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Data Loss in the Cloud

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By Murray Moceri, Marketing Director, CloudAlly

Why Backup Online Data?

Leading online service providers such as Google and Salesforce have world-class data backup and recovery capabilities, so why backup data that’s already in the cloud and protected by some of the most robust data centers in the world?

For the simple reason that these recovery capabilities are for the service provider’s disaster, not yours. Generally speaking, the only backup you have for your organisational data in most online services is via the trash folder, which is typically cleared after 15 to 30 days. After that, your data is gone forever.

IT professionals would never run on-premise systems without adequate backup and recovery capabilities, so it’s hard to imagine why so many professionals adopt cloud solutions without ensuring the same level of protection.

The truth is that once your data is deleted, altered or corrupted, whether intentionally, accidentally or maliciously, from the service provider’s system, there is very little you can do to recover the data. And this not only applies to data, but to entire accounts as well.

Keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily an oversight or shortcoming of the service provider. Google has made it clear that they must permanently delete data to comply with data retention regulations in the US, UK and Europe.

Causes of Data Loss in the Cloud

While it’s extremely unlikely that a major online service provider will loose your data or suffer a complete service outage, there are a number of other causes of data loss that are very real and occur all too frequently including:

User Error: If you or a colleague accidentally delete, alter or corrupt the data. Computer forensics and E-Disclosure firm Kroll Ontrack estimates that human error accounts for 40% of all data loss.

Malicious Destruction: The malicious deletion, alteration or corruption of your data either externally or internally from a disgruntled employee.

3rd party apps: Corruption of data due to software errors in 3rd party applications and plug-ins.

Service Provider: Loss of data or services due to hacking such as the high-profile Google attack, or if the service provider revokes access to your account.

The Need for Daily Backups to prevent data loss in the Cloud

Most companies never question the need for daily backups of on-premise data but often overlook the need to backup online data. Just as a reminder, here are five reasons why you need to backup your organisation’s data regardless of where it resides:

  • Business Continuity: Recover data that’s critical to operating your company.
  • Compliance: Data retention requirements for regulatory compliance.
  • eDiscovery: Document discovery for legal litigation.
  • eForensics: Research into computer security incidents.
  • Audit: Recover information needed for internal or external audits.

Now let’s take a look at two of the leading online service providers and the data recovery capabilities they provide.

Google Data Recovery

Google data retention and recovery varies by service, so here’s a summary of data retention policies from a variety of Google Help documents:

  • Mail: Gone forever 30 days after moving to trash, or immediately after clicking on “Delete Forever.”
  • Contacts: Gone forever 30 days after deleting.
  • Calendar: Once an event is deleted, its full details can’t be recovered.

Documents: Once a document has been permanently deleted it’s gone forever. It’s also impossible to recover docs after an administrator deletes a user’s account. Even Docs versioning feature will automatically collapse or “prune” revisions as storage limits are approached and there’s no way to retrieve the individual revisions that were pruned.

Google Account: An account can only be recovered “within a short period of time after deletion.” If a Google Apps admin deletes an end user’s account, all documents and files owned by that person will no longer be accessible by collaborators and viewers.

Salesforce Data Recovery

Salesforce data recovery is primarily based on the Recycle bin as follows:

  • Deleted Salesforce records can be recovered from the Recycle Bin for 15 days before they are permanently deleted.
  • Once the Recycle Bin storage limits have been reached, Salesforce automatically removes the oldest records if they have been in the Recycle Bin for at least two hours.
  • Deleting a custom object is unrecoverable as the data is immediately deleted from the database.

Salesforce offers an Admin Export function for their Enterprise and Unlimited Editions, but the export can only be run once a week and requires a system admin to manually download and archive the data to local storage each week.

Interestingly enough, Salesforce offers a data recovery service if the data has been deleted within the last 3 months of the recovery request date. The service costs a minimum of $10,000 USD and generally takes 15 business days to recover the data. This does not include metadata and it’s up to you to restore the data back to Salesforce using the CSV file they provide.

What can you do?

Luckily, the answer is simple. Backup your online data on a daily basis. Even the service providers suggest that customers backup their data. The first solution recommended by Salesforce to avoid data loss is to “Use a partner backup solution that can be found on the AppExchange”, and stresses this again in another document, “While Salesforce.com backs up all data and can restore data, it’s important to back up and be able to restore your own salesforce.com data.”

So why not take your service provider’s advice, and start backing up your online data before you find yourself in front of the board trying to explain why you can’t provide the documents needed for the legal litigation, or how you lost all those leads your sales team had been working so hard to develop.

CloudAlly’s Automated Daily Backups for Google Apps and Salesforce

CloudAlly, a leading provider of cloud-to-cloud backup and recovery service is the first company to provide automated daily backups of both Google Apps and Salesforce.com to unlimited Amazon S3 secure storage.

System admins can activate daily backups for all users within their Google Apps domain, as well as all Salesforce organisational data with a few simple clicks. CloudAlly provides unlimited retention of the daily archives enabling businesses to recover data from any point in time, whenever needed.

CloudAlly offers a 15-day free trial and is available in the Salesforce AppExchange, Google Apps Marketplace or directly from the company’s website.