In the last decade, cloud services have grown increasingly popular and have become more readily available and affordable. Public cloud offerings, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), now provide ‘pay-as-you-use’ platforms that can be spun up quickly and easily. Cloud services have not only permeated our work lives; cloud platforms now dominate the way we look at and manage our personal lives and the technology in them.
However, not everyone is open to the idea of cloud and the security that these services provide are put into question on a regular basis. When it comes to data protection and backup, more traditional hardware based approaches are still popular, which begs the question, what are the pros and cons of a cloud backup solution?
No two environments are the same and the backup solution, cloud or otherwise, to suit your business will be dependent on your storage infrastructure, whether virtualisation is used and the data protection policies you must meet, among other aspects.
The pros of cloud backup
- Cloud based backup solutions are now commonly used across a wide-range of organisations from SMBs to Enterprise organisations. The nature of cloud backup services, whether run from private or public clouds, ensures that they are relatively quick to implement. The ability to protect new data sets almost instantly without having to wait for hardware or go through lengthy implementation projects is a clear advantage for companies operating on a 24-hour basis.
- With quick implementation comes the ability to be flexible with when and how solutions are set up, giving you full control of how datasets are backed up. This may lengthen the implementation stage somewhat but data protection policies should already be set out and a fully flexible system set up correctly from day-1 will save headaches in the long run.
- Although there are common misconceptions around the security of the cloud, cloud backup services will often use methods such as encryption and two-factor authentication to ensure the security of data. By encrypting data with an encryption key set by you, service providers can make certain that data cannot be accessed by an unauthorised party. Further to this, only authorised personnel will have access to the data centres storing data, making an internal breach less likely.
- An inherent problem of looking after mixed infrastructures with a range of solutions is the time and cost associated with doing so. These could require one person to have the knowledge of how to maintain several solutions or multiple people having the knowledge of each solution, all of their time is then taken up managing part of the backup. Cloud backup solutions are often able to alleviate this pain by allowing you to protect all data from one central portal using one technology.
- Data is growing and cloud backup platforms are the ideal way to ensure that new data is being protected; a cloud platform’s ability to scale with your business provides more flexibility and with competition amongst providers and predictable pricing models in place, they shouldn’t end up being costly. In fact, as your dataset grows, you should start to benefit from a reduced cost per GB stored.
While cloud backup platforms can reduce the complexity of backup solutions and scale up and out quickly and easily, they are not without their own challenges or caveats.
The cons of cloud backup
- Legislation and industry regulations often have implications on where an organisation can store data. Although data may be encrypted or inaccessible, if stored on a platform that is not in the same country as the business, this can be classified as a breach of data protection law. On the other hand, if trade agreements exist which guarantee equivalent data protection to that required in the business’ country, use of the platform may be permitted. When using public cloud services, such as Azure, AWS, it may be possible to choose the region data is stored in but organisations need to decide if this is enough to keep them compliant. In short, businesses must read the terms and conditions carefully and must understand their obligations under data protection law before committing to the use of a cloud service.
- Managing and protecting data through an online portal can be convenient when it comes to quickly implementing solutions or wanting to review selections or retention without lengthy processes. However, when something goes wrong this could quickly start to become a headache especially if you are stuck communicating via email only or having to piece together the resolution you need from FAQ’s or an automated chat facility. If choosing a cloud service over an on-premise solution, choose one that provides telephone support so that if disaster strikes, you can speak to an expert within seconds if needs be.
- Reviewing your backup solution and provider every year can be time consuming and there may not be a tangible benefit, shy of the possibility of a cost saving, especially if moving from one cloud-based solution to the next. Consequently, you may be more likely to sign longer-term agreements and contracts. The issue with this is that it won’t be easy to get out of the contract if something goes wrong. This con can be nullified however by working with a provider that provides flexible contracts that won’t tie you in for lengthy periods.
- Cloud backups by nature, require an internet connection to be effective. If your organisation has extremely limited or unreliable bandwidth, then the speed at which you can backup and restore data will be limited by this. Today this is very rarely an issue but is worth bearing in mind.
The advantages and disadvantages of cloud backup to you, will be dependent on your environment and your key requirements for a backup technology. For many organisations, cloud gives the opportunity to move away from hardware heavy solutions and CAPEX purchases and enables you to automate more processes, saving time as well as money.
It is important that organisations understand in detail what data they have, the lifecycle of that data and what legislation and regulations they need to adhere to in protecting that data. Whether looking to review cloud backup solutions or traditional backup solutions, this will give a better idea as to the best solution for an environment.
Things to know when reviewing
- Will the new solution enable you to meet legislation and regulation requirements?
- Where and how is the platform supported? In other words, is the provider’s support team local and can you speak to them in person and over the phone?
- Where is data being stored?
- What are the SLAs and terms and conditions of the contract?
- Are there any hidden costs such as a cost for downloading data or performing restores?