IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Why Cloud Isn’t Enough

This article  was originally published on May 8th 2017 at IT Briefcase.

Featured Interview with Allan Boyd, COO, AetherWorks

When it comes to storage, one of the most common assumptions is that cloud is the best option for keeping data safe and accessible. And while it does have its benefits, we recently sat down with Allan Boyd, COO of AetherWorks, a software research and venture development firm specializing in distributed systems and with patented technology in software-defined storage and fog computing, to learn more about storage beyond just cloud solutions.

  • Q. Why does everyone think cloud for backup?

A. The availability of cloud storage has greatly expanded our options for keeping data safe and accessible. Before the cloud, options were much more limited. You could either choose to write to tape and send it via truck to a remote location or buy more hardware to meet your backup needs. Now that the cloud is better understood among mainstream audiences, it’s become the “go-to” storage solution for ease and convenience. Using the cloud means not having to worry about purchasing or managing additional hardware (or tape, for that matter), saving time and money.

  • Q. What are the benefits of the cloud?

A. Cloud adoption continues to accelerate, and for good reasons. The cloud makes data accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, which is great for remote working, and its usability, flexibility, and accessibility profiles are quite strong. Cloud isn’t necessarily the cheapest option, but when you factor in all of the costs of acquiring, installing, powering, maintaining, and upgrading your own hardware – that’s when cloud can start to look like a good idea.

  • Q. What is the problem with cloud?

A. As great as the cloud is, it’s not a magic bullet. There are certainly accessibility and cost issues. For example, if you don’t have an Internet connection, you cannot access your data. Even if you do, cloud recovery times can be prohibitively slow, as evidenced by the number of cloud providers that offer to write your data onto a disk and ship it to you. In terms of cost-effectiveness, there are hidden costs beyond just data storage. For example, Amazon S3 retrieval and requests cost extra, as does expediting retrieval, which is still slow. To address these issues, many large companies offer to sell you more hardware that you can use onsite. However, more hardware creates more problems, including added costs and a negative impact on the environment.

  • Q. What’s a better solution?

A. I think that a better solution is locally pooled storage with a cloud tier. Locally pooled storage takes advantage of spare hard drive space in an office environment, combining it to create secure drives that are distributed across many existing workstations and servers. In this way, your available storage grows with your primary infrastructure. It enables users to create a “private cloud” for onsite backup, without the costs of purchasing and maintaining additional hardware.

With this approach, you can stick to the 3-2-1 golden rule of data backup.  This means having 3 copies of your data,  across 2 different storage types, and 1 of those should be offsite.

Our product, AetherStore, is software that complements the cloud and provides the local component for faster reads, and better availability. AetherStore is a more reliable, flexible and cost-effective solution. It will be there whenever you need it and your data will always be immediately recoverable.

  • Q. Why does this matter?

A. Locally pooled storage is replicated across many machines so there’s no central point of failure. The data is encrypted and chunked before being distributed across the network, so if a computer in the system is lost or stolen, there’s no discoverable data on any one machine and the backup automatically recovers to your desired replication level. Similarly, if a chunk is corrupted for any reason, the system identifies it and a non-corrupt version is re-replicated.

The local storage pool offers high availability, fast local recovery times, and intelligent self healing, while reserving cloud for rare disaster recovery events. It’s not dependent on any third-parties so your data is always there (so long as your office is there). Plus, it is easily downloadable and only takes a few minutes to get the system up and running.

  • Q. What makes locally pooled storage better? For example, how does AetherStore help?

A. Recovery time objective (RTO) is one of the most important metrics in backup and recovery. AetherStore enables you to meet vastly improved RTOs, and does so without incurring the added expense of a backup server. By making use of existing hardware, AetherStore is better for the environment and better for your wallet. There’s no downtime waiting for data recovery, which can drain valuable time and resources. And it provides peace of mind– our users can sleep at night knowing that the copies of their data are exactly where they should be.

So, the next time you need to think through your storage solution, remember, there are options beyond the cloud, and locally pooled solutions may be exactly what you need.

Alan Boyd 150x150 IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Why Cloud Isn’t Enough

About the Author

Allan Boyd is Chief Operating Officer at Aetherworks LLC and is Co-Founder of AetherStore and ActiveAether, deep tech solutions for distributed storage and fog computing. Based at AetherWorks HQ in NYC, Allan oversees operations and strategic planning for the company across its verticals, which include development of original high tech software solutions, investment in early stage companies, and patenting of new technologies.

Allan joined AetherWorks following his ascent through the ranks at Kelvin Connect in Glasgow, Scotland. During his time at Kelvin, he saw the company through its acquisition by Airwave (now Motorola), successfully managing the transition and executing the company’s post-merger workforce integration strategy.

Allan graduated from the University of St Andrews with Honors in Computer Science. Prior to completing his degree, he was awarded “Best Growth Potential” and “Best Overall Business” from the Scottish Institute for Enterprise for his first company, IT Onsite.  Allan is an accomplished musician, having performed with the Royal Northern Philharmonic, and is a supporter of children’s music education through the Fife Horn Union, a charitable organization based in Scotland, and through an annual scholarship he sponsors at the Ingenium Music Academy in the UK.

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