When it comes to a cloud storage comparison, there are so many vendors to choose from that it can be hard to decide which option to choose. For those attempting to do so, here are some tips from experts in this field of cloud evaluation and deployment.

Head To The Cloud

Most analysts agree that a headlong rush to the public cloud is not a good idea for every organization and every workload. But it works well for many storage use cases. So regardless of the various cautions, Andy Walls, IBM Fellow, CTO and Chief Architect at IBM, believes more companies will look to the cloud for their storage needs.

“The storage of data online in the cloud, where a company’s data is stored and accessible from multiple distributed and connected resources will become huge in 2016,” he said. “Storage will become an enabler to high performance cloud computing. Storage is a major component to the cloud and will continue to be a fundamental driver of performance.”

Alignment With Internal Storage

A vital aspect of cloud storage is to establish some unity between internal and cloud storage. At the same time, IT has to retain control over the data.

“Enterprises should find out if cloud storage aligns with existing infrastructure and protocols,” said Andres Rodriguez, president and CEO of Nasuni. “It’s important to avoid any cloud storage deployments that create parallel systems and infrastructure for IT to manage or that minimize its control over files and data.”

Avoid Consumer-Level Tools

There are a lot of consumer-based cloud storage products available. And a surprisingly number of enterprises are currently running them. Perhaps a department manager sent a few files to the cloud for the sake of convenience, or a sales team decided to back up their laptops to the cloud. However it happened, such small beginnings can quickly spread. And others are silly enough to try to save a few dollars by using a consumer cloud product enterprise-wide.

“During the evaluation process, find out if it is a true enterprise storage solution or merely a sync-and-share offering that harnesses the cloud,” said Rodriquez.

Employee Buy In

Robert Baesman, Head of Product, Dropbox Business, believes that the best approach to cloud storage is to consult the users. Employee adoption is one of the most critical factors to consider when selecting the appropriate cloud collaboration platform.

“If employees won’t embrace the tools being offered, the deployment won’t scale company-wide and you’ll be left looking for another provider,” said Baesman.

Think Integration

Cloud storage is one thing, but it has to integrate properly with other applications. Microsoft recommends that potential buyers closely consider requirements related to geo availability, scalability, performance and integration with existing solutions like backup, disaster recovery, and tiered hybrid storage.

Match Storage And Workload

Selecting a cloud storage solution really depends on the type of workload, advised Scott Whitright, Senior Product Marketing Manager for the Public Cloud at Rackspace. For example, Standard SATA volumes work well for everyday file system needs, while solid state drive (SSD) volumes deliver higher performance for databases and I/O-intensive apps. In some cases, therefore, it is important to pick a provider that offers different levels of storage service.

Go Hybrid

Part of the attractiveness of public cloud storage is that it can cost as little as a few cents per GB per month. The downside, though, can be added costs for such items as network transit, retrieval, and security or performance add-ons. Depending on the use case and organization, the overall price tag can spiral out of control. Care therefore, should be taken in determining what to put in the public cloud and what to leave in-house – perhaps in a private cloud.

“Hot and warm data will remain in private clouds, while older, colder data gets migrated to public clouds,” said Avinash Lakshman, Founder and CEO of Hedvig. “However, these solutions need to be smart enough to do this dynamic migration automatically.”

Cloud Security

Some cloud products appear cheap but skimp badly on key areas. With so many high-profile hacks of large enterprises, it is a false economy.

“In this day and age, it’s imperative that all cloud storage solutions reflect the most stringent requirements for security,” said Rodriquez. “Enterprises should demand military-grade encryption and stipulate that only they have access to the encryption keys.”

Go All In

Some say it is possible to go all in when it comes to the cloud. For those considering this option, the evaluation process has to be severe in terms of requirements. Kevin Liebl, vice president of marketing, Zadara Storage, believes that it is possible to run primary storage applications in the cloud without migration efforts or painful rewrites.

“Ensure that the cloud storage is data center grade by establishing a punch list of features to expect from a traditional SAN or NAS deployment and make sure to get them with any cloud offering,” he said.

For primary storage in the cloud, that punch list should include iSCSI block storage and NFS file storage, thin provisioning, snapshots, clones, replication, online migration, encryption, SSD caching, support for clustered servers and databases, and predictable performance. And it must be configurable to your needs, where you can specify drives, memory, RAID and other features.

Test The Waters

Even when an enterprise is looking at going all cloud, it doesn’t have to be accomplished all at once. Liebl advised a phased approach, taking advantage of free trials.

“Start small, prove the benefits and grow as needed,” he said.

These then are some of the vital factors to consider in any cloud storage comparison. Such a comparison is not just between vendors. It should also compare public versus private versus hybrid cloud and consider which types of storage and applications should or should not be run in the cloud.