Why hybrid cloud storage solutions may be best for SMEs

By Gary Bliss, below, Cloud Solutions Consultant, Fasthosts ProActive

Last month, a server maintenance blunder shut down 14 Toyota manufacturing plants, due to a server that ran out of disk space. This incident had a knock-on effect, as backup servers were running on the same system, preventing staff from performing a switchover and taking systems down completely.

Not only does this point towards the importance of businesses employing stringent monitoring standards and countermeasures, to ensure maintenance processes don’t result in downtime and disruption for customers, but it also begs the question: is relying on disc space outdated?

The cloud vs disk debate 

With cloud costs expected to increase by 10% this year, research shows that many SMEs plan to cut the amount of data they store in the cloud, or slash spending on cloud services. In fact, one in six SMEs (17%) are reportedly planning to move data or applications from the cloud to on-site servers. But with several concerns around external hard drives, is this a good idea?

Deciding how to store data can be an ongoing debate for small businesses. There are pros and cons for both storing information on hard disks or via the cloud, and depending on your business’ needs, sometimes opting for the best of both worlds is best.

When disk space is ideal

A strong benefit of using an external hard drive is the fact that it can be cheaper; there are no recurring fees. It’s also easy to use and better protected against cyber-attacks, as the data isn’t shared publicly via an internet connected device. External hard drives can also store a lot of data, with storage ranging from 1TB to 15TB, while offering high transfer speeds. This is ideal if you have to move lots of big files quite often.

But as Toyota learnt the hard way, there are risks with solely relying on disk space. When hard drives become too full, they can slow down business processes and make simple tasks quite time-consuming. As such, regularly cleaning hard drives is vital to maximise performance. Also, keeping unnecessary or sensitive files and data can heighten security risks. And if you’re going to recycle or stop using a computer, it’s also important to wipe clean an external disk drive, so there’s no trace of sensitive information.

External drives are also susceptible to external factors – such as theft or physical damage. Additionally, if they fail to operate, it can be costly for your business, as it would mean a loss of important data, on top of replacement costs. For businesses looking to expand and offer remote or hybrid working, relying solely on disk space may make scaling up a little more challenging. 

When businesses should rely on the cloud

To overcome some of the cons of hard drives, many businesses turn to the cloud to store their data. The cloud can remove some of the clunky operational issues that external drives can bring, by having all data in sync and accessible from anywhere, on any device. As data is stored on multiple servers when backed up by the cloud, it also means that if one server fails, you can still access your files without experiencing any downtime.

Not only does the easy accessibility of data streamline business processes, but it also improves consistency between teams, as they always have access to the same files. And, as your business grows, the cloud allows you to easily adjust the number of users with access to cloud applications – meaning you only pay for what you need at the time.

Of course, there are security risks that come with the cloud, as it’s more susceptible to cyber-attacks. The cloud also still relies on disk space, so ensuring the safety of hardware remains a major priority for business owners. After all, the cost of downtime for any business is crippling and sometimes fatal. 50% of all businesses don’t have the budget to recover from a breach of their data, and having a certified data centre is the first line of defence.

As such, making sure the service provider you’re relying on offers strong protection is vital. Cybercriminals often target businesses, especially SMEs, exploiting vulnerabilities and stealing data. Your service provider should be using encryption techniques during backup processes to make sure that all stored data is protected. This also includes setting up any infrastructures and technologies needed to perform backups to keep data safe. In the unfortunate event of data loss, system failure or disaster, your service provider should have a recovery plan to ensure data can be restored quickly and accurately. Managing your business and keeping all of your data backed up securely can be stressful, so outsourcing needs to a reliable cloud service provider can help keep risks at bay.

Best of both worlds

Hybrid cloud services can offer a nice middle ground. They rely on a local backup system that synchronises with a cloud backup. Businesses can set it up so files are backed up on a computer’s local drive, which in turn backs up to the cloud, or vice versa, where you can upload directly to the cloud from the computer, while simultaneously backing up to the local drive.

This approach allows for some sensitive items to be stored on a private server, while less sensitive information sits on a public server. Hybrid cloud services can also be customised to fit the specific needs of the business or individual, allowing SMEs to have the flexibility and scalability of the public cloud, but the security and control of storing data privately. As well as offering ‘double backing up’, data will be easier and quicker to restore via a hybrid solution, making dealing with any data-loss crises less stressful.