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Cloud Storage: What are the alternatives?

Lee Holsgrove explains how tape storage can work in conjunction with cloud storage to help keep your business data safe

Data stored in the cloud can and does get lost and/or corrupted.
Data stored in the cloud can and does get lost and/or corrupted.

Last year’s hacking of celebrity selfies put data privacy issues firmly into the spotlight and raised important issues about how individuals and organisations store and protect their most sensitive information. Above all, it served as a reminder that data is hot property and every organisation has a responsibility to ensure that the information it holds is secure and protected.

There is no doubt that the cloud offers distinct advantages to businesses of all sizes and should be embraced for the benefits it brings, such as reduced cost and the flexibility of remote working. However, the cloud shouldn’t be the sole method a business uses to store and back-up information, mainly because physical back-up reduces the risk of losing data completely.

Data stored in the cloud can and does get lost and/or corrupted. A survey conducted in 2013 by internet security company Symantec found that 43% of businesses have lost data in the cloud, which they have had to recover from backups*. Yet, most cloud service providers accept no responsibility for data losses in their service level agreements.

Providers of public cloud storage services quite often subcontract elsewhere, giving customers very little control over, or access to, their sensitive information. It may even be difficult for the provider itself to identify and retrieve your data from the plethora of other clients’ information.

Businesses will also need to check that their data is being stored in compliance with the laws of their country, and not just those of the country where the cloud server is hosted. Many cloud servers are based in the U.S. and operate under U.S. law. UK-based organisations must comply with the EU Data Protection Directive, which outlines standards of protection throughout the EU.

Tiered storage

Instead of relying solely on the cloud, we strongly advise organisations to adopt a tiered approach to data. It is crucial that your most important data should have a different strategy to less important information. For business critical information, we advocate using tape storage, as well as the cloud. Data stored on tape boasts a 99.99% reliability level, as well as robust security. If you use an outsourced supplier, computerised zone access, perimeter fencing and high-security vaults make it near impossible for your data to be lost or corrupted. Tape storage also provides encryption, so that should your data fall into the wrong hands (extremely unlikely in the first place), a third party would not be able to make sense of it, rendering it useless to them and to anyone else they pass it on to.

Thanks to recent innovations like LTFS (Linear Tape File System), tape storage is no longer an expensive, cumbersome option. Launched in 2010 by IBM, LTFS was developed specifically to address tape archive requirements and to improve data access times. Being an open standard format, it also addresses the concern that archived data will not be readable in the future without the use of specialised software.

With cloud security breaches continuing to hit the headlines, I urge anyone using cloud storage to perform their due diligence and, crucially, to investigate tape storage options for the most sensitive data you cannot afford to lose.

Lee Holsgrove is Strategic Data Protection Development Manager at Wincanton Records Management. WRM has over 20 years’ experience in the provision of off-site data protection services, along with secure document storage for live and archive documents, data protection, secure records destruction and electronic document management. It holds ISO9001 accreditation for quality management systems and ISO27001 for security management systems.

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