Have You Analyzed Your Client’s Storage Footprint?

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Every business has different storage needs. Needless to say, the type and size of the storage platform designed to support one business will differ greatly from that designed for another business. However, businesses often have one thing in common:  Over the years, they’ve accumulated tremendous amounts of storage.

When our MSP partners migrate their SMB clients to the cloud –– Or when migrating from another cloud provider (which we now see more and more often), we recommend carefully analyzing the storage footprint. Inevitably, the SMB and their trusted IT professional often find that they don’t require a large portion of the storage they’re currently utilizing.

Why does this matter? If planned for correctly, SMBs can realize the full potential of an inclusive move to the cloud without merely replicating their existing storage footprint.  In fact, they will become more organized and reduce the cost if some simple pre-migration diligence is performed.

CloudConnect encourages users to become “storage aware” – emphasizing necessary storage, while realizing that not EVERY gigabyte of data has to rest in the highly available cloud environment. A large portion of an organization’s storage footprint can usually be archived.

Storage Needs Aren’t the Same

Storage needs differ drastically between businesses and between industries. For example, professional services firms such as law firms and accounting firms, tend to have somewhat basic storage needs; requiring storage for files such as Word documents and client files that don’t necessarily demand a massive storage footprint.

Building contractors or engineering firms, on the other hand, tend to require a larger storage footprint due to large files, database files, and application files, including their Carlson GIS files that contain years’ worth of CAD files and plans, for example. The healthcare industry has even more demanding storage requirements. Hospitals, practitioners and health insurance providers need to store and gain immediate access to decades’ worth of medical records, which may include high-resolution X-rays and other digital documents – that are all safeguarded by HIPAA mandated privacy protections.

Storage Requirements Are Universal

Although storage needs differ, certain storage requirements are universal across industries and across businesses. Regardless of size, businesses and organizations all demand easy access, security, flexibility and disaster recovery. When planned correctly, organizations attain all of this organically from the appropriate cloud provider.

Accessibility for Authorized Users – Files and folders may be created and shared within an internal network for those users authorized to access and share. If required, a Windows-based desktop provides a logical and user-friendly platform for achieving this.

Separate Storage – Data and applications are protected from other users, ensuring that unauthorized users, either inside or outside of an organization are unable to obtain access.

Security – With disk encryption, data is encrypted at rest, and thus protected. In addition, an organization has the ability to provision a private domain, and therefore separating itself from the conceived dangers that have become associated with “public cloud.”

Uptime – Conforming to resiliency standards such as, high availability, redundant power sources, and redundant connectivity sources, your cloud environment is available during hardware failure, routine maintenance, or any unexpected power outage.

Data Sync Compatibility – Strong cloud platforms are compatible with most third-party storage sync services, including Citrix ShareFile and Gladinet, to name a couple. These sync services are an excellent solution for maintaining access to archived data at a low storage cost. Since the data can be kept out of your highly available and backed-up cloud environment, this lowers the cost of storing that data.

Backup – Strong cloud providers such as CloudConnect take and store snapshots of data at the virtual machine image level. The snapshots are stored as off-site backup copy and retained for the length of time specified by the Storage Policy selected. There is tremendous security in knowing that data can be restored should a virtual machine become deleted, infected, or corrupt.

Determining Storage Needs

Once you’ve determined that your client can benefit from hosted infrastructure or hosted infrastructure and desktop, the next step is to analyze the storage footprint.

Determine the Type of Storage

First, you’ll need to determine the type of storage required. For example, a SQL database that plays an integral role in the day-to-day function of a business requires high availability and ongoing replication to a hot site. On the other hand, mostly dormant data may be stored independently from the fast-moving, highly available environment. This storage is a likely candidate for an inexpensive third-party file sync solution. As a rudimentary alternative, many businesses have even been known to store such archived data on a portable hard drive in a fire proof safe.

Spend the Time

Prior to migrating to the cloud, spend at least an hour with your business owner client or the office manager to specifically determine the different types of data utilized and how each type should be stored. Every minute spent here will pay dividends, not only in managing expectations in regards to data, but also by keeping costs in check. Be prepared to segregate necessary work-centric desktop files from employees’ personal files and folders that accumulate on their laptops or saved to the server. Often, personal files and folders occupy a large amount of on-premise storage. It’s highly recommended that personal pictures and video remain on personal desktops or laptop devices, and it’s relatively easy to store these on iCloud, YouTube, or Flickr. Either way, ensure that personal files reside only on personal devices or on inexpensive cloud storage, reserving business storage for business purposes.

Similarly, archival data will also benefit from the proper home. Citrix ShareFile is a popular and inexpensive secure cloud file sharing solution that works well for archived data. For example, unlimited storage – with 100GB maximum per-file size cap – is only $100 per month when billed annually. It also integrates seamlessly with CloudConnect and it’s easy to use.

CloudConnect Storage Policies

Once you’ve analyzed your client’s storage footprint, it’s now time to select one of CloudConnect’s three storage policies: Basic, Business, or Enterprise. You can plan accordingly, since you have the capability to assign each virtual machine to a different Storage Policy. You may also change the Storage Policy if a business is cyclical or if the organization’s needs change.

Basic Policy – CloudConnect’s Basic Policy is designed for users that require the benefits of a fully hosted infrastructure and/or hosted desktop solution at an affordable price. Users gain all the advantages of CloudConnect’s robust infrastructure and limitless networking, without the high level of resiliency and backup found within the other tiers. Virtual machine images are copied off-site on a nightly basis and stored for seven days.

Business Policy – CloudConnect’s Business Policy increases data retention to 10 nightly backups and seven weekly backups, providing offsite backup copy with various retention periods.

Enterprise Policy – The Enterprise Policy is the most robust of CloudConnect’s Storage Policies. The Enterprise Policy is an enterprise-grade hosted solution with full disaster recovery. The Enterprise Policy utilizes a geographically separate datacenter location, providing ongoing replication, auto recovery and redundancy at all levels. Replication occurs at a minimum of every 30 minutes, and the Recovery Time Objective is 30 minutes, exceeding that of most enterprise-level private clouds. The Enterprise Policy is suited to any business whereby the calculated costs or risks associated with extended downtime exceed the marginal cost of the added resiliency.

Begin the Conversation

Since data is an essential part of any organization’s IT environment and a defining characteristic of that organization, proper classification and handling of an organization’s data is extremely important. Now is the time to begin a conversation with your client regarding their data footprint, whether migrating to a hosted solution or not. This way, you’ll be one step ahead regarding their data management, accessibility, costs, and disaster recovery essentials. And in case the opportunity should arise, you’re now positioned for a seamless transition to the cloud.

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