Business continuity depends on ensuring files, data and applications are backed-up on a regular basis so that, in the event of disaster, recovery will be fast and comprehensive.

With cyber criminals now targeting businesses large and small, data backup represents an essential aspect of any organisation’s cyber security plan. But when it comes to backup, is cloud or offline – using local physical devices – best?

Here’s a top-level comparison of the advantages and drawbacks of both local backup and cloud backup across five key criteria.

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Local storage

Local or on-site backup is a tried and tested option that’s familiar to many. And there’s something very reassuring about keeping files and data locally or ‘in-house’, backing up data on a range of devices and media – external hard drives, USB thumb drives, optical disks, or NAS servers.

  • Price – USBs and external hard drives are relatively low cost to purchase, but over time there may be a proliferation of devices required to support the growing needs of the business. While budget friendly, local storage options aren’t immune to physical failure or damage.
  • Security – local devices offer the peace of mind that you have full and independent control of your data. You know exactly where your data is, and can manage exactly who can and cannot access your files. What’s more, with external hard drives, your data is as protected as your network and, once disconnected, will be safe from any malicious attack affecting your infrastructure. But should devices be lost or stolen – if there’s a break in for example – your data may end up in the hands of others if unencrypted and, from a business perspective, it will be gone forever.
  • Time and effort – typically this involves undertaking regular manual backups. Indeed, creating and maintaining a local storage system can be time intensive and costly. What’s more, manual backup is a task that often goes to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list in the face of other more pressing tasks. And that leaves the business in a potentially vulnerable position.
  • Storage limits – if you’ve got an ongoing backup process in play, then you don’t need telling that capacity can quickly become an issue. Disk drives fill up and, as backup needs escalate the devices needed to keep pace with burgeoning demands will need to get larger.
  • Support services – dealing with networked servers and ensuring that backup and restore times are fast and efficient means you may need to call on specialist IT support to help manage local device backup processes effectively.

Cloud storage

Cloud storage has been around for a while now and offers a variety of advantages for businesses looking to automate and streamline their data backup strategy.

  • Price – recent rivalry between Amazon, Microsoft and Google means that the price-per-gigabyte cost for storage has plunged, which means cloud backup services are now even more affordable for business of any scale. Charged at a monthly price, business-grade cloud backup services typically feature regular oversight and security. Plus there’s no need to own or maintain hardware or software associated with backup storage.
  • Security –any provider worth its salt will offer advanced encryption methods that protect data during transmission and storage, but cannot prevent you accidently deleting or editing important files. Opting for a fully managed provider who takes care of the end-to-end backup and security process will help maximise protection for your data.
  • Time and effort – thanks to ‘set-up-and-forget’ technologies, organisations can save valuable time and money. What’s more, regular backups can be scheduled and automated to run continually in the background. So, should disaster strike, restoring to the latest backup enables operations to be back up and running fast.
  • Storage limits – business-grade cloud storage offers limitless scalability, and makes it easy to add capacity on demand. There’s no need to wait to upgrade or rollout increased storage. Or to scale back down, if requirements change.
  • Support services – there are plenty of options available for businesses looking to use cloud backup. Check providers have experience helping customers backup to the cloud, understand the most effective approaches for restoring data services in the event of an incident.

As organisations increasingly digitise their business operations, making the move from local storage components to a full cloud backup and storage infrastructure can provide the robust protection required to cope with unexpected events and cyber attacks.

Finally, for additional peace of mind adopting a hybrid option, combining automated cloud platforms and local backups for essential data, will offer a truly ‘belt and braces’ approach.