CCSK Guide
9Mar/11Off

Cloud Storage: Limits of the Cloud

Cloud Storage

While there are a number of cloud services that have offered attractive “unlimited” storage options for clients, it looks like the promises of limitless storage may be coming to an end. Although there has been a surge of interest in cloud-based servers and storage services in recent years, the limits to cloud computing are beginning to appear.

Mozy’s (Un)limited Storage

Mozy, a popular online storage and backup provider, recently announced that it would be adjusting its pricing plan and discontinuing its unlimited online backup plan. According to Russ Stockdale, the company’s vice-president of product marketing, the evolution of clients’ media-creation and consumption habits has greatly contributed to the decision.

Stockdale explained, “Consumers have the capacity to generate more data than was ever possible when these unlimited plans came out. Very large users of these types of media can generate multiple terabytes. But three out of four users still fit comfortably within 50 gigabytes.” Trends show that users are producing larger and larger files. For instance, high-definition video tremendously increases the size of home movies. Digital cameras with greater megapixel counts have also resulted in the need for greater storage capabilities.

In the past, Mozy customers could pay $4.95/month for the unlimited storage service. As of February 1, 2011, customers would be charged $5.95 for up to 50 GB of storage, or $9.99 for up to 125 GB. Additional storage is also available for $2 per 20 GB. However, Stockdale pointed out that unlike its competitors, Mozy does not impose bandwidth limitations. For example, although the service Carbonite offers greater storage, once clients hit the 35 GB limit, their connection rate drops to 512 Kbps.

Lost: Flickr Account

A Zurich-based photoblogger, Mirco Wilhelm, reported that the photo-sharing website accidentally deleted his account, which contained over 4,000 photos. This was after Wilhelm contacted Flickr reporting that another user’s account contained his material. Flickr staff responded that they would be checking the offender’s account for regulations. Afterward, Wilhelm realized his Flickr account had been deleted when he was no longer able to log in. While the website is unable to restore any of his lost photos, it did offer him four years of free Flickr pro service (approximately worth $100) as compensation.

Yahoo, who owns Flickr, responded to the matter:

Yesterday, Flickr mistakenly deleted a member's account due to human error. Flickr takes user trust very seriously and we, like our users, take great pride in being able to take, post and share photos. Our teams are in touch with the member and are currently working hard to try to restore the contents of his account. In addition, we are providing the member with 25 years of free Flickr Pro membership. We are also actively working on a process that will allow us to easily restore deleted accounts and will roll this functionality out soon.

How big is the cloud?

A Coughlin Associates report estimates that by 2014, the average American home will have 12 TB of digital content. Overall consumer content (i.e. commercial, personal and shared content) could total up to 1 zettabyte (or 1 billion terabytes) worldwide.

Observers predict that other cloud services are likely to go the way of Mozy. While they may be able to meet the ever-increasing storage demands, users will be asked to pay for it. Even leading companies, such as Google, impose a charge for extra storage. For instance, with Google Docs storage, users receive 1 GB of free storage. Each additional 20 GB costs $5/year, 80 GB for $20/year and 200 GB for $50/year.

While the cloud offers enterprises flexibility, cost-savings and high performance, the recent incidents with Mozy and Flickr highlight the potential risks of entrusting all data to the cloud. Businesses will need to take a close look at the reliability of cloud storage services. In light of the Flickr account loss, businesses should consider that cloud backup systems alone are insufficient. Experts recommend that cloud-based storage services should complement, but not replace, local systems.

Summary

This article looks at the limits of cloud storage systems, in terms of reliability and capacity. In February 2011, Mozy announced the discontinuation of its unlimited backup service. Currently, clients are required to pay fees proportionate to the amount of data they store with the company. Around the same time, Flickr, a photo-sharing website accidentally deleted the account of one of its users containing over 4,000 photos. These incidents call into question the reliability versus the value of cloud storage services.

CCSK Exam Preparation

In preparation for the Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK), a security professional should be comfortable with topics related to this post, including:

  • Cloud Service Models (Domain 1)
  • Enterprise and Information Risk Management (Domain 2)
  • Contract Enforceability (Domain 3)
  • Data Security Lifecycle (Domain 5)
  • Provider Selection (Domain 8)
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