Benefits of On-Site Data Storage

Tips & Resources Oct 09, 2019

Tim Li

Technical Writer

buffalo terastation integrating with multiple public clouds and files


Benefits of Private Cloud to Consider Before Going Public

With data use on the rise, more and more companies are turning to one of the many public cloud service providers to meet their data access and storage needs. Typically, a lot of work and technical expertise is required to configure a professional on-site storage system for company data and applications, which is why many organizations turn towards the public cloud as a catch-all data service solution. But while the cloud has benefits for numerous types of organizations, it is easy for those switching over to get caught up in the hype, and mistakenly migrate to an all-public cloud solution without considering consequences. Buffalo wants to remind you that in order to fully benefit from a move to the cloud, an enterprise must make a number of important decisions, as it is paramount that you identify what kind of cloud environment works best for you.

Currently public cloud providers include some very famous companies and services, such as Dropbox, Amazon S3, and Microsoft Azure and OneDrive. But for many enterprises, especially SMB organizations, a private cloud created from modern network attached storage (NAS) devices, such as the TeraStation solutions, can be a much more appropriate choice. Some of the major benefits a private cloud can offer to an SMB enterprise include cost savings, flexibility, control, and security. These benefits are particularly valuable for businesses with small-scale requirements and businesses in regulated industries.


Flexibility to Meet Your Unique Needs

There is no one-size-fits all solution. While public cloud can offer scalability to meet unpredictable data access demands, they often fall short in terms of flexibility due to inherently rigid pricing structures based on feature and volume. If you need a particular set of hardware requirements or security protocols, you can only select among available packages. Because of this, an important feature of private clouds that more smaller enterprises can appreciate is the level of customization they offer, allowing each enterprise to meet their sets of technical and business requirements that are unique to them.

Depending on the size and industry of your enterprise, a private cloud environment running on an efficient storage area network (SAN) with virtualized environments not only offers you the flexibility and security of a professional on-premise data storage solution, but can also help save a great deal of money over a public cloud solution. For many enterprises, especially the larger businesses, public cloud services make sense because their servers are typically underused. However, by using virtualization, you can run multiple virtual machines (VMs) on a single physical NAS device. With each VM running its own operating system and applications, you can enjoy maximum flexibility and improved resource utilization for operational performance, all the while lowering costs by reducing the number of machines needed.

In the same line as service virtualization is storage virtualization. Storage virtualization abstracts the logical aspect of storage from the physical, essentially pooling storage among the service devices on a network, regardless of the physical hardware. As with server virtualization, storage virtualization enhances your enterprise's efficiency and agility. By bypassing many of the headaches faced by traditional data storage architectures, such as overly complex networks or high equipment costs to keep the machines compatible, storage virtualization consolidates your various storage devices on a SAN and creates a single logical storage pool that you can allocate and manage at will. For example, you can assign certain storage blocks to critical business applications to ensure continuous service while dedicating other blocks for backups. This especially makes provisioning new storage much simpler when expanding your enterprise, as instead of having to manage individual storage devices, you can simply manage your resource pool through the same storage application interface window. Storage virtualization has countless benefits in terms of flexibility and cost efficiency, but it can have downsides. For example, packing several virtual servers into a single physical server creates a single point of failure. But with the right device that supports virtualization, it should also come with advanced redundancy solutions such as data replication and snapshots to protect your NAS data.

Utilizing a SAN that supports the Internet Small Computer Systems Interface (iSCSI) is especially helpful for many enterprises. Since iSCSI operates on TCP/IP protocols, it utilizes the same standardized, inexpensive Ethernet equipment as a local area network (LAN), which not only provides the flexibility of allowing differently-branded network storage devices to integrate seamlessly on the same network, but also reduces potential costs by preventing the need to purchase specialized hardware. This ease of use is a huge benefit for businesses who don't have an extensive IT budget to work with. With iSCSI expansion, if you are running short of space on an existing server, you can simply connect a RAID-backed iSCSI volume to the network. This allows you to add almost unlimited storage to the server without having to reconfigure the network or even add additional drives, especially if the NAS device has no other drive bays.

Private cloud solutions, when set up properly, can showcase their flexibility to solve business challenges. For organizations with existing physical server infrastructures, integration and expansion with a SAN should be simple and cost-effective.


Critical Security for Your Critical Data

For any company, securing highly-sensitive customer data should be their number one priority. For public cloud, the security framework is usually provided by the third-party cloud service providers. This is seen as a double-edged sword by many security professionals, for while many major public cloud service providers offer multiple levels of security with basic considerations like virus protection and firewalls, and many are indeed up to date with the latest cybersecurity trends (and threats), your cloud is only as secure as your provider makes it. Depending on the industry and type of information stored in a public cloud, there may not be enough privacy and security.

Ultimately, security experts agree that controlling your data infrastructure is the best policy. This is an area where public cloud can fall short on. For example, in the case of a data breach, tracking and investigating the breach can be made harder tracking down the access logs. 2018 ended with major corporations reporting data breaches – including many industry leaders and tech giants – and rising cybersecurity threats such as ransomware have been affecting enterprises and even governments. In the case of a data breach, not only are you facing possible loss of revenue and a tarnished reputation, but there is also very few recourse you can seek as unfortunately, data breach litigation is still an emerging area of the law. This is not an issue with private clouds, as you own the infrastructure. In fact, the data infrastructure can be designed so that you can keep the server isolated on a network, thereby mitigating the risk of exposing your data. All data is saved and managed on servers to which no other company has access, and you can control who is allowed physical access. For these reasons, storing critical business data on a local private cloud is the most recommended solution.

And with private cloud, all on-site servers are managed by internal IT staff, which not only helps ease worries of having to rely upon another party's security framework, but also provides an important aspect of data security: redundancy. Having multiple NAS devices on-site for your private cloud builds redundancy into your data network environment, so you don’t have to worry about lost business while a server is down or inaccessible.

The other side of the data security coin is compliance. For some enterprises, new regulations have been introduced to integrate with advancing data storage technology to protect private data, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a set of policies and procedures created in 2004 by credit card companies to ensure the security of transactions using a credit or debit card, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which now includes language that mandates security mechanisms designed to protect data privacy and patient confidentiality. The strict industry regulations mean that sometimes, a private cloud is the only real viable data storage solution in order to meet with industry compliance as some public cloud service providers cannot meet the requirements.

For example, the healthcare industry has to comply with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), which outlined how healthcare providers need to secure electronic protected health information (ePHI). HITECH also states that healthcare providers, as well as any storage services and apps they use, have to meet HIPAA security guidelines. Cloud storage service providers working with healthcare enterprises have to present a business associate agreement stating that they’re HIPAA-compliant by providing basic security frameworks such as data encryption, access monitoring, and audit trails. Because not every cloud service provider can meet these requirements, security and compliance experts often recommend private cloud because of its aforementioned advantages of control and flexibility over public cloud for the healthcare industry.

While any cloud environment requires robust data encryption and other security features, a private cloud runs on physical machines in your own environment, which makes security easier to enforce both on the physical and the network levels. We strongly advocate keeping your essential business data secure on a private and only explore public cloud options for data meant for public access.


Saving You on Costs Both Visible and Hidden

For any company, the total cost of ownership (TCO) is the key metric to measure operating costs. As your business grows, your IT resources will need to grow too to accommodate for essential applications and required data storage needs. One of the primary benefits of public cloud most organizations agree on is the low cost when it comes to volume data services, and depending on the size and structure of the organization, this is undoubtedly true. With modern developments of public cloud service providers, any enterprise can easily tap into low-cost, pay-as-you-go service plans without having to set up a storage network, which seems like a very attractive option to lower the TCO of a data network. However, despite the rising number of public cloud services and providers available, a cloud platform is not always the most cost-effective solution for data storage.

Enterprises who adopt full-cloud solutions often face the issue where over-relying on public cloud without carefully accounting for easily-forgotten fees will result in an IT budget that could quickly spiral out of control with increased usage and access, negating any benefits or even profits. A common example is when there is a sudden spike in traffic, or never turning off access to an application for remote operations: if they are not accounted for during resource planning, you could be stuck with a large bill out of budget. Many enterprises have found that uneven bandwidth costs, exponential storage purchases, and ongoing application license fees can add up, reducing the scalable efficiency of public cloud. For smaller enterprises especially, public cloud solutions often cannot provide mass-storage savings, which is why businesses with predictable traffic levels often turn to an efficient local storage area network as their private cloud to offset costs.

With a private cloud, storage virtualization helps reduce both the capital and ongoing costs of storage. This is why smaller enterprises should definitely consider investing in an iSCSI storage area network for flexible, high-performance storage solutions. By building an ISCSI SAN, you can still meet your data storage and access needs without having to invest in an expensive data center or professional network. Storage virtualization helps you pool your resources, which maximizes device efficiency, allowing you to do more with less devices and enjoy reduced power and cooling costs. Setting up a SAN as your on-premise data storage solution also helps you escape the trap of constantly buying a lot of disks and drives into a patchwork of servers, which results in a network management nightmare. Instead, the flexibility of iSCSI means you can have near-infinite data expansion, utilizing nearly any device brand and capacity, on one network for easy and smooth management without having to deal with hidden or spiking public cloud costs such as hosting and bandwidth fees.

The last aspect of private cloud savings that most enterprises do not consider is that, with more robust security features, keeping a private cloud for essential business data can actually lower your business continuity and disaster recovery costs. Most TCO calculations don’t factor the profits lost when a business is experiencing downtime due to common maintenance tasks such as scheduled backups. A storage area network with multiple redundant NAS devices enables system maintenance tasks and smooth backup operations without causing any downtime, and data migrations during infrastructure upgrades are both easier and far less disruptive on private cloud, ensuring your business continuity.


Controlling Your Data Infrastructure for Your Best Interests

The key to maintaining your data security, controlling costs, and enjoying the flexibility a private cloud affords is control. By controlling your equipment and your data resources, and maintaining them in a private environment, IT teams can easily manage and deliver resources while mitigating risk and boost security. Especially when compared to a scenario where your enterprise entirely relies upon a public cloud where many factors and conditions are beyond your control, having your private cloud is the best foundation as a data access and storage infrastructure.

Because private clouds are hosted on-site for many smaller enterprises, this gives them the ability to adjust the environment to meet their needs and at the same time allows them to quickly intervene should something disrupts business operation. The IT team can also more easily monitor network operations, and predict – and troubleshoot – problem areas such as network bottlenecks much faster than waiting for a remote solution to be delivered. Ensuring business continuity is a difficult task that can be made infinitely worse if you don't own your data infrastructure. And if something happens with your cloud data service provider - whether they go down temporarily or worse, closes their business - why go through the long, painstaking hassle of migrating your critical business data to a new cloud? On a private cloud you maintain control, and set your own security and privacy parameters.

Business continuity is especially important if you need to recover from data failure. While regular backups are a necessity, they are not a failsafe for continuous business uptime. Many enterprises will factor in maintenance, but not extended downtimes that can result from both internal and external factors. Regardless of on-premise or cloud backups, data recovery is often a lengthy process, with full data recovery often taking hours or even days, and that is downtime businesses cannot afford. With a local NAS for data redundancy, you can mitigate this risk by having a backup plan – and device – on hand at all times.


The Best Data Solution for You

At this point, you can see that there is no perfect, one-solution-fits-all data service and storage solution to meet an organization's needs. While many larger enterprises may reap the benefits of broad data storage savings of public cloud, some SMB organizations may not have the infrastructure or resources to truly benefit from public cloud. To determine if it will benefit from deploying a private cloud, an organization should evaluate its cost and security protocol requirements, as well as the applications, data services, and storage needs of their enterprise, and determine which cloud environment is best suited for them.

Once an organization knows their data needs, it can determine whether a private cloud will best suit them. With so many services and conveniences, the ideal solution many businesses are adopting is actually a hybrid cloud, which Buffalo considers to be the "best of both worlds" solution that integrates the broad cost-effective savings of public cloud along with the flexibility and security of private cloud. A good private cloud based on solid NAS devices should always be a foundation for an ideal hybrid cloud solution to address business challenges.

Buffalo can help you determine your cloud needs and priorities. Contact us and let us help you evaluate your data service and storage needs, and whether our NAS solutions and their scalability options can solve your business challenges.



Tim Li

Technical Writer