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Systems Engineering Blog

The Cloud is Here to Stay: Backup and Recovery Redefined

August 31, 2018 | Posted in:

Business Continuity, Data Management

Data Center

What would it be like for your organization if there was a facilities' disaster like a flood, fire, or prolonged power outage? If all your data was lost, how long would it take for you to get it back and to be functional again? Minutes, hours, days, or even worse, weeks? How would this affect your customers and your employees? 

Data loss affects all organizations at some point, and many companies struggle with how to protect data, especially now that much of it is in the cloud. It is critical for organizations to have a backup strategy that protects vital data. Companies that have business-critical applications like CPA firms, Law firms, and Healthcare organizations have even more of a compelling reason to ensure data is backed up and quickly recovered when the inevitable occurs. After all, going out of business is NOT an option.

Now that companies are beginning to migrate critical data into the cloud, data backup and recovery strategies must change too. In this blog post, I will cover the various technologies that ensure backup and recovery of critical data, and how cloud is changing these options.

Tape Drives

In many environments, tape drives are still used to backup data. Although it is a very manual process that requires an individual to rotate, replace, and then store the tapes, it does provide reliable recovery should data be lost. Tapes can store immense amounts of data on them with modern LTO8 tapes holding more than 12TB on a single tape! They can also be secure using modern encryption technologies to ensure no data is compromised, even if the tape is stolen. They provide a cost-effective way to ensure your backups are offline in the event of an attack or disaster, if they are securely stored. Some organizations choose to keep their sensitive data on tape as it can be cheaper than cloud storage options if you require large amounts of storage for your backups.

There are challenges to a tape backup system that can cause an organization to consider other alternatives.

  • Tapes can be lost or stolen resulting in a report-able data breach if the encryption was not properly configured.
  • They can also experience read/write failures during backup or restore options as the tapes and tape drive age.
  • If data is lost, it may take hours or even days to recover all the information if the data spans across multiple tapes.
  • An often overlooked component of tape backup is ensuring that offline tapes are stored securely offsite, and not in the same building or room as the servers being protected.

Despite the risks above, some organizations still prefer the tangible tape drive knowing that it works for their business' goals and objectives should something go wrong. The key takeaway is that tape drives are cost effective and generally a reliable method to get your data offsite and secure. 

Cloud Backup Solutions

Organizations that want to get their data offsite, but do not want the hassle of changing tapes can utilize a cloud backup solution. These solutions range from just providing a cloud location to dump copies of backups from their on-premises backup solution, to copying select business data offsite with multiple versions of the data stored. These solutions are generally very customizable and come at a premium price compared to tape storage. The storage capacity can usually be increased very easily as a business grows.

One important cost to consider with these types of solutions is the price of Internet bandwidth required to get your backups offsite. The larger the backup size, the more likely it will be that you will need to increase your bandwidth to ensure your regular Internet usage is not impacted by the backup transfers to the cloud provider.

Another challenge with some cloud backup providers can be the time it takes to recover large amounts of information. If the data required to recover is large enough, the provider will often have to load the data onto portable drives and ship them to your location. This can increase the time it takes to recover your data dramatically. Conversely, if you just need to recover a few files, recovery can be very quick as the data is just downloaded over the Internet from your provider.

Cloud backups can be a convenient, customizable way to protect your most critical information offsite in a secure manner.

Replication

Replication is an exact copy of your production environment. Depending on the type of technology used, replication technology can even provide limited types of backups based on versioning of your production servers. This type of protection ensures that your files, applications, and virtual servers can be reliably restored should a disaster occur because it contains the entirety of your production environment. When a disaster occurs, a replicated environment can be operational very quickly if the proper technologies and designs are deployed. In most cases, a replicated environment can be restored within 15 minutes; not hours or even days. 

With the maturing of cloud-based technologies, there are now ways to replicate server environments into the cloud for disaster recovery purposes. These solutions offer many varying options as well as prices to match a customer’s requirements.

Replicated environments are not for everyone though. The two C's: Cost and Complexity may be the deterrent for some businesses. It is best to work with a Managed IT provider that is well-versed in replicated environments to help you choose the right solution to meet your recovery point (RPO) and time objectives (RTO).

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Microsoft Office 365 (O365) is being utilized by more and more businesses across the board. The usability and scalability of this cloud-based platform provides great applications like Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive, Yammer, Teams, Groups, Sway, and more.

To fully protect all O365 data, organizations need to implement a solution that includes daily backups and archiving to recover data from any point in time to protect against modern threats such as crypto-viruses. Cloud-to-cloud data backup solutions are growing in popularity and capabilities. Solutions today now offer features like:

  • Scalable cloud-to-cloud backup with unlimited storage
  • Control over retention from one year to the next
  • Backup protection of email, OneDrive, and SharePoint Team sites
  • Secure data storage
  • Advanced search capabilities
  • Regulatory compliance (HIPAA, GLBA, PCI...)

As more customers migrate critical information into SaaS platforms, it is crucial to understand how the data is being protected on the platform. Organizations must then decide if they need to supplement the backup and protection of that information to meet their own internal or regulatory requirements.

Conclusion

Although there are many options and solutions to backup your company's important data, one thing is clear, backup is a necessity. No business can afford downtime or the loss of confidential data. 

At an upcoming SE Lunch & Learn titled Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery: The way cloud has changed backup strategies, Systems Engineering's David Marks and Erik Thomas will discuss how the cloud is changing backup and recovery, the various solutions available, and why business continuity should be at the core of every organization's plan. To learn more and to register, click here or on the button below. 

Register now