Storing Data in the Cloud - Part I - Performance and Bandwidth

Guest post written by Dave W, Network Security Analyst.

 

In my last post I wrote about the security concerns when putting your data into the cloud.  In this post I am going to expand on that and get into some of the other aspects of cloud data that you need to think about. This will by no means be an exhaustive list but it should give you a few ideas.

We are going to assume for the moment that your data has gotten to the cloud service intact and that the cloud service is fairly hardened and safe.  That being the case, there are some other things to think about.

 

Performance

If all your data is currently located on your computer/device or somewhere on your local network, you can get at that data with very little worry about network resources.  When your data is out on the internet somewhere things get a little bit more interesting and bandwidth starts to become an issue.  

On a 1GigE or even 100Mbps network inside your office or home you can get data on and off your computer/device fairly quickly.  If you data is local or on directly connected external drives it might be even faster.  If your data is flying across the country or across the planet things start to slow down.  We all have to live with the limitations imposed by the speed of light.  Latency is just a reality on the internet.  If you are used to getting at that data instantly and you put it onto a cloud service, think about what that means for you and your other users.  Is it something that is going to be latency sensitive?  Is it something that is going to be really irritating or even revenue impacting if it takes a long time to retrieve?

These are issues that you can work around.  You can usually test drive services and you can try and use a service with local or at least relatively close datacenters to get the best speed out of it.  But in the end you need to figure out which data you need NOW and which data you need eventually.  

All this applies to downloads of primary data from the cloud, but let’s not forget upload times.  If you are using a backup cloud service one of the biggest issues is going to be bandwidth.  Can you get the backup to the service provider in time to meet your backup window?  Some services can be so slow it may be time to backup again before the last backup has finished.  Check this BEFORE you buy and plan accordingly.

 

Bandwidth

Another aspect of the cloud service impact on network resources is bandwidth cost.  If all you traffic was local before and you now send a good quantity of traffic to and from cloud service providers you could run into some of the performance issues mentioned above.  Some of these will be latency issues that you can’t control and some could just be straight  “size of the pipe” issues with all of the increased traffic.

If this is the case you may have to upgrade the size of your network connection to get more bandwidth.  In this case the cost savings of moving your service to the cloud could be offset with the cost of more bandwidth every month to utilize those services.  This math may or may not work out in your favor.  There are often still great savings to be had over running things yourself, however, caution is needed here.  Many cloud projects have been stalled or completely abandoned because nobody checked to see if the office internet connection was up to the task.

One final aspect of this is what do you do if you need to get your data back.  If your data is uploaded over years to a cloud service and you need to get it back in a hurry, is this possible?  Do you have the bandwidth to retrieve ALL of your data in a reasonable amount of time?  Would you exceed your bandwidth cap for the month with your ISP?  Would you have anywhere to put it and if you did would that storage space be fast enough to keep up with the bandwidth you do have or would it bottleneck before the bandwidth does?