The Evolution of data storage: From paper to cloud

We must not limit ourselves to seeing cloud as a great new storage device — we must see cloud for its capabilities to enhance what we can do with data

By 2025, it’s predicted that the size of the global data-sphere will be 163 zettabytes. For context, one zettabyte is one trillion gigabytes. Imagine trying to store that amount of data on paper – there would hardly be any trees left!

As e-commerce, social media, and smart cities continue to be a focal point within society, the larger our data footprint becomes. Whether it’s documents being prepared in word processors and sent around the world, or cars receiving GPS and weather information, the way data is created, viewed, stored and shared has been transformed dramatically over the last 10 years. As technology continues to evolve, data is ditching paper and heading towards the cloud. So what does a world with decreasing amounts of paper and physical storage space look like and why should businesses care?

Unlimited potential

Businesses create more data every day, and storing data on-premise means inevitably having to install more physical databases to hold data. Imagine that data is a physical item, like a chair. To store the chair, we need something like a storage shed. Once the shed starts to fill up with chairs, old chairs must be thrown out, or another storage shed must be purchased. Eventually, an organisation will get to a point where they no longer have any room to place any more storage sheds. They have reached capacity, but still need somewhere to store chairs. Enter cloud storage.

Cloud storage has infinite possibilities and unlimited storage potential. An organisation can keep adding layers without limit to acquire as much or as little storage as they need, without having to factor in physical capacity requirements. With cloud storage, the one storage shed becomes bottomless, able to store as many chairs as an organisation wants to put in it.

Being intangible is one of the benefits of cloud storage. It presents a great ability for individuals and organisations to scale their storage models to fit individual needs. From the perspective of an organisation, it’s easier to acquire more storage in the cloud than find space for a filing cabinet in an office building. Due to these benefits, the cloud model is here to stay and will continue to proliferate and influence architectural decisions and access layouts. Moving forward, businesses of all sizes should evaluate what the cloud can do for them and take charge of their storage architecture to enhance their storage landscape.

Evolution increases efficiency

Not only has how we store data changed, but how consumers use that data has advanced as well. The increase in smartphones and wearable technology like Fitbit devices and smart watches has given consumers and service providers the ability to store and access valuable data instantly and at all times. The everyday person is now relying on smartphones and wearable devices to pay for their morning coffee, send money to a friend or hail a ride.

As more service providers develop technology to provide consumers with a personalised service that can be actioned instantly, the consumer demand will continue to grow. Of course, the consistent element that allows any of these transactions to take place are the buckets of personal data such as a person’s name, address and bank details that are securely stored on the cloud.

Read more: Google adds AI features to G Suite, including ‘Smart Reply’ for Hangouts Chat

Big challenges of data

If we are to function in a world that is governed by data, organisations must first learn to effectively extract data driven insights. The biggest challenge we’re facing currently is how to extract meaningful information from data, while maintaining its resiliency, sovereignty and security. With on-premise data storage, massive amounts of data are in silos, separated from each other. In this state, data exists, but it is not useful. There is no easy way for information to be extracted from data when it is spread across multiple silos.

The solution is moving data to purpose built data lakes that store mass amounts of data. Policy based storage systems must be developed for these data lakes which focus on resiliency, sovereignty and security.

The next steps for data

We must not limit ourselves to seeing cloud as a great new storage device. We must see cloud for its capabilities to enhance what we can do with data. By being able to tie in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, the cloud enables the next level of evolution of data. By using these tools, we can extract information from data, while maintaining the security and sovereignty of customers’ personal data. For example, utilising blockchain and the cloud, health researchers will be able to undertake large-scale studies using data from consenting patients on a secure cloud-based platform that protects patients’ privacy.

Cloud computing, combined with connectivity and bandwidth, is the foundation of digitalisation. This technology will ultimately bring applications of the Internet of Things (IoT) to life. In the IoT, billions of machines, sensors and other components will be networked with one another, these networked devices will collect and transmit billions of items of data every day. Companies must understand this data in order to operate effectively in real time. With all this data available, the need for storage will be significant as we cross the digital bridge. 

Tony Marceddo is the general manager of Australian cloud services provider Vault Systems.

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