Monday, October 17, 2011

The Cloud Part 3 -- Centralized Storage versus Distributed Storage

Do you ever wonder where your data goes when it is stored in the “cloud?” When it comes to online backup, many companies store all your data in one centralized place. While this approach is simpler for the company, and may make access quicker and easier for the customer, what if the centralized storage fails? If a server crashes, or a storage hard-drive dies, having all your files in one place means losing everything. This completely overrides the point of having a backup system in the first place. As we discussed in our last blog post, what if someone hacks into the data center? This has happened at Citibank, Sony, Amazon and Visa.

Digital Lifeboat uses automated distributed file storage – breaking your files into small fragments, replicating and encrypting them, and sending them out into the cloud to be stored in multiple locations. Think of it as putting your eggs in a few different baskets, or diversifying your stock portfolio. Case in point: if you only schedule a backup to your Western Digital hard-drive, and your house burns down – you lose that data. Or if you forget to schedule a backup, and your laptop hard-drive crashes, your files are gone. With our process, your data isn’t all in one place, and it’s always accessible to you.
Maybe you keep all your documents stored on Google Docs; all your photos stored on Picasa; 300mb of CRUCIAL data, stored on Google’s cloud; none of which are backed up anywhere else. Imagine Google unexpectedly deletes your account in error, or you receive a “network server error” (much like the Amazon outage) – where would you turn?

At Digital Lifeboat, we don’t keep all your eggs in one basket, which makes your data easily accessible to you, regardless of power outages and acts of nature. We understand the nature of backup systems and we keep your crucial data safe with our encryption and online file storage process.

The Cloud Part 4 -- Rent versus Own -- Dropbox versus iCloud

Capex vs. Opex - The Costs of Storing Your Data

One of the great debates in cloud computing involves business economics and the inherent expense that stocking and running a data center entails.  You may even hear the phrase "Capex vs Opex" in this debate.  This phrase refers to the trade-offs of investing in building and operating your own data center (Capital Expenditure and Operating Expenditure) versus using someone else’s data center (Operating Expenditure) on a pay-as-you-go or rental model.  It's important to consider the financial implications of both approaches in the long run - especially since “renting” costs less in the short term, but the investments in data centers will ultimately be passed on to the end users, making that approach more expensive.  

Owning and stocking a physical data center requires capital expenditure (Capex), large amounts of space filled with computer hardware, and the cash flow to pay the power bill.  Many "cloud-based" data centers, like Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), or iCloud, still rely on physical servers to store data.  The "cloud" allows users to access programs and data as a "virtual instance" on physical servers.  Thus Amazon rents space to businesses like Dropbox, but it is still expensive.  Dropbox may not have to invest in creating their own their data center, but they pay a higher operational cost than someone like Carbonite who built their own datacenter. 

The Capex Vs. Opex debate is really a “own versus rent” debate.  But either option still has two big issues – they use massive amounts of global energy to run and to cool, and data centers are still subject to the possibility of server outages.

An article from CIO.com highlights some of the cost  issues of owning and operating servers ((http://www.cio.com/article/484429/Capex_vs._Opex_Most_People_Miss_the_Point_About_Cloud_Economics):

1. The direct costs that accompany running a server: power, floor space, storage, and IT operations to manage those resources.

2. The indirect costs of running a server: network and storage infrastructure and IT operations to manage the general infrastructure.

3. The overhead costs of owning a server: procurement and accounting personnel, not to mention a critical resource in short supply: IT management and its attention.

Money Magazine has an interesting article on security ( see http://money.cnn.com/2011/04/21/technology/amazon_server_outage/index.htm).

Of course, neither option takes into account the "true cloud".

What is "true cloud?"  

Even though Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud is called a" cloud", Amazon still has to host a warehouse of servers to make their "cloud" available to users.  This will always be more costly than using a "true cloud" service.  In fact, Amazon's "cloud" is no more than a marketing term, considering the need for a traditional data center to hold their "elastic" storage. For a service to be hosted on a "true cloud", the architects would have to eliminate the need for large, costly datacenters, completely. 

The Digital Lifeboat model is based on a highly secure peer-to-peer "true cloud" - which doesn't require a datacenter and the accompanying; computer hardware, floor space, and extra power.  This keeps our overhead low so that our service costs less than our competitors. In addition, Digital Lifeboat requires less computer hardware and less energy which makes our company greener than if we were to house your data in a large data center.).  We've pioneered a method of cloud-based storage that's automatic and continuous; self-managing and self-healing - all without a datacenter.  That's the "true cloud"; that's Digital Lifeboat's online backup and recovery service.