The idea of the “cloud” has reached a level of ubiquity, and widespread adoption is following suit. Cloud storage, backing up to the cloud, cloud computing — the basic premise remains the same: Virtualized networks of servers can create a central ecosystem that enables centralized data storage and access to various services and resources. At its core, the cloud enables organizations to store, access and manage data easily.

While the premise of cloud data storage isn’t new, the value that can be derived from such practices is ever-evolving — especially when it comes to analytics. If any hesitation exists about cloud storage, perhaps it’s the analytics possibilities that can help tip the scales in the cloud’s favor. In fact, it’s not just about the array of storage benefits, such as ease of use and convenience, or simplified backup and recovery. The value of analytics within a cloud environment must also be considered for the competitive edge it can offer an organization.

Analytics Advantage

For storing the ever-increasing amount of information created and consumed on a constant basis, cloud storage has become a reliable and logical option. In fact, 44 zettabytes of new data will be created by 2020, with more than half of that data stored in the cloud, IDC projects. For many businesses not already tapping into it, cloud storage isn’t a matter of if, but when.

Whether an organization is just starting to dabble in cloud storage, or looking to optimize its cloud storage processes already in place, the underlying benefits are undeniable — specifically in terms of the insights that can be gained from operational cloud data analytics. The decision to store data in the cloud can be drilled down to one simple question: When it comes to business performance, what’s the value in knowing if your business is leading, or lagging behind?

Cloud adoption has reached a level of significance that is enabling a new analytics reality, and organizations stand to quickly benefit.  It’s about more than achieving data protection objectives; think of cloud analytics as a service model. By storing their data in the cloud, organizations can tap into a wealth of best practices, collective intelligence and other useful information based on the insights of thousands of other organizations who have also done so.

Working with a cloud provider, for example, can allow a business to view real best practices brought to light by the analytics performed on mass amounts of data from businesses of similar sizes, or in similar industries. These types of analytics and insights aren’t easily accessible otherwise, but with the collective intelligence enabled by the cloud, businesses position themselves to benefit from highly-informative insights presented in an easy-to-understand way — and with the potential to deliver real results. For IT professionals in particular, these business-savvy insights help better inform decisions, save time and enable improved productivity by offering action-oriented insights into areas that have resonated with others on topics such as data growth, bandwidth and architecture configurations, for example.

Actionable Intelligence

Many cloud providers run multiple clouds around the world, either in their own data centers or on behalf of partners. This experience equips them with the knowledge and capability to collect the right data that can present unique and actionable insights to cloud storage users far beyond what would otherwise be possible due to the scale needed to accommodate the big data analytics that must occur. From there, cloud providers have started to gather operational data related to the software in their clouds tied to backup, recovery and data center best practices in order to bring forth analytical data that can provide true business benefits.

These insights fall into three key areas, including:  recommendations based on best practices, collective intelligence and growth rate prediction, and each brings with it a specific set of business advantages.

1. Recommendations based on best practices run the gamut according to factors such as industry and business size, but that’s the benefit of cloud analytics — it’s possible to pull from a wide array of places not otherwise accessible to individual businesses. For example, analytics might detail the behavior of a business’s backup jobs and help determine the reconfiguration needed for best IT practices. The result could entail combining jobs and moving to a hybrid deployment model — a discovery made possible by removing the step of having to sift through mounds of data.

2. Collective intelligence comprises market data comprised of insights from other businesses in the cloud. Ideally, an enterprise can compare its own practices with the practices of similar businesses — going far and beyond simply using a consultant or guidebook for direction, and instead looking at a range of best practices compiled from many businesses to see how it stacks up. Is a business concerned about security implementing security in a more conservative manner, than necessary, for example? Or, is a business spending significantly more money on a configuration in the cloud than other similar businesses, for example, and is that an advantage?

For an IT director, for example, determining bandwidth levels is made all the more insightful when the data is accompanied by the knowledge that an organization’s usable bandwidth falls within the bottom 20 percent of all cloud-connected businesses. This type of information could indicate a competitive disadvantage for the business not only in terms of backup, but also from an overall organizational perspective. Empowered by this information, the IT director could then more effectively lobby management to invest in more backup, for example.

3. Growth rate prediction.  For IT directors, predicting growth — as well as the ability to be able to meet benchmarks such as recovery time objectives — can be especially challenging. Tapping into cloud analytics can provide the usage trend data to indicate where a business falls in terms of its data protection parameters, for example, and whether adjustments are needed, aiding with proactive backup and recovery planning.  This can also inform predictions around data recovery and restoration, including how quickly businesses could retrieve their data if an event occurs, which can aid with disaster recovery planning and meeting specific, established business objectives.

Competitive Gains

Analytics are meant to drive insight and value, and the cloud has helped usher in a new way of deriving this value, which includes real-time, evidenced-based recommendations and benchmarks that far surpass what can be gleaned from on premise data storage. Businesses embracing cloud storage will unlock a pathway to not only better protect their data, but also achieve higher-level business goals. 

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