Cloud storage vs Local storage: Balancing your needs

An abstract image of cloud storage.
(Image credit: Shutterstock/Marko Aliaksandr)

Cloud storage adoption has been on a steep upward trajectory in recent years, with more and more businesses realizing that the benefits on offer are too good to pass up any longer. The emergence of COVID-19 at the beginning of 2020 only served to accelerate this trend, as traditional office-orientated companies scrambled to put remote working solutions in place to prevent major business disruption. 

About the author

Andrew Martin is Senior Sales & Marketing Director EMEA and Managing Director UK at Egnyte

But despite all this, there’s still a significant number of businesses continuing to hold onto on-premises storage solutions as well. Why? This article will explore why pure cloud solutions aren’t a silver bullet for everyone, and how modern hybrid solutions can help strike a perfect balance between the flexibility of cloud and the speed and reliability of on-premises.

Keeping things ‘close to home’

Cloud solutions are fantastic because they let employees access files from anywhere, at any time, provided they have a good enough internet connection to do so. However, access isn’t the sole factor to consider. Some business applications need extremely low latency and fast access to these files in order to work effectively, otherwise the user experience really suffers.

There are many applications that use Compound documents for instance that can have a number of large files associated with them such as AutoCad or Adobe InDesign, even Word and Powerpoint, where it's better when the associated files are available locally linked to the cloud service , where access and user experience isn’t governed by internet speed. As such, companies tend to use a dedicated on-premises server to host a copy of the cloud files. Doing so ensures an optimal user experience and avoids taking up too much local drive space with excessively large files.

Many companies also like to have a fallback strategy in the event of sustained internet disruption that would bring operations to a complete halt in a 100 percent cloud-based environment. Examples include temporary/remote offices on building sites where internet access and speeds can be notoriously patchy, making it unwise to rely solely on a cloud-based setup. Instead, companies prefer to centralize content in the cloud and then use on-premises servers to replicate the content between the cloud and remote sites.

These are some of the problems that businesses have solved with hybrid cloud solutions in the past, embracing the cloud where possible, but also keeping data close to home where needed. However, with COVID-19 fundamentally changing the way many companies operate, there’s growing recognition that further adaptation is needed in order to thrive in the ‘new normal’.

Adapting to the future of work

There’s currently a great deal of debate around what the future of work will look like. Despite speculation about remote working becoming the norm, it’s likely that most employees will ultimately end up splitting their time between home and the office. However, the seismic shift towards remote working has forced IT teams to further streamline their infrastructure footprints, such as servers and storage, within office buildings.

The greater geographic dispersal of employees has made it much more challenging to put infrastructure in place that can effectively serve everyone. Traditionally, companies would set up storage servers within the office and provide VPN access for remote employees. However, business VPNs are notorious for poor performance caused by traffic bottlenecks and increasingly outdated technology. Another option is to supplement on-premises storage solutions with a cloud-collaboration platform, but this can quickly lead to data fragmentation throughout the environment, causing productivity issues across the board.

An intelligent hybrid solution solves this problem, centralizing content and permissions in the cloud, while still caching the files that employees in the office need. Such an approach can resolve the ongoing challenge of quick access to the right files in both locations, as well as reduce overheads associated with cache device management.

The need to find a solution to these pain points is resulting in another trend emerging – companies setting up virtual offices on public clouds such as Azure and AWS. This approach sees the infrastructure outsourced to cloud file hosting companies and housed within their data centers. Employees can then connect to remote desktops and VDI’s on these public clouds and access content and applications similar to how they work while at a physical office.

This lift-and-shift of content and applications to public clouds helps bridge the gap of increasing storage and increasing compute requirements whilst eliminating the need for expensive and outdated technology like VPNs to access the office environment. However, it doesn’t address challenges around collaborating with external partners or sharing files with other business units. Many companies continue to use file-sharing solutions in addition to the public clouds, which still causes data fragmentation issues across public clouds and other cloud platforms.

The trend towards cloud continues to gather pace, fueled by the ongoing pandemic and a fundamental shift in the way millions of people work every day. However, migrating to a pure cloud solution isn’t enough by itself for many businesses, who still need the speed and reliability that an on-premises solution provides. For these businesses, an intelligent hybrid solution that incorporates edge caching is an ideal middle ground, offering the best of both worlds that helps them to meet the challenges of this post-COVID business landscape.

Andrew Martin, Senior Sales & Marketing Director EMEA & Managing Director UK at Egnyte.