Storing data in the cloud is generally smart, and many organisations are already doing so, often without realising it. Enormous amounts of information reside in cloud-powered services such as Office365, Google Workspace, Dropbox, OneDrive, Slack. And, if a business uses some type of software-as-a-service product, some of its data is already in cloud storage.

But that is typically only a small portion of business data. The majority reside on servers or central hubs such as Sharepoint. At the start of the modern cloud era, many businesses primarily used the cloud to store data for backup purposes. Many still do, and it’s a good part of a 3-2-1 backup strategy (3 copies on 2 different media with 1 copy off-site).

Organisations have since started using the cloud for other data uses, such as easy access and maintaining one authoritative version of data. Yet there are two divergent attitudes that still bug most decision-makers. Some worry if they should rely on the cloud at all for data, while others jump in with both feet without thinking of the consequences.

These two choices are fortunately easy to address, says Dumisani Mtshali, GM: business development at Sithabile Technology Services. “Not using the cloud is really a step backwards, especially if you also ignore private cloud and hyperconverged infrastructure. The flexibility and scale you get from the cloud is excellent for data management and access, so I would recommend they consider the cloud for at least some of their data.

“But using the cloud for all of your data isn’t wise, either, because it creates a single point of failure, and not all data is suited for cloud storage.”

The choice of where to put data is specific to each business. When weighing their options, there are pros and cons to consider.

Why store data in the cloud

* Easy access and integration: cloud data is easier to access, not just for remote workers and branches, but even inside the same building. Using APIs, companies can establish easy and relatively secure access between data and applications.

* One version of the truth: duplicated data can create contradictions, especially when they differ in age or are edited separately by different people. The cloud offers the best opportunity to create single versions of data using a common standard.

* Backup services: the cloud is not a backup silver bullet. But the easy access and connectivity help the cloud be an accessible and often affordable way to store data backups.

* Lower costs: depending on the amount of data and how frequently you need to access it, the cloud can be a cheaper option for data storage than on-premises systems.

Why not store data in the cloud

* Single point of failure: cloud hosts are not infallible, and their systems can fail. They also give cybercriminals a specific target. While cloud security and safeguards are often really good, they should not be your only data storage location.

* Fluctuating costs: tracking cloud costs can be very demanding and technical, especially when moving data out of the cloud (called data egress). Cloud storage has hidden costs you might only discover when the bill arrives.

* Privacy and Control: You lose some control over data stored in the cloud. While you should always be able to access it, cloud providers could be compelled by court orders or even criminal subterfuge to expose your data to a third party.

* Poor visibility: Unless your data is appropriately classified and you use a decent data management service, you’ll likely lose track of data and even store the wrong data, such as long-term ‘cold’ data, in the wrong places.

Storing data in the cloud is rarely all-or-nothing. For example, ‘hot’ production data might be better on a local flash array and storing archived data is often more cost-effective and sustainable when you use tape drives.

Yet a lot of data also works well in the cloud, especially collaboration documents or data that integrates with key applications, such as customer data used by CRM systems. And if you use a cloud-native application, it makes sense that the relevant data is also in the same cloud.

Ultimately, there is no single destination for data. Even if you keep all your data in a cloud, you still want to create multiple and off-site backups. If you use edge servers at remote branches, that data will be processed on-premises before transferring to a central cloud location.

The smart bet is to develop a multi-prong strategy for your data, including classification, management, data loss prevention, high availability and archiving. No single solution can do all of that. But the right technology partner can, combining market offerings to tailor the best fit for your data.

Should you put your data in the cloud? It depends. Yet the right technology partner can help answer your questions and get your data where it belongs.