Breaking Down Three Main Barriers to Cloud Backup

by Pierre Semaan

Storage and data backup technologies have been around for years, serving as the bedrock of all back-end IT infrastructures and disaster plans. It’s not a technology that many employees think about, but when there is an accidental file deletion, a malware virus shuts down applications or a hurricane floods the data center, backup and recovery solutions quickly become the favored friend. Over the years, data protection technology has evolved from complicated tape infrastructures to disk-based configurations to off-site/secondary storage locations and most recently to cloud.

Since the inception of the cloud, companies have been turning to it to cost-effectively store large amounts of data. This trend has brought data backup and storage into the limelight and made it a bit more exciting. Companies can leverage cloud technologies to enhance disaster recovery/business continuity planning and ensure continuous operations regardless of a weather-related event or server crash.

This has morphed into today’s booming cloud backup market with IT teams now confidently backing up a firm’s entire infrastructure – applications, servers and data – to the cloud. And although the cloud provides a number of advantages such as cost-efficiency, ability to burst for extra compute power and increased speed, IT directors still run into challenges – especially when related to data backup, recovery and storage. When working with service providers to implement cloud backup into the infrastructure, IT directors must watch out for three main barriers.

  1. Where in the world is the data?

Regardless of whether a company has one office within the U.S. or multiple locations globally, the world is shrinking and it is fairly clear that successful companies will conduct some business with overseas customers. As companies expand, IT directors may look to the cloud to easily grow the IT infrastructure to international locations as well as share data with overseas staff.

However, IT leaders must look at where their cloud backup services are located and what features are available (or not available) at certain geographical locations. Can data be backed up from any office and will it be immediately available across all locations for data recovery purposes, whether that recovery takes place in another cloud, on-premise data center or managed services solution?

Also, data sovereignty laws and privacy regulations must be taken into account. In fact, there are some countries whose laws state that native customer information must be stored in that country. When implementing cloud backup, IT directors should work with service providers that have expertise and backup locations available globally, so that your choice of which location to store your backup data in is not a compromise.

  1. Keeping it all straight

A key feature to cloud backup that can make an IT leader’s life easier is the ability for self-service. When the CEO urgently calls because he needs a file recovered, the last thing any IT director wants to do is tell him that he has to wait up to two hours or more for the cloud service provider to send the most recent version. IT directors can be the “hero” and easily log into a self-service interface and bring the file back within minutes. When reviewing cloud service providers, IT directors should look for this self-service ability for the file AND the application layer. Service providers that offer more robust restorations at the application layer, such as SQL Server or Active Directory, provide an even greater flexibility and reduced recovery times.

But efficient recovery is only one aspect of managing cloud backup operations. IT directors must also successfully manage the data backup and recovery processes to ensure that everything is properly stored. Backup and data management can be a full-time job in itself. For smaller companies or those whose IT teams that don’t want the hassle of managing backup and recovery processes in-house, cloud providers with built-in managed services options may be the best choice. By removing the frustration of backup management with self-service portals and add-on services, the IT director can breathe a sigh of relief that backup and recovery of essential data and applications are in the right hands.

  1. Backing up the cloud

Prior to the cloud, IT teams had to have a redundant infrastructure in place that could easily be turned on in the event of a massive infrastructure failure or natural disaster. Now, the cloud is acting as the backup infrastructure with the most recent copies of data and applications stored until it is needed. But what happens if the cloud service goes down?

Amazon, Google and all the large service providers have multiple data centers and redundancies built into their systems, but a New York company having to access applications at a California data center may experience severe latency issues. IT directors should have a backup plan for the data and applications hosted within the cloud. Will the cloud service provider allow the team to backup its data and servers to a competitor’s cloud? Having the redundant infrastructure – a backup for the cloud– on a separate provider’s infrastructure can allow for immediate restoration and eliminate any downtime.

Looking ahead, cloud is the future of all IT infrastructures. It only makes sense that back-end processes such as backup and recovery move to the cloud now prior to larger, production-level applications. This allows the IT directors to get these much needed systems in place before conquering the more complicated cloud deployments. However, these cloud engagements are not without their own barriers. Automation/management, geographic location of data and backup of cloud services are three main obstacles that can impede successful cloud data backup, recovery and storage. Through careful planning and consideration, IT directors can overcome these issues and implement a prosperous cloud backup solution with their service provider.

Pierre Semaan is the vice president of product for the ITaaS Service Unit of Dimension Data.




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