The Benefits and Pitfalls of Cloud Backup

The benefits of investing in data backup solutions are clear and can be summed up in one term: business continuity. As a business, your main goal should be to have a resilient network infrastructure that makes data loss unlikely to occur in the first place. However, disaster can always strike and utilising data backup means that you can ensure a quick recovery and avoid significant downtime and loss of revenue.

While cloud backup has continued to gain momentum over time, physical hard drives are still widely used.

Over the past ten years, organisations have had to choose whether they want to have their data backed up physically, in the cloud, or through a hybrid solution. While cloud backup has continued to gain momentum over time, physical hard drives are still widely used. It is crucial for any organisation that wants to properly back up its data to continuously and preemptively re-evaluate their backup methods and consider updating or changing them before they become outdated.

Having your data backed up on a physical hard drive can be a great security hazard, something a club exclusive to Oxford and Cambridge alumni had to learn the hard way in November. A hard drive was stolen from a locked “comms” room at its London compound. The club has not disclosed what other security measures it had taken to protect the information which included members’ phone numbers, email addresses, bank account details and photographs.

This example makes it very easy to make an argument for cloud backup services being more secure than their physical counterparts. Whereas physical hard drives can be physically removed from your premises, suffer inaccessibility issues due to a hardware failure, or even destroyed by a fire or flood, cloud backup solutions take advantage of the pre-existing security features of data centres. In terms of resilience, cloud backup also trumps onsite solutions, as scalability issues are easily solved and spare capacity rarely becomes an issue.

The beauty of the cloud is that not only does it make it harder to lose data, but it also makes it incredibly accessible. Today employees can interact with key data from anywhere at any time and from almost any device using any modern web browser. While this is great for productivity and transparency it is also entails major risks. If any browser can potentially access your cloud applications, that includes any buggy, spyware-riddled browsers on your employees’ personal computers, tablets and smartphones, and it is more likely for employees to have their passwords stolen and data to become corrupted or compromised.

Another pitfall of cloud backup is that while it can save your business from unreliable on-site hard drives, it can’t save you from yourself. No software program can tell whether you will eventually need the emails you have decided to purge, or whether the purge was even intentional to begin with. As a user of most cloud services there is little you can do in the face of user error, as cloud service providers such as Google or Microsoft simply do not have the time to put a support rep at your disposal every time you accidentally delete a Google Doc or Outlook message. In fact, they are explicit about wanting you to be responsible for correcting your own data loss errors.

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So if even a cloud-based backup solution isn’t going to prevent data loss, and the cloud service providers aren’t going to come to your rescue, it becomes crucial for users of the cloud to make sure they are prepared for any potential data loss before it occurs. There are two main steps to securing your cloud-stored data: getting on top of your Restore Time Objective (RTO) and adopting cloud-to-cloud backup.

Whenever your cloud applications lose data, work is slowed or stopped until that data is recovered, which will have a potentially severe impact on your productivity figures. RTO refers to the acceptable and expected amount of time it takes to notice and correct data loss and return systems to normal standards of operation. While that may be dictated by whatever software and hardware you are using, it is up to the organisation to plan accordingly and make sure your operations match the expectations set by your RTO.

One of the best and most up-to-date ways to ensure you can comply with your RTO is through cloud-to-cloud backup, that differs from traditional cloud backup in that it does not involve any data stored on your local hard drive. Instead, data is replicated in one cloud and duplicated into yet another one.  All the reasons for moving your data from hardware to the cloud hold for moving from cloud backup to cloud-to-cloud backup. It offers you a “get out of user error” free card to be played whenever someone within your organisation corrupts, misplaces or destroys vital business data. Paradoxically, even reverse migration of data, from the cloud back to physical hard drives is made quicker and cheaper when you have used cloud-to-cloud backup, as cloud data can easily be replicated into numerous common file types usable by conventionally installed software.

By shaping operations around a realistic RTO, and backing up data from both hardware and cloud to cloud-to-cloud backup solutions, security professionals can make it much harder for their organisation to lose valuable data, while ensuring data remains accessible. Still, not even the most vigilant security measures available are immune to human error, and staying idle with your disaster recovery solutions will continue to be risky as threats continue to become more and more sophisticated.

Whatever demands or wishes an organisation has when it comes to data backup solutions, it needs to plan for unexpected disasters to occur, and have measures in place to mitigate human errors. The key is to make sure your systems are adaptable and can get the job done while making data neither inaccessible or insecure. By shaping security operations around a realistic RTO and backing up data from both hardware and the cloud through cloud-to-cloud solutions, businesses can ensure continuity in the face of increasing downtime threats

Andrew is Managing Director of Datto’s EMEA business. Andrew was instrumental in Datto’s expansion into EMEA and has a unique background, as he has worked both on the vendor side and as a Managed Services Provider. Prior to Datto, Andrew was Managing Director for both Clark Integrated Technologies and most recently, Paradeon Technologies, which he founded to distribute emerging technologies like Datto to the UK channel.

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