Monday, February 16, 2015

Using the Cloud for Data Backups

There are two kinds of organizations in the world: Those that have lost critical data, and those that will. If you use technology long enough and neglect to back up your data, a single unfortunate incident can destroy your data and negatively impact your business. The solution is to back up everything that is important. Using an external hard drive or tape system can be an inconvenient or time-consuming task. That’s why more organizations are turning to managed cloud services for data backup.

The reason you want to think about the cloud for your backup storage is because it offers tremendous protection and availability to protect your data. One of the biggest benefits of protecting data in the cloud is that the cloud is not in your own data center. It doesn't take the resources of your data center. If something were to happen in your data center, you would still be able to fall back to this external resource.

Another advantage to backing up your data to the cloud is that, with a proper service level agreement, you'll have an actively managed, proven technology and expertise supported by your service provider. In addition to your in-house IT resources, which may be limited, you will have access to your service provider's professional resources should you need to recover your data.

Additional advantages of a cloud-based backup solution, which you may need to request and verify that your storage service provider offers, are:
  • Backups of backups: Your data is always stored off-site and is redundantly copied to other servers in different locations. If one location becomes unavailable, your data can be backed up or retrieved from elsewhere on the backup network without a service interruption.
  • Security: Data is encrypted by the backup service provider’s software program from your computer or network before it is sent to the cloud, so thieves on the internet cannot access it.
  • Virus protection: The backup service software detects any virus or infection before data is sent. If a virus is found, that file is not copied to the backup service. You will be notified that the corrupted file has not been deleted from your computer. In this case, you won’t lose any data, but that data won’t be backed up online.

There are some caveats about using cloud based backup solutions. While these can often be mitigated via your backup and recovery strategies, you need to be aware they exist:
  • Cost: While usually less costly from a capital expense perspective, a cloud-based backup solution can be more expensive from an operating expense perspective as compared to on-site backups . Typically, you will pay a monthly or annual subscription based on the amount of data stored on the service provider's servers as well as for their professional services.

  • Perform a business risk assessment. Also, do a cost-benefit analysis of your backup storage options. You may see that the risk mitigation benefit will exceed the cost.
  • Capacity: Cloud-based backups may not be best for large backups such as a large number of files, or very large files such as data bases. Since some internet providers limit the amount of data you can send and receive in a month. You may need to avoid large backups that cause you to exceed their stop-limits or trigger over-utilization charges.

  • Perform incremental backups. That is, instead of sending all of your data to the backup site on a scheduled basis. Send all of your data only once when you implement your solution. Then, only send the changes to the data on a scheduled basis. Make sure that your service provider can properly archive incremental changes, and restore your data at any point of time. While you typically do not have a need to recover large blocks of data, have a recovery strategy in place for when you need to do so.
  • Speed: It can take a long time to back up large backups online, even with a broadband connection.

  • The same Mitigation for "Capacity" applies here

Considering your resources with the consequences of hardware malfunctions, human errors, software corruption and man-made or natural disasters can keep you from focusing on your many strategic initiatives. With a cloud data backup solution, you can gain the peace of mind that your data are protected and available for recovery when the time comes.


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David Schuchman

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