Best practices for cloud storage optimization vs. repatriation

Some IT organizations have decided to relocate their data storage from the cloud to on-site platforms for reasons such as cost and security concerns. In many cases, though, cloud storage optimization might be the better bet over repatriation.Organizations should carefully analyze the cloud storage environment first to decide how they will proceed regarding location. If cloud storage optimization is the way forward, use the cost and operational best practices below.
Strategies for storage optimization discussions
The following activities can help organizations analyze cloud storage optimization vs. repatriation:

Review why the organization originally moved to a cloud storage environment and how the original circumstances have changed, if at all.
Examine how the cloud service provider (CSP) handles the organization’s storage requirements and service billing.
Review items such as performance logs, data from storage monitoring, storage costs and how CSP pricing models may have changed.
Notify the CSP that the organization is reviewing the service arrangement. Determine if and how the provider is willing to participate in the review and support the ongoing relationship.
Examine the history of the CSP’s performance using all available performance data to identify opportunities for improvement. Be prepared to share evidence with the CSP relating to its performance.
Examine how costs might change if storage resources move back to the company. Determine the financial benefits, if any, of repatriation.
Examine how moving storage systems back to the company might impact physical space requirements. The organization may need additional floor space for storage racks, for example.
Examine how a return of storage systems to the company may impact IT staffing. The organization may need additional employees.

If the organization decides to launch a cloud storage optimization project, ensure senior management approves it. Define an acceptable level of annual savings and improved efficiency.
Results from the analysis may indicate an alternate arrangement, such as a hybrid platform of cloud and on-site storage, is the cheapest arrangement.
As with any complex operational IT change, review plans and rationales for proposed decisions with senior management.

Suggested practices to optimize cloud storage
Review these best practices with the CSP to ensure it can handle the changes.

While cloud storage optimization opportunities typically revolve around costs, CSPs also offer many operational options.

Cost optimization
Cost is continually at the top of the list of cloud storage concerns. These activities can help optimize and better control cloud storage costs:

Truly optimizable costs can be linked to a specific business activity. Recognize, however, that some cloud costs are untraceable; they are such small amounts that they are not worth assigning to a specific business expense.
Determine if the current cloud vendor offers predictable pricing and any other pricing options.
Identify any unused resources the organization can delete from the bill. Consolidate resources where possible for better efficiency.
Ensure that the cloud storage resources in use are appropriate for the business. Change or delete them if they are inappropriate.
Determine the most appropriate configuration of storage resources for an application or workload along with supporting data management requirements. Define the storage infrastructure that provides the best performance at the lowest price.
Data management also means the destruction of records that are no longer needed. Ensure that the organization destroys data according to data management policy, as it helps reduce storage capacity requirements and associated costs.
Review and update storage budgets to better reflect the reality of cloud storage costs.
Consider using reserved instances that may result in pricing discounts by paying for a pricing scheme upfront and using it for a specific period.
Explore savings plans, such as those offered by AWS, that offer further discounts.
Change from a multivendor deployment to a single vendor to potentially cut costs. A single-vendor strategy could generate discounts through large storage purchases. The use of multiple vendors reduces the risk of vendor lock-in, however.
Consider using software, possibly from the CSP, that monitors cloud spending and offers suggestions for reducing costs. Spot by NetApp, for example, continuously monitors and analyzes cloud performance as part of its efforts to optimize cloud services and other resources.

Operational optimization
While cloud storage optimization opportunities typically revolve around costs, CSPs also offer many operational options.
Watch for storage optimization in access control, cybersecurity, data management, disaster recovery, data protection and privacy. The provider may price storage options separately or bundle them with other features.
Select the most appropriate configuration of storage services, and then secure the lowest possible price.
Paul Kirvan is an independent consultant, IT auditor, technical writer, editor and educator. He has more than 25 years of experience in business continuity, disaster recovery, security, enterprise risk management, telecom and IT auditing.