Five cloud backup considerations

Contemplating on cloud backup for your data backup requirements? Here are a few things to consider when choosing a cloud backup service.

Cloud backup is a more flexible and cost- effective way of provisioning resources as against in-house storage. Deploying an in-house storage and backup system would require investments not only in additional storage boxes, but also manpower to manage the environment.

Data availability and criticality

Cloud backup works more like a Flat File System, you cannot make changes to the file in real-time. Any changes or updates to a backed up file can be made only by replacing that file with a newer copy. Hence cloud backup is ideal for non-production data.

Criticality of data is defined by an organizations policy. So while data from a CRM, SCM or e-mail may be critical for one organization, for another, it may not have real-time requirements. Hence it is necessary for an organization to determine what data it treats as non-production and can move to the cloud.

Data transfer constraints

Due to the different protocols used by cloud backup service provider to write data to their cloud storage, the rate at which data gets backed up on the cloud differs from vendor to vendor. For instance, the rate at which data would be backed up with a Google cloud backup service differs from that of an Amazon cloud backup even if they have the same bandwidth available.

Additionally, while there is no restriction on the type of data that can be backed up on to the cloud, there may be a restriction placed by the cloud service provider on the file size. For example with the Amazon cloud storage, a user cannot send a file with size exceeding 5 GB. However there is no restriction to the amount of data that can be sent at any instance of time.

Service uptime

Uptime too is very critical component. While a cloud backup service usually has data which is at rest, if for instance, a web server is connected directly to the cloud backup to pull media files from the storage bucket and display it directly on the webpage, unavailability of data can impact the website severely. The criticality of the data will also determine the amount of time an organization can afford to lose before it recovers the lost data.

Hence when choosing a cloud backup service you need to determine if the necessary uptime levels will be met. Both Google and Amazon offer 99.999% uptime for their cloud backup service.

Also an organization should ensure that its data is stored, distributed across geographies where the vendor has a presence.  The organization should ideally have multiple copies of the same data distributed across different regions. This way if one cloud backup location goes down, data can be retrieved from another location.

If vendor lock-in or loss of data is a fear, then the organization should maintain a copy of that data at their end.

Are the necessary security levels met?

An organization should check and ensure that the cloud backup service provider offers the necessary levels of SLA for securing data at rest on the cloud. For instance, Amazon’s S3 storage is ISO 27000 and PCI DSS certified.

Data in transit to the cloud backup provider also needs to be secured. Most cloud backup service providers offer an HTTPS connection for moving data to the cloud based storage. While this is a fairly secure connection, organizations should check for other levels of encryption options available for secure data transmission to cloud backup service.

Data recovery on contract termination

The cloud backup service should allow the organization to take back the data in case the contract is terminated or moved to another vendor. Most cloud service providers send reminders as the contract term nears its end. They also give a buffer time for the customer to either renew/extend the contract or for recovering his data in case of contract termination or move to another cloud backup service vendor.

There are tools offered by cloud service providers and third-party vendors which export data from the cloud provider to the in-house storage or to another cloud backup service provider with drag-and- drop options.

Author’s Profile: Dipankar Sinha is Project Manager Infrastructure and Hosting at Hungama.com. He has been instrumental in the company’s adoption of Amazon’s cloud services by determining the cloud service requirements, defining the implementation roadmap, identifying gaps and suggesting solutions to overcome these issues.

(As told to Harshal Kallyanpur)

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