Amazon, Microsoft strengthen tools to store app and enterprise data in their clouds

Vendors race to appeal to IT departments that want to move from in-house systems

New technology from Amazon and Microsoft this week highlights how cloud-based storage is, step-by-step, becoming more mature and offering more flexibility for  developers, storage administrators and people in a wide range of other roles.

Amazon is going after iOS developers in an effort to increase the popularity of its cloud offerings. The company on Tuesday announced a new tool, the S3 Transfer Utility for iOS, designed to give developers a streamlined and more powerful way to transfer data between iOS apps and Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service).

For example, the S3 tool lets developers transfer data in the background. The tool is currently available in beta and included in the AWS Mobile SDK for iOS, Amazon said in blog post.

On its part, Microsoft, also on Tuesday, announced that Windows 10 client machines can now be backed up using the Azure Backup service. Desktops and laptops running Windows 10 operating systems can protect file-folder data using Microsoft's Azure cloud. Azure Backup offers customizable schedules with backups happening as frequently as three times a day, and bandwidth usage is kept as low as possible by transferring only changes from previous backup points, Microsoft said in a blog post.

Microsoft's portfolio also includes Azure Site Recovery, which last month was upgraded with support for disaster recovery for VMware virtual machines. 

Though their new tools are aimed at slightly different audiences, Amazon and Microsoft are pitching the same concepts: scalable capacity, low operating costs and ease of use compared to building an in-house infrastructure. 

It isn't much of a surprise that cloud vendors are going after storage. Storage infrastructures have always been tricky to keep on top of. Many small and medium-size businesses simply don't have the know-how needed to build and maintain a working backup and disaster recovery system.

A recent survey done by the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) concluded that more people would change vendors or go to a cloud-based service than those that would stay with what they have, showing that there are a lot of unhappy users out there.

Microsoft and Amazon are, of course, not the only vendors offering cloud storage in various guises. But Microsoft's stamp of approval still carries a lot of weight in many enterprises. Google earlier this year announced Cloud Storage Nearline, which has been customized for data archiving, online backup and disaster recovery. Nearline refers to a three-second average response time, which combined with a US$0.01 per GB and month pricing is a "super interesting" alternative, according to ESG. 

Cloud storage is becoming more mainstream, and can't be ignored by CIOs or other IT staff, according to Simon Robinson, research vice president at 451 Research.

"Burying your head in the sand isn't a strategy. It's about enfranchising development groups and devop teams to use cloud services in a way that satisfies business requirements," Robinson said.

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