Learn how cloud backup can help your business and improve your disaster recovery plan.
Losing data is a nightmare for any business. Whether caused by equipment failure, a cyberattack, natural disaster or just accidental deletion, it can lead to disruption and lost business opportunities. The answer, of course, is to make sure that you have an up-to-date backup.
A few years ago, backup options were much more limited and included saving locally to a tape or an external drive, making arrangements for media rotation or off-site storage. Nowadays the availability of low-cost cloud storage has changed the way we back up our data, providing a more secure and convenient option.
Traditional backups meant that users had multiple copies of media and rotating them so that they always had several copies of files, allowing them to return to earlier versions in the event of a problem that required a restore. This generally involved having at least three copies of the data that get re-used and overwritten in sequence.
One of the main drawbacks of this data backup hardware approach was that it needed constant attention to make sure the correct media was being used. It was also important to ensure that backups were stored in safe locations. Automating the backup software so that it is scheduled to run at specific times was an option, but someone still had to make sure that the appropriate media was in place at the right time, leading to a greater possibility of errors being made. Backing up in this way meant that saves were run relatively infrequently – once a day or once a week for example – which meant there was a risk of data loss in the event of a problem.
Saving to the cloud makes the operational side of backup much easier as saves can be run automatically with minimal human input. It also makes it possible to constantly save in real time so files get backed up as soon as they are changed. Files which require frequent changes can be backed up more often than those which are less volatile, making the cloud a more flexible option.
Cloud backup also means you don’t have a problem expanding your existing capabilities as your data grows. Additionally, it’s almost infinitely scalable so you can just add extra storage capacity as and when required.
Increasingly, businesses are storing data and running systems in the cloud as a matter of course. But just because your data is in the cloud in the first place doesn’t mean that you don’t need a backup. It’s still important to have an extra copy in the event of a failure with your cloud provider or a corruption or deletion of your primary files. Many services integrate with well-known software-as-a-service (SaaS) packages such as Google Docs and Office 365. If you use these services, this gives you an extra layer of security and reassurance that your data is safe.
Of course, backing up is only one side of the coin. At some point, you’re also going to need to access this data. In choosing a backup system, therefore, you need to think about how easy this is to do.
For example, is it easy to access a single file or whole folder? Can you restore to a different location so that you can compare different versions of a file? Also, it’s useful to be able to access different versions of a file. If something is accidentally overwritten for example you may need to go back several days to find a clean version of the file.
The big advantage of cloud backup and recovery is that your saved copies are easily available at all times. There’s no need to recover media from off-site locations or wait for the appropriate drive to be connected before you can start to retrieve your files. In the event that you need to get everything back, some solutions offer a one-click recovery option that restores everything to its previous location in a single process.
As part of a wider disaster recovery plan, you need to know how quickly your data can be restored and you can get your systems up and running again. If you’ve backed up to the cloud you’ll be restoring over an internet connection, so the speed of the connection is an important factor in determining how fast you can get your data back.
One of the main concerns that businesses have when using cloud services is the security of their data. Of course, traditional methods aren’t entirely secure as the media can be lost or destroyed, but at least it’s in your control.
There are a number of things you should be looking for to ensure you get a secure cloud backup. For example, is two-factor authentication – where a code is sent to another device – used to protect login to the system? How easy is it to change passwords and set up additional users to access the system?
The most crucial factor is how the data itself is protected. It should be encrypted in its storage location as well as in transit when it may be vulnerable to interception. You also need to think about deletion policy. Sometimes data is lost because of malicious activity, so you will need to look for a policy that prevents users from accessing and deleting data after it’s been backed up. This way, even if the original file is lost, you can still access the backup.
Choosing a supplier
When seeking a cloud backup and recovery solution, it’s important to research potential suppliers to ensure that the service they offer wil meet all of your needs. There are a number of things you need to look at including cost, access, location and security arrangements.
Cost is a major consideration, and it’s important to understand the pricing structure. You will usually pay based on the amount of storage you use so you need to know how this will change as extra space is needed. Cost, however, is only part of the equation. You also need to look at performance, as the speed of backups will partly depend on your internet connection.
You need to be certain that you will have access to your backups when you need them. All providers will need to take their systems offline for maintenance occasionally but they should have solutions in place that keep downtime to a minimum or provide an alternative solution.
Some types of sensitive data may not be allowed to be stored overseas for compliance reasons so it’s important to know where your cloud backup servers are located.
You need to make sure you’re happy with the supplier’s security arrangements. With directives such as GDPR on the horizon, the secure storage of information is imperative to avoid severe penalties. It’s important to highlight that you still have responsibility for this even if you are using another company to store the information. Another thing to ask a potential supplier is how they are protecting their systems. Do they have a shadow system in place in the event of failure? Are their servers in different locations to ensure resilience?
Making the choice
Any reputable cloud service backup provider will have most of the above included in their service level agreement, so this should be your starting point when comparing different offerings. Where possible, talk to existing customers or read independent reviews to see how satisfied customers are with the quality of service they are receiving so you can make the right choice for your business.