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How to Avoid Data Prisons in Proprietary Cloud Archives

Ready for a data jailbreak? Here's how to keep your cloud data from being trapped.

Cloud archiving has come a long way in recent years. Back before cloud archiving was available to companies, the only game in town was pricey on-premise archiving solutions that allowed companies to keep data stored in their own data center so they could control it. With these solutions, software vendors honed in on industries such as financial services that faced strict regulatory compliance requirements for data archiving -- for example, SEC and FINRA in the finance industry. Yet although organizations initially felt stuck with on-premise archiving, many soon realized two major drawbacks of such solutions: cost and complications.

Evolving Problems

Enter proprietary cloud archiving solutions. These platforms originally seemed like a nice alternative to on-premise system vendors, particularly for regulated companies needing to meet stringent compliance requirements. By relying on a third-party cloud provider, companies could take this cumbersome item off of their "to do" list and feel confident that they were meeting all of their regulatory requirements.

However, problems began to surface with these solutions as well. Because the platforms were designed as proprietary systems, it wasn't easy for clients to leave them once they began archiving data there. In fact, these cloud archiving solutions quickly developed the reputation of being "data prisons," because many of these proprietary clouds came with vendor lock-in schemes. These schemes ensured that companies would have to pay a steep price if they wanted to leave for freer pastures. Two of the most annoying and expensive tricks used by cloud vendors were:

  • Data conversion. In this common scheme, customer data would be converted into a proprietary format that rendered it impossible to use once removed from the vendor's cloud. Yes, the company could get their data re-converted back into its original format, but to do so it would be required to pay a hefty "conversion" fee. One company I spoke to said their vendor's fee was $50 per gigabyte to back-convert their data. Another (unforeseen) issue is that data in the new format may use non-standard formats, making it impossible for you to run data analytics apps against it.

  • Data throttling. Another scheme favored by proprietary cloud vendors was one that made it difficult and financially impractical for customers to move to a competing cloud. The vendors would simply throttle the customer's data export speed so that if an existing client did want to migrate to a competitor, the process could take months or even years. Between the glacially paced migration timeframe and the overpriced export charges, clients felt shackled to their current proprietary cloud.

Avoiding Vendor Lock-Down with Public Clouds

Fortunately, there are now better solutions available so companies can maintain complete control of their data while archiving it in its original format. The emergence of huge open-standard public cloud platforms has allowed companies to free their data from the chains that previously bound it. The Azure Cloud from Microsoft is one example of this, as are Google Cloud and Amazon's AWS. All of these public cloud solutions enable organizations to maintain their locus of control for their cloud instances and to improve their information governance, eDiscovery, records management, and data analytics because these platforms allow third-party applications to sit compatibly on top of the cloud and enable these functionalities.

Let's take the Azure Cloud as an example. This platform's extensive suite of services helps third-party vendors build next-generation functionality into their apps. If you're the customer, hen your data is stored in your own Azure subscription so you avoid the proprietary cloud vendor's lock-in schemes. What's more, because Microsoft frequently adds new services to their technology stack, this is another big benefit of third-party vendors creating native Azure applications.

Today's open standard public cloud solutions offer archive customers the best of both worlds. Non-proprietary cloud archiving solutions provide not just a highly secure and compliant intelligent archive, but also an affordable solution. Benefits of non-proprietary cloud archives include the ability to:

  • Work within your own cloud tenancy to store, index, search, and manage large amounts of unstructured data

  • Create containers to store/manage data in its native format, so you never have to pay a ransom to get it back

  • Store data in the most appropriate storage tiers -- Hot, Cool, and Archive

  • Keep direct control of your company's sensitive data, which is held in your cloud tenancy, rather than handing it over to a vendor's proprietary cloud

  • Protect data using your encryption keys

A Final Word

By choosing the open cloud, you can meet your data storage and long-term compliance needs while staying free from proprietary clouds' data prison for good.

About the Author

Bill Tolson is vice president of marketing at Archive360. Tolson has more than 25 years of experience with multinational corporations and technology start-ups, including over 15 years in the archiving, ECM, information governance, regulations compliance and legal eDiscovery markets. Prior to joining Archive360, Bill held leadership positions at Actiance, Recommind, Hewlett Packard, Iron Mountain, Mimosa Systems, and StorageTek. Bill is a frequent speaker at legal, regulatory compliance, and information governance industry events and has authored numerous articles and blogs. Bill is the author of two eBooks: “The Know IT All’s Guide to eDiscovery” and “The Bartenders Guide to eDiscovery.” He is also the author of the book “Cloud Archiving for Dummies” and co-author of the book “Email Archiving for Dummies.” Bill holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from California State University Dominguez Hills.

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