Cloud data storage as the name suggests is storage of data online in the cloud. An organization hires the services of a quality service provider to store its business critical data on their remote servers.  Cloud storage offers a host of benefits like greater accessibility, better backup facilities, enhanced security and better disaster recovery management among other things.  Lower capital investment is also one of the primary benefits of cloud storage as organizations are spared the trouble of running their own data centres and purchasing additional equipment to cope with ever increasing amount of data generation.

For a modern organization, the amount of electronic information produced in form of documents, e-mails, multimedia, images, etc. could be staggering.  Buying hardware equipment to store all this data could put your finances under tremendous strain.  As such it makes a lot of sense to store it in the cloud, which comes at a fraction of cost of storing data in-house, and also is highly scalable.

Experts, however, caution that you need to carry out some prior research and properly assess your needs and requirements before opting for cloud data storage.  You need to identify your needs and find out if the service provider is competent enough to comprehensively meet your data storage requirements.  

In the following paragraphs we shall look at some of the more important benefits and advantages offered by cloud data storage.  More importantly it will help you determine if the cloud storage is right for you and also help you in selecting the best quality service provider who can efficiently take care of your needs.

Ensure the service provider is up-to-date on data centre and industry certifications

Your sensitive business data is lifeblood of your organization. Their integrity and privacy should be ensured at all cost. For this you need to look for service providers who are compliant with your industry's privacy and security compliance needs.

Pick a provider experienced with your industry

Do not go by reputation alone when you are out hunting for cloud data storage service provider. You can derive considerably more benefits from hiring the services of a firm which is well-versed with your industry.  There are cloud storage providers that specialize, or at least have a keen understanding of your industry and the data you need to store.  This knowledge and experience can help them offer services customised to your needs.

Understand the bandwidth requirement and limitations

Data transfer from your organization to remote severs of service providers and vice versa require bandwidth.  Find out about the bandwidth limitation of the service provider and what is expected should you decide to transfer or restore large amount of data.

Data encryption enhances security

Sensitive business data require extra layer of protection. Ensure that the data is properly encrypted both during transfer and reception. Some storage providers may offer server-side encryption, but encrypting your data on your own might be wiser as then only you can decrypt the data.

Cost estimation is important

Asses and determine the cost of cloud storage beforehand.  Read the fine print to be completely sure of what is included in your monthly service and what features require additional expenditure. Often there are additional charges for activities such as 'put and get' (sending your data to the cloud and getting it data back), or for offering bandwidth in excess of the specified limit.

Data recovery time is important

When you're looking for a backup provider, do not forget to ask about the data recovery time. Before you commit your data to a vendor, find out how quickly you'll be able to get it back in the event of data loss or disruption, what the restore process looks like and what kind of support you can expect to receive if you run into any issues.  This is important as there are many firms who offer good storage facilities but lack adequate restoration expertise. Quick data recovery is a valuable proposition as it minimizes downtime and helps you quickly get back on your feet.

Have a backup plan in place

You leaving the service provider or the service provider going out of business are two distinct possibilities that should not be discounted.  It is therefore essential to have a backup plan that will help you move to a new cloud with minimum of hassles.