Don't live in fear of your cloud storage provider going under
The announcement last month that cloud storage provider Nirvanix was closing up shop set off a wave of hysteria in the IT world and sparked speculation about the viability of cloud storage as an option for businesses.
The fear is understandable given the value of business data. However, with proper contingency planning and a solid backup/disaster recovery plan, such a closure doesn't have to be a big deal.
"This is not remarkable -- it has happened before. Just to name a few, EMC, Sun, Iron Mountain, a lot of 'big' companies have shut down solutions -- even cloud storage solutions- shuttered divisions, and ended the lifecycle of products with a huge install base," says Nicos Vekiarides, co-founder and CEO of Natick, Mass.-based cloud storage provider TwinStrata.
"What's different in this case is the quickness with which it happened, and I think there's certainly a lot of hysteria surrounding this announcement simply because it involves the cloud," Vekiarides says.
The scale of the shutdown is large; Nirvanix hosted around 40 petabytes of data, say 451 Research analysts Carl Brooks and Simon Robinson in a report released last month. According to partners and customers, Nirvanix announced it would be closing effective September 30, giving those customers approximately two weeks to move their data.
"That is a staggering amount of data to think about moving in less than two weeks over commercial ISP trunks, especially when thousands of users are going to be attempting it simultaneously," the report says.
But most customers aren't going to move their data from the now-defunct Nirvanix cloud back to on-premise storage, and might not use traditional "commercial ISP trunks" to do so, says Vekiarides.
Just like with traditional storage implementations, cloud consumers have -- or at least should have -- disaster recovery and backup plans in place to handle such an event, he says, whether that's an off-site storage facility, a second cloud deployment to which backups are stored, or some combination of both.
"We have a lot of customers that were on Nirvanix, and what we see is no one's data is trapped in that cloud," Vekiarides says. "While the bandwidth on the premises may not be enough to move all the back on-premise, well, that's something that often can't be done even with non-cloud storage solutions," he says.
"For us and for our customers, we built in adequate bandwidth from cloud to cloud, and we've been taking advantage of that with a lot of clients to move their data from Nirvanix to other clouds, including ours," Vekiarides says.
Be Redundant: Backup, Backup, Backup
What can you do to make sure that a provider shutdown won't affect your company's data or your customers' data? Backup, backup, backup, says Vekiarides. These capabilities already are built into storage solutions today, he says, with the capability to mirror data to backup solutions seamlessly, to keep multiple copies of data, and to ensure data integrity.
"It's been a mantra for years -- back up your data. Have a solid, tested, dependable backup and recovery plan. Make sure you have the bandwidth to quickly move your data, and perform regular migration assessments to make sure that if something like this happens again, that you'll be able to handle it quickly," he says.
Assessing Future Impact
While the immediate impact on the cloud storage industry might be chilling, those most drastically affected will be managed service providers and white-label resellers who brought in Nirvanix as a cloud storage option for their customers, according to the 451 Research report.
Those taking the biggest hit to their reputations will be "multi-tenant data center providers, IT services providers and resellers. In many cases, these providers have brought in a service like Nirvanix and white-labeled it or offered SLAs on top of the service. They will take blame for lost data or the sudden disruption and expense in moving data and they will suffer for having chosen an unreliable partner in Nirvanix," according to the report.
But in the long term, the economic draw of the cloud should overcome the fear and hesitancy of many businesses considering cloud storage solutions, says Vekiarides, and the closure will also drive businesses toward larger, better-known cloud storage brands instead of to smaller, newer providers.
"The storage needs of businesses haven't gone away. Organizations' data storage requirements still are growing at 40% to 60% a year," he says. "What will change is how CIOs shop for and deploy cloud services, in that everyone still wants choice, but they'll be much more wary. There's always the need for choice among a number of vendors, and CIOs will want the best of breed. That might mean they will gravitate toward more established vendors," he says.
The 451 Research report backs up this assertion, stating that customers "burned by this are going to be far less willing to experiment with a smaller vendor or a startup service provider. Instead, they will turn to traditional vendors or larger vendors even if there's better technology available."
And Nirvanix customers aren't limited in their choice of a new provider to host their newly homeless data, says the report. "Competitors like [Vekiarides'] TwinStrata, Egnyte, Global Net Access (GNAX), Savvis and others are scrambling to nab Nirvanix customers," and there are many more options within the storage services market, including the Go Daddy Group, Mozy, Barracuda Networks, Comodo Group, Box, Dropbox, Google, Microsoft and others, the report says.
"Nirvanix didn't have any capabilities that others can't essentially match...the appetite for external resources is far larger than the amount of disgruntled Nirvanix customers will be," according to the report.
What it really comes down to is that unless you're operating without a solid backup plan, there's no need to get hysterical, Vekiarides says, and offers up RIM's BlackBerry as an example of another major solutions company entering dire straits.
Sharon Florentine covers IT careers and data center topics for CIO.com. Follow Sharon on Twitter @MyShar0na. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook.
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