What is the difference between off-site backup and cloud backup?

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 06:37
Cloud Storage

Before upgrading from a standard local backup setup, you'll need to weigh up the pros and cons between physical media based off-site backup and cloud backup solutions. Running a backup solution inevitably adds financial overheads to the balance sheet, but if done conscientiously, could mean saving the company from permanent data loss and ruin. In this article we've outlined some points to help you choose an appropriate solution.

The benefit of off-site backup

The main gain with off-site is that your backups are stored out of harm's way. Since the object of backups is to create data redundancy in case of loss, due to say, fire, flood, theft, or negligence, off-site fulfils this purpose very well.

The downside to off-site backups

Here are a few:

  • Off-site backup storage cannot be used for online backups. (Online backups require a constant connection to the source storage media so that backups can be run at regular intervals.) This means that after every fresh backup, the data needs to be carried off to the off-site location (usually a branch office or a records management company).
  • This also hampers restores in that data needs to be fetched from the off-site location and plugged backed in at the source. Think tape backups, for instance – logistically tedious.
  • With storage devices being carted back and forth between storage locations, the risk of damaging the backups increases. If a backup data were to get damaged or lost along the way, additional replacement costs will be needed – not to mention the risk of incurring an outage between backup intervals that could result in permanent data loss.

The benefits of cloud backup

Those that do cloud backup love cloud backup. Here's why:

  • Like off-site backups, cloud backups are inherently situated elsewhere – your backups are no longer vulnerable to disasters and other causes of data loss that happen at the source.
  • Cloud backups are ideal for use with scheduled backups. With a reliable cloud storage provider and suitable online backup software, backups can be performed at regular intervals and be transferred automatically over a WAN or internet connection.
  • Cloud backup lends itself to synergy with incremental/synthetic full backups. These types of backup only transfer changed portions of files to the backup server resulting in lower bandwidth usage than, say, differential backups.
  • As we've mentioned before, cloud backups are extremely reliable. Due to it being stored in a cloud environment, redundant drives compensate for possible hardware corruption and facilitates improved data integrity.
  • Your data is easily accessible at any time. Multiple network and internet connections to the cloud backup storage facilitate reliable access from most devices.

Cloud backups have their downsides too

Here are the things to look out for:

  • If a solid agreement with the cloud storage provider is not in place, it could result in disappointment. Make sure your expectations and the provider's capabilities are clearly spelled out in the contract.
  • Also, if a cloud storage provider doesn't follow adequate data security practices, your data will be exposed to greater risk than with off-site backups. Cloud storage is usually multi-tenanted, and if badly secured, could leave your backups exposed to malware infections and snooping from other tenants.
  • Depending on your network connection with the cloud provider, very large data sets can take longer to restore than off-site backups. This is why cloud backups are better suited to an environment that requires many small restores. However, some cloud backup providers can provide a rapid courier of encrypted data to site on disk, eliminating this downside.

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