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Thursday, August 26, 2010

How to Leverage Cloud Storage for Your IT?

Cloud Storage is a hot topic this year. Google I/O is talking about it with the introduction of Google Storage for Developers. EMC World is talking about the journey to the private cloud. HostingCon this year is almost completely dedicated to “the cloud”.

You are fully aware of what it is by now. Have you tried it yourself? If you haven’t, here are several steps to jump in. If you have, jump in in the middle.

Step 1 – Play with Google Apps, Google Docs and SkyDrive

Google isn’t about cloud storage yet. However, it is pretty big in the cloud infrastructure with the Google Apps and Google Docs. If you have a domain name, you can start Google Apps for free. If you have a Gmail account, you can use Google Docs free. If you use MSN messenger or hotmail, you can play with Windows SkyDrive.

The idea here is not to use them as your IT infrastructure immediately. The goal is to see the “Cloud” in action. Once you see them, you will have more ideas about the cloud. If you are starting up a company, you can start with Google Apps for sure.

Step 2 – Play with Amazon S3, Windows Azure Storage from your desktop

This step is more involved as compared to the step 1. In step 1, you don’t need to do too much beyond signing up for an account.  since Amazon S3 and Windows Azure Storage are both pure cloud storage with REST API only, you will need to fire up Visual Studio to write some code. You can also find a desktop client tool such as the Gladinet Cloud Desktop to mount them as network drive and start playing with the desktop integration.

The idea here is to see the latency, the speed and see how practical it is to use the cloud storage. You may also want to check your monthly bill to see the cost.

Step 3 – Play with a Cloud Storage Gateway

Now you are seriously thinking about extending your IT infrastructure with the cloud storage. In this step, you will play with a cloud gateway. The idea of a gateway is translating the REST API to CIFS protocol, so your end users can do map drive to the net share exposed by the cloud gateway.  This step is even more involved than step 2. In order to play within a clean environment, typically you install the gateway inside a clean virtual machine or a QA machine.

You can try Gladinet CloudAFS, which can be installed on Windows 2003/2008, 7/vista/xp to see how the cloud storage is transferred to a Windows File Server Share.

The idea in this stage is to do proof of concept and see how possible it can be rolled out. Also trying to finalize the use case POC in this stage.

Step 4 – Play with a Cloud Backup Solution

A predominant use case of the cloud storage is offsite backup. If you have an existing backup solution, the step 3 with a Cloud Gateway should be good enough to connect your backup solution with the cloud storage.

If not, you can try some turnkey cloud backup solutions. For example, Gladinet Cloud Backup is a turnkey cloud backup solution.

The idea here is to see how fast you can backup, restore. How flexible you can restore, which snapshot, which PC and so on.

Step 5 – Finalize Your Cloud Storage Application Stack

The Cloud Storage Application Stack includes

  1. Cloud Gateway acting as a file server, a pathway to the cloud storage (Who connects you to the cloud)
  2. Cloud Storage Service Provider (Who owns the data center)
  3. Cloud Storage Solution Vendor (Who created the technology)

This year, the 2 & 3 are mostly one entity. For example, Amazon is both the Service Provider and Vendor for Amazon S3. Microsoft is both the Service provider and Vendor for Windows Azure Storage. Later you may be able to say, I like Microsoft’s technology and I like the data center that is across the street.

Step 6 – Thinking about the Future

With almost all the pieces fitting together in step 5, now it is time to think about the future. Can you switch to a better technology later? Can you switch to a closer data center later? Can you switch to a better solution later? Public cloud or private cloud?

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