03, 2015 6:23 AM by David Marshall
The Virtualization Automation Journey : @VMblog - (Author's Link) - August 24, 2015 7:00 AM
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