Saturday, November 16, 2013

Should You Back Up Your Data to the Cloud?

Cloud-based backup solutions enable companies or individuals to store their computer data and files via the Internet using a storage service provider rather than storing the data locally on a hard drive or tape backup. While the cloud backup solutions are robust and efficient, you need to be aware of the disadvantages, as well as the advantages, to make an informed decision to determine that the technology is right for you.

On-site backups are hard drives or other backup devices that are directly connected to your computer or network. You maintain all responsibility and control of the backup media and environment. Cloud-based backups are servers that connect remotely to your computer or network via the Internet. The storage service provider maintains responsibility and control of the backup media and environment.

Advantages of a cloud-based backup solution, which you must validate and verify with each storage service provider you consider, are:
  • Backups of backups: Your data is always stored off-site and is redundantly copied to other servers in different locations. If one location goes down, 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 on 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.

Disadvantages of a cloud-based backup solution are:
  • Cost: Cloud-based backups can be more expensive than on-site backups, often requiring monthly or annual fees based on the amount of data stored on the storage service provider's servers.
  • 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 must be careful to avoid large backups that cause you to exceed their stop-limits or trigger over-utilization charges.
  • Speed: It can take a long time to back up large backups online, even with a broadband connection.
  • Out of Business: If the storage service provider goes out of business, you may never be able to recover your backed up data.

You may be able to mitigate the disadvantages of the cloud-based backup solution with a robust back up strategy. The cloud-based storage service provider can assist you with understanding the options they recommend and support. Make sure you understand how they can mitigate the disadvantages for both backing up and recovering your data.

Both on-site and cloud-based backup storage options allow you to protect your data. Each type of backup solution has advantages and disadvantages. You need to be aware of the disadvantages, as well as the advantages, to make an informed decision to determine whether cloud-based backup storage is right for you.
David Schuchman


  1. David, a very astute observation. Whenever an organization goes to the cloud, they first must do their due diligence on the cloud provider as well as a business case on the need on going to the cloud. You do see some companies being more careful but there still needs to be strict diligence before buying any application, especially in the cloug.

  2. So my question is, "What features, other than price, should you look for when evaluating competitors in this space?" For example, what would make Mozy better or worse than Carbonite?

    1. Thank you for your comment, Brian. While the long answer can be its own topic, the short answer is you need to identify and compare your storage needs to the features offered by each storage service provider. Among the features and needs you may consider are:
      • Compare pricing options. Some vendors offer tiered pricing, even starting with a certain amount of storage for free, and increase the cost based on back up growth or size.
      • Some storage service providers offer automatic file syncing, where others offer a scheduled backup. With automatic file syncing, you typically save your files on a dedicated folder on your PC, and the data is automatically backed up with each change.
      • Some storage service providers have file version control. In this case, you can recover an older backed up version of the file than the most recent backed up version of the file.
      • Some storage service providers encrypt the data, some do not.
      • Some storage service providers offer specialized use backups. For example, once you back up your music library, you can play your music directly from the service provider’s storage.

      I hope this was useful for you.

  3. A good overview, David.

    I'd like to add my own recommendation, valid for either cloud or local backups: Now and then, test your process by restoring a (simulated) lost file from your backup.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Joe. You identified a good point. Testing a restoration will validate the back process and content before you actually need it.


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