28/03/2012

By Stuart Coulson

A car with a big boot can justify a higher price tag than its capacity-challenged counterparts and in the housing market, endless storage space is a definite selling point. Bulk storage warehouses do good business charging per sq ft. The fact is, storage capacity is valuable in every sector and technology is no different.

Every computer user is constantly adding to the pile of data they need to store. Whether through text and design proposals, databases, video content or social media info, we’re amassing data at a faster rate than ever before.

According to industry reports, a massive 90% of data that exists in the world today has been created in the last two years through the growth in social media, online video and mobile GPS signals to name a few, making 2012 the year of data.

But where should we keep it all? And will we have to pay through the nose to keep it safe? It’s not only hoarders that need to consider the most effective storage solutions. Even the most ruthless of computer users gather a significant amount of data.

The 20 terabytes of data typed into Twitter each day, the relentless use of business applications driving the economy, the sheer amount of videos uploaded and watched on YouTube are all responsible. And what’s more, many are legally required to store millions of records for a given amount of time.

They say that the human brain has the capacity to manage 2.5 petabytes of data — that’s after thousands of years of evolution. Facebook after eight years contains 12 times this data at 30 petabytes. So the need for storage is undeniably huge.

Managing this explosion of data is one of the areas in which cloud technology — and its main benefits of flexibility and scalability — really comes into its own.

Flexibility and scalability are the two biggest draws of cloud to the average SME. Cloud offers a massive capacity compared to other traditional storage options including and the ability to scale up your storage capacity as and when necessary is a priceless convenience for growing firms. With cloud storage options, users only pay for what they use and there is no commitment necessary to investment in costly infrastructure. Increasing your capacity can be as simple as putting a call in to your hosting provider or altering your limits by the simple click of a button within an online control panel.

But it’s unhelpful to think of cloud storage as limitless. Users are charged for what they use — hence the use of a utility billing style model in reference to cloud. Anecdotal evidence suggests that businesses do save money in the initial stages after moving to a cloud but it eventually ends up costing more. It’s sensible to adopt a ‘less is more’ mentality when using cloud as a storage system. Saving only what you need to not only helps with efficiency but it keeps costs down.

Big Data’ and how companies use it will, according to some, be the differentiator between average and ultra competitive, growing firms. Big data, if you can find the right ways to interpret it and, importantly, manage it, is hugely valuable. Just think about the insights you can glean from access card data in terms of employee lates, lunches and absences. How about the marketing analysis available on consumer behaviour, or the transactional information that helps to prioritise products and services and leads to new product development? Finding the right way to store and look after it shouldn’t be seen as yet another business headache but as a necessary way of taking advantage of an exciting opportunity.