Easy data storage services are like fast food

And they’ll give you the IT equivalent of gastronomical distress

Easy data storage services are like fast food
Michael Stern (CC BY 2.0)

Recently I made the (unfortunate) decision to eat at a particular fast-food establishment. For the sake of this story, let’s call it Shmurger Shming.

I didn’t eat at The Shming because the food tastes amazing. Nor did I choose to ingest those Shmurgers because I thought it was, in any way, healthy for me. In fact, I knew full well that eating them would cause not insignificant amounts of gastronomical distress.

Which begs the question: Why, on this green Earth, would I make that decision? Why would I do that to myself?

Simple. It was convenient, there was very little up-front investment (in time and money), and it was food. Technically. In other words, I was lazy.

How choosing fast data storage is like eating fast food 

Why do I bring this up? Because I see many people making similar decisions for storing their data. 

Hypothetical (that isn’t so hypothetical for many of you):

You are responsible for the IT decision making at your company or for your organization. There is a small mountain of data that you need to find a way to store — and maintain. Customer data, employee data, internal documents, presentations, art and video assets. The list goes on and on. And the size of these files seems to expand at an ever-increasing rate.

Gotta put all that data somewhere, right? Where do you turn?

You’ve got a short amount of time to get your file storage solution set up and in use. What’s more, the budget is limited (because of course it is).

You need something fast, convenient and that requires as little up-front work and investment as possible. So, you turn to one of the large online storage providers. I’m not going to name them here, but we all know which services I’m talking about.

In other words, you choose the fast food of data storage.

Signing up is quick, credit card is charged monthly, and — WHAMO — you’ve got off-site storage.

Is that really so terrible? Is that convenience a bad thing? No, definitely not. And, truth be told, there’s a place for such convenience. Even when talking about data storage.

Fast data storage: Know what you're getting into first

But just like with eating at Shmurger Shming, it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into. If you opt for a large, online storage service (let’s call it Shmop Shmox), there are some… let’s just call them… shortcomings.

For example, you no longer have control over your own data. It’s not on your equipment or being administered by anyone on your staff. Someone else now has it (and has access to it in various forms).

You’ve also placed your data in a location with a whole lot of other data from a whole lot of other companies and individuals, adding to an increasingly tantalizing (and potentially lucrative) target for hackers.

But let’s put the fact that you’ve now made your data less secure, given it all to someone else (who you totally trust and know by name, right?) and made it less accessible (can you go on site and get the drive your data is stored on?) to the side for a moment.

Let’s ignore all of those gigantic problems and talk about something that tends to resonate with management a bit more than trivial, silly things like security and availability. Let’s talk about… money.

Not-so-hypothetical: You opt to use something like the aforementioned Shmop Shmox to store your data. As the months (and likely years) go on, the amount of your personal or company data being stored there keeps… on… growing.

And Shmop Shmox, being a for-profit company, is going to try to make as much money from you as they can. That’s their job. Once you’ve become reliant on their service, they are now in a great position to raise their prices. You aren’t likely to leave because it would be too difficult, time consuming and costly (at least up front) to migrate such a huge amount of data to your own data servers.

They’ve got you. You now feel locked into this increasingly more costly service that you have nearly zero control over. They have your data — you most valuable data — and there’s nothing you can do about it.

It’s the fast-food way of storing your data. And it’ll leave you with the IT equivalent of gastronomical distress. You’ll be wishing you’d have just taken the time to make dinner — I mean set up your own server.

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