For example, financial services companies, by nature conservative, generally aren't going to put customer-specific data in the cloud, says Andrew Reichman, an analyst at Forrester Research. But then again, he adds, they tend to be big companies with the wherewithal to build their own data centers cost-effectively and therefore have less of a need to use the public cloud.
When you consider public cloud storage in terms of vertical industries, you have to think about security and risk, says Reichman. "Public cloud storage is certainly getting a lot of attention," he says. "But the questions are about where it can fit down the road. It's not a ready-to-go thing."
Whether public cloud storage providers thrive or wither away may depend on how well they understand two things, Reichman says: how companies in different industries use data, and how important it is for those companies to keep their data secure.
A new crop of cloud providers, including Cirtas Systems, Nasuni, Panzura and StorSimple, have developed gateway storage products designed to be flexible enough to accommodate enterprises' varying storage needs. In essence, these vendors enable users to build hybrid clouds, using local caches for data that is used frequently, must be accessed quickly, requires tight security or is otherwise unsuited for the cloud, while sending the rest out to public storage.
"If a service provider can say, 'We know your workflow. We know how you deal with your customers. We know that this data is sensitive and that data is not, and we propose to do a better and cheaper job of holding the nonsensitive data for you,' then it's much more viable for that company to say, 'This offering will meet your needs,' " Reichman adds.
Data management service provider Iron Mountain, for example, has added an onsite storage option to supplement its Digital Record Center for Medical Images, a cloud storage service for medical data. The combination gives healthcare organizations greater flexibility in crafting their access and backup processes, says Iron Mountain.
But while many providers claim that their offerings enable compliance with specific regulatory mandates, there are few cloud storage services that are truly oriented to specific vertical industries, according to Reichman. "It would be hard for me to say that there is any major vertical where core applications are moving to the cloud yet," he says.
Cloud pays off for accounting firm
"Like everybody else, our storage needs are very diverse, and there are many different reasons for putting data in the cloud or not," says Peter Henley, CIO at Clark Nuber, a Bellevue, Wash.-based accounting firm.