Even before the current health crisis began to unfold, many executives and IT personnel have been debating about the practicalities and implications of storing and processing sensitive data in the cloud. Using cloud services for the storage and processing of valuable data is understandably tempting, as it allows organizations to eliminate numerous costs and responsibilities. There are, however, trade-offs that need to be taken into consideration, especially if you are storing data which, were it to fall into the wrong hands, could have disastrous consequences for your organization.
Below is a summary of the pros and cons of using cloud and on-premise platforms for data storage.
Pros of Cloud Storage
Less responsibility for IT staff: Naturally, if you are no longer required to maintain your own servers, which includes installing security updates, taking backups, and so on, this will alleviate IT staff members of a huge amount of responsibility, thus allowing them to focus on more productive endeavours.
Less up-front costs: As opposed to spending large amounts of money on the servers and software required to host your own data, cloud providers typically charge on a monthly basis, and require no additional up-front fees.
Flexible pricing: As mentioned, most cloud service providers charge on a monthly basis. Most service providers will offer a number of pre-defined packages as well as options that allow you to pay-as-you-go. Customers have the option to add and remove features/resources, as and when they choose. The ability to dynamically adjust the available resources makes using cloud services very cost effective and convenient.
Frequent and reliable backups: As you might expect, most reputable cloud service providers will have very robust data backup protocols in place, with data spread over multiple data centres.
Cons of Cloud Storage
Requires a fast and reliable internet connection: If you have a large number of employees, all of whom are regularly accessing files stored in the cloud, a slow internet connection could significantly decrease their productivity, which will in turn cost money. And of course, your users won’t be too impressed having to wait a long time for pages to load or files to download.
Costs can be sometimes unpredictable: While the flexible pricing that cloud storage provides is in most cases beneficial, there may be circumstances where it can lead to unexpectedly high costs. For example, if the amount of data an employee can store and download is not controlled in some way, they might abuse their privileges and use the storage space for their own personal files – perhaps for storing and streaming movies. Organizations will need to ensure that they have policies in place to prevent the misuse of resources and ensure that file activity is regularly monitored. Likewise, they will need to ensure that they are covered for Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, as to not incur costs due to unexpectedly high bandwidth usage.
Less control over security: One of the biggest concern organizations have when it comes to storing sensitive data in the cloud, relates to security. After all, you are trusting a third-party with your valuable data, which means keeping your fingers crossed that they aren’t going to snoop around and use your data for nefarious purposes.
Pros of On-Premise Storage
Doesn’t require access to the internet: In most on-premise environments, data can be accessed via a Local Area Network (LAN), which doesn’t rely on direct access to the internet. As such, you are less likely to run into problems relating to the speed of your connection or network downtime. This means that your employees will have fast and persistent access to your data. Of course, not having to spend money on a high-speed business internet connection could also save money, however, this would be an unlikely scenario.
More control over security: Since the servers storing the data are only accessible to authorized personnel, on-premise storage may be the preferred option for those who are storing highly sensitive information. For example, it would probably be a bad idea for Governments to store classified information on a commercial cloud server, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they sometimes do.
More control over their servers: Organizations may want more control over both the physical infrastructure and the software that is installed it. This is likely to be the case when a company is running its own bespoke software, which may require a unique server configuration.
Cons of On-Premise Storage
Requires additional IT support: Managing your own infrastructure will either require hiring specialized IT staff or training existing staff to do the job. This will obviously cost time and money and giving existing staff more responsibility will put them under more pressure, which might affect their productivity. In some cases, support staff may be required to deal with enquiries 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which would be an inefficient use of resources given the likelihood of an incident. Providing round-the-clock support isn’t a problem for a cloud service provider, as they deal with large numbers of customers.
The need to satisfy compliance requirements: If an organization hosts their own data, they will be solely responsible for satisfying the regulatory compliance requirements that are relevant to their industry. Doing so requires training staff, conducting audits (both internal and external), producing reports, and a lot more. A failure to do so could result in damage to the reputation of the organization, not to mention potential fines and lawsuits. While using a cloud service doesn’t entirely absolve an organization of their responsibility to adhere to the relevant regulations, most reputable cloud service providers will provide security guarantees that can help them sidestep most concerns relating to the confidentiality of the personal data they collect and store.
Up-front investment and maintenance costs: Start-ups choosing to store their data in-house will be required to purchase a lot of expensive hardware and software. Both the hardware and software will need to be installed, maintained and kept up to date. All of which will cost time and money.
Increased risk of data loss: Unlike cloud storage, where data is typically replicated across multiple data centers, most on-premise systems store all the data in one place, which creates a single point of failure. Without reliable backups, a faulty or compromised server could result in permanent data loss.
Less ability to scale: When hosting your own data, if you find yourself running low on resources, you can’t just click a button and have extra resources available to you. Instead, you will have to manually install the new hardware or applications, which of course requires time, effort, money and expertise.
Ultimately, unless you are storing large amount of highly classified data and you need to be certain that this data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, you are probably better off storing your data in the cloud, as cloud storage is generally cheaper and easier to use.
Whatever you choose to do, you need to ensure you know exactly where your sensitive data is, who has access to it, and what users are doing with it. To see how the Lepide Data Security Platform can help you do this, schedule a demo with one of our engineers today.