Tiered Storage and Cloud Archiving

As unstructured data grows exponentially, so do the associated storage and management costs. The data an organisation holds, though, varies tremendously in importance - as much as 70 per cent typically has no business value. It makes no sense to leave redundant, obsolete and trivial data clogging up primary storage space.

Tiered Storage and Cloud Archiving

As unstructured data grows exponentially, so do the associated storage and management costs. The data an organisation holds, though, varies tremendously in importance - as much as 70 per cent typically has no business value. It makes no sense to leave redundant, obsolete and trivial data clogging up primary storage space.

The Benefits of Data Tiering

Tiered storage allows an organisation to ensure that data resides on the appropriate, cost-effective storage technology.

Several factors determine this decision:

  1. how often data is accessed
  2. how secure it needs to be
  3. the cost of storing it there

To address these varying requirements, there are several different storage options.

  • 1
  • Flash storage - for high value data

    Typically for smaller data sets, where top performance is required. In this instance the higher cost of storage is less of an issue.

  • 2
  • Magnetic media or SAS/SATA drives - for medium value data

    Usually holds medium-performance data, precluding it from being on a less accessible cheaper tier.

  • 3
  • Private object storage –for rarely accessed data

    A more cost-effective way of storing larger data sets that are less frequently accessed.

  • 4
  • Public Cloud – for data that is almost never accessed

    A long-term archiving solution where speed of access is low down the list of priorities. Retrieval of data will come at a cost, but expectations are that this will rarely happen.

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Data Tiering

The movement of data between different options is known as data tiering. It is typically controlled, automated and policy driven, usually without the end user application being aware of it.

In most cases organisations select the top two tiers for structured data sets – e.g. applications and data sources such as Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) databases, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), email systems and virtual machines.

Larger unstructured data sets are increasingly being offloaded onto the cheaper tiers because cost of storage rather than performance is the over-riding consideration.

Not All Cloud Archiving Providers Are Created Equal

Calculating the true cost of archiving

Archiving solutions files has have traditionally been tape based. Many organisations with petabytes of data to archive regard it as the most cost-effective method and are often reluctant to switch to the cloud. This is because tape itself is cheap. The true price a business pays for archiving, though, can only be calculated after factoring in the cost of administering tapes. Tape is typically taken away and stored offsite in a vault. The result is that it is not connected to a network. The subsequent delay in recovering or gaining access to data archived in this way makes organisations wary of archiving anything for fear of it being needed. So only really old data is archived, putting a strain on primary storage. Tape also has a finite lifespan and eventually the time will come when the data will need to be migrated to new media to ensure that its integrity remains intact.

Archiving solutions

Just having data secure and backed up is no longer enough for organisations. In the modern world there is a need to have it all instantly available too . . . and that means, 24/7, no matter where it is. There are many good reasons why this is the case - be it for all-encompassing data-insight initiatives, the close transparency required by GDPR or the growing threat of ransomware or other issues causing sudden DR scenarios. Unfortunately if data is rarely accessed, it can often find itself caught within archaic, catch-all company data policies or legacy IT systems, compressed and stored away with little chance of it being easily found, let alone instantly accessed. Whereas tape retrieval is measured in business days, data hosted on cloud-based storage can be accessed in seconds.

Data tiering to the cloud

A cloud-based service can eliminate the need to spend hours each week physically managing the data archiving process or securing and transporting tapes. The organisation’s IT team is then free to work on more important projects—rather than monitoring and maintaining the archiving process. Public cloud services are especially attractive as an option because they provide accessibility and data preservation features for only a fraction of the cost of building an on-site archiving infrastructure. However, there are other considerations an organisation will need to take into account. Will public network access mean a bottleneck when reading and writing data to public cloud platforms, and how will data retrieval times be affected? Are there any industry regulations stipulating that certain data sets must not be stored in the public cloud? Are there additional network bandwidth costs that the public cloud service provider will seek to apply for data downloads? Has the cost of storing large quantities of data in the cloud been fully evaluated against on-premise cloud storage?

A cloud-based service can

Will public network access mean a bottleneck when reading and writing data to public cloud platforms, and how will data retrieval times be affected? Are there any industry regulations stipulating that certain data sets must not be stored in the public cloud? Are there additional network bandwidth costs that the public cloud service provider will seek to apply for data downloads? Has the cost of storing large quantities of data in the cloud been fully evaluated against on-premise cloud storage?

Not all cloud archiving providers are created equal

Modern cloud archiving services deliver all the benefits of the cloud PLUS the best features usually only found with on-premise archiving – such as minimal impact on bandwidth and no impact on users. Another major consideration when choosing a cloud-based archiving solution is to ensure ownership of data is retained and the service provider does not have access to it. Cloud-based technology now exists that enables data to be accessed and streamed on demand. Crucially there is no need for users to receive training or change behaviour at all.

Modern cloud archiving

Organisations evaluating cloud-archiving options may want to consider a solution that requires no IT involvement to retrieve data with no delays or special processes for end users accessing data. When it comes to accessing data, prioritised recovery is key. Ensure there’s minimal impact on bandwidth and that there’s no waiting for what needs retrieving. The performance and overall experience should remain the same for the user. The solution provided by UK data management provider Redstor, Redstor’s file archiving software for example, prioritises even bits of files or databases as they’re accessed, ensuring very large files can be accessed instantly as if they are stored locally. Regardless of chosen technology, it is important to ensure that there is a copy of archived data being held offsite for Disaster Recovery. Selecting an archiving technology which features strong integration with a backup and disaster recovery solution can deliver big efficiency gains from a storage utilisation and management time perspective.