In this age of cloud-based everything, it amazes me how many companies are still doing their backups either completely onsite, or to removable media that they take offsite. Despite the proven unreliability of tapes, these are still prevalant in many places. But what I’m seeing more of these days is removable and external hard drives being used for backups. Some companies are fairly regimented about removing them from the premises daily or sometimes weekly and even rotating them. For companies that would not survive without their data, this is like playing Russian Roulette; it’s just a matter of time. So to answer the question, “Why cloud backup?” I’ll start with some of the popular myths about backups.
I hear many reasons why companies choose to backup to removable media rather than use a cloud backup service. Among these, speed is often mentioned. If they need to restore a computer they don’t want to have to download all their files from an offsite backup service because it would take too long. That is very true. And that is why I always recommend an offsite backup solution that also includes an onsite backup. But for restoring just a few files, the download times are usually insignificant. In the event a full system restore is necessary, the better cloud backup services will ship a fully loaded hard drive to you overnight.
The next myth I hear is that tape is the cheapest. Hmmm. That’s a tough one to argue. Tapes are pretty cheap. But tapes wear out over time. They stretch from heat and the magnetic characteristics fade. The fact is, studies have shown that 70% of backup tapes are damaged and can not be restored. If your data is not too important, sure, you’re saving a lot of money. But with odds like that, you may as well save even more money and not backup at all.
Then of course there are external and removable hard drives, which are much more reliable than tape. So at a slightly higer expense, many believe this is the best medium for backups. Well, as bad as tape is, it does have one advantage over hard drives; you can drop it a few feet without any damage. Hard drives are very susceptible to shock. If it slips out of your hand while you’re taking it out of your car, you’d better hope that this is not the day that you need your backup.
The opposition to cloud backup solutions is usually around security. Having their data stored on a tape or hard drive that they can see and hold makes people feel good. They know where their data is and they can protect it. There have been several stories in the news recently that told how hackers got into some computers and stole credit card and other personal info. They don’t want their data to be out there somewhere that hackers can get into. If someone is really concerned about security, I can always find a few security holes in their current environment and operations. I won’t go into details here, but lack of a firewall, data syncing to unsecred laptops and mobile devices and even misplaced backup tapes and drives pose more of a security risk than a good cloud backup provider. So after we address all of their existing environmental and operational security risks, I explain to them that the offsite backup facilities we work with are SAS 70 Type II certified. That means they are at much less risk of having data stolen from the cloud than from their own office. So the security argument against using a cloud backup solution is very weak.
So, Why Cloud Backup?
A good cloud backup provider will offer secure, reliable data storage at a predictable cost. If you find an important file was deleted or corrupted you can quickly recover a previous version of that file. In the event of a disaster, you are assured that your data is safely stored far away and out of harm’s reach. A good cloud backup provider will also offer you a service level agreement and provide data restoration services for you. Cloud backup has been a quickly growing trend over the past few years and is accepted industry-wide for providing a good balance of business continuity and disaster recovery capabilitites. When coupled with an appropriate onsite backup solution, you can put together a business continuity solution that keeps your business running no matter what IT problems arise.
In a future article I’ll offer advice on how to choose a cloud backup solution. This will cover the features to look for in a cloud backup service. Until then, if you’re looking for a cloud backup solution, call or write me. I’ll be glad to discuss your needs and get you going in the right direction.