As our work lives have moved online, so has our data. The information we need to run our businesses and understand our customers is accessible anywhere and anytime, just like the personal data we have on our own devices.
Cloud data has helped enable the freedom of remote work, cooperation among globally distributed teams, integration between our favorite apps, and a more secure backup that doesn't depend on physical storage.
However, using cloud data storage isn't without its challenges. To get the best results, there are certain best practices to get right for both small businesses and enterprises. Let's explore the ins and outs of creating and optimizing a data storage strategy for your organization.
What is Cloud Data Storage?
Cloud storage transmits and stores data on remote third-party storage systems, which eliminates the need for your own data infrastructure. Data is maintained, managed, and backed up by a cloud vendor that delivers storage space to users over the internet as a service. This is generally paid for on a monthly basis according to the capacity needed.
The most common use of cloud storage is for backup and recovery, but other use cases include software test and development, migrating data, and big data projects.
The main types of enterprise cloud data storage are file storage, object storage, and block storage. In very simple terms, this defines the way the data is organized: whether by files, objects, or blocks.
It's worth noting that it's not an all-or-nothing choice between cloud storage and on-premise storage. Some businesses choose to create local backups of cloud data to make certain folders or all data available when working without an internet connection, or as an additional backup for peace of mind.
Every Business Has a Data Lifecycle
Storage is just one part of the puzzle of managing your business data. One good way to visualize the ecosystem it belongs to is looking at the Data Lifecycle Management (DLM) cycle, which consists of collection, access, usage, storage, transfer, and deletion or purging. Automating the data cleansing process can help keep your CRM costs down and improve the quality of the data that you backup.
Like on-premise data, cloud data needs to journey through each one of these stages. As it does, there are many of the same concerns as physical data storage, including integrity, quality, and security.
While you can prevent on-premise data storage with literal padlocks and security measures, digital versions apply for cloud data storage.
You can protect your cloud data by:
- Choosing reputable cloud data storage providers with data encryption
- Implementing two-factor authentication for accessing cloud data
- Restricting user access and removing access when no longer required
- Enforcing regular password changes
- Creating clear documentation and security training for team members
Cloud data storage tends to be cheaper per gigabyte than on-premise storage at lower data levels, as there is no hardware to purchase. That said, there are long-term operating expenses that can make it a not-so-tiny line of your budget report, especially as data storage increases.
To keep expenses down and best adhere to data protection regulations, you can do an initial cleanup before backing up, schedule regular data cleanups, and pay attention to the final stage of the DLM cycle: deletion or purging.
When a customer requests to have their data deleted, it’s important to know exactly where that data is stored. If you have all your customer data in sync with a tool like Operations Hub this becomes a lot easier.
The Best Way to Back Up your Data
When you choose a data storage solution, it's important to think about how it will fit with the other stages of your data lifecycle.
For example, how will you transfer data from the apps you collect it in, such as your CRM, and your storage app? And if you need to restore your data, how will you ensure a robust recovery process?
Some organizations choose to back up all data, while others archive inactive data. You might choose to back up that data once an hour, day, or week. Your storage strategy will be unique to your company.
Considerations for backing up your data include:
- Budget for storage space required
- Frequency of backups
- Integrations with your business
- Security such as two-factor authentication
- Additional offline backups
- Dedicated archives for inactive data
- Individual user access and accounts
- Ease of recovery
Cloud data storage depends on certain factors – including company size, the security risk of the type of work and client base, and budget. The main difference between cloud data storage for small businesses and enterprises is the volume of data stored.
How enterprises can back up their data
Enterprises usually hold data on a much wider customer base, and they often have the time and budget to develop a more comprehensive view of each contact. A bigger database requires much more space, complexity, and security when backing up or archiving that data.
One important concern for enterprises when choosing a data storage system is avoiding overexposed data. This starts with user access. The 2019 Varonis Global Data Risk Report found that in 53% of companies studied, over 1,000 sensitive files were open to every employee.
The best way for enterprises to back up their data is to find a scalable and secure solution that will support their database size and complexity now and further down the line.
Some of the best cloud data storage companies based on user reviews on G2 Crowd for enterprises are:
How small businesses can use cloud data storage
As a small business, you are most likely to want a straightforward data storage solution that fits your budget and enables you to easily back up data from your other cloud apps.
However, being a small business doesn't necessarily mean you have a small amount of data. Small businesses can fall into the trap of accumulating enormous databases and can even have more disarray than more organized enterprises. Before backing up your data, clean up your database to keep things organized from the start, and even lower your storage costs.
The most popular cloud data storage vendors for small businesses are:
Both small businesses and enterprises need to consider data recovery as part of their backup process. If your database is corrupted or needs to be restored to a previous version for other reasons, there must be a readily available backup that can be implemented.
Remember The Key Components of Effective Data Storage
To store your data effectively, remember to back up clean data in a timely way that fits with your overall data lifecycle. This means looking at the data you're collecting, identifying what needs to be backed up, and understanding how you might need to recover or remove it in the future.
By storing your data in a way that reinforces your organization's wider data strategy, you can avoid common data challenges and stay efficient as you look after your data.