Cloud backup solutions

A better mousetrap is here: Cloud backup solutions

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Tony AlleyneTony Alleyne
Manager of Technical Services
Arrow ECS
Tony OwensTony Owens
Senior Solutions Architect
Arrow ECS
The transformation of the backup and recovery landscape is arguably one of the more involved ones taking place in the enterprise data storage world today. Fortunately, we’re beginning to see solutions that promise seamless data placement and migration management across on-premises and off-premises infrastructures. Let’s take a look this metamorphosis and the latest solutions that are going to change the game.

Back in the Day…

Back in the day, most customers were dependent upon traditional backup where data goes off to a tape, and, hopefully, the data was encrypted. However, we would hear nightmare stories about it not being encrypted. If the tapes were unencrypted and fell into the wrong hands (fell off a truck, so to speak), there was potential for catastrophic damage to the business. Additionally, restoring those tapes took hours, and hours, and hours on end – it was quite the process. Today, our fear is more centered hacking, like recent ATM “jackpotting” schemes, where the data is accessible through a network.
Eventually, to shortcut this traditional backup process, people began to do system mirroring – creating a second version of the exact same system that can be tapped into. However, it didn’t address the issue if your site had a physical disaster, i.e. a fire or a meteor falls out of the sky …you never know!

The Way Things are Now

We now live in a world of, “I need something, and I want it right this second.” Take this analogy: When you open up your favorite app on your phone, would you wait even 15 seconds for that app to load? Would you have the patience to come back a few hours later and see if it had loaded yet? The typical response is probably, “no.” This is the reason people gave up the old tape backup process – it just wasn’t realistic since those backup windows were exceeding 24 hours. Enter another idea: backing up to a disk.
Disk Backup
This new solution involved writing the data to a disk, then writing it off to tape at a different time so there weren’t any business interruptions. The process of getting that data back has changed – it’s come to the point where we need it on command. If I want to restore data in a matter of minutes, I don’t want to wait for you to go get that from those tapes – and this especially becomes a problem if the tape is stored off-site.

Problems with the Current Process

Let’s keep in mind the four main reasons why data usually needs to be restored:
BCDR top 4 reasons
Because of the possibility of something physically damaging occurring, companies progressed to disaster recovery sites. (These solutions are often referred to as BCDR – get a refresher here.) This, however, means having more space and equipment, and that may not be right for every business. It’s costly—and for some businesses, it’s still a requirement—but it’s not feasible for everyone, particularly smaller companies.

Enter: The Cloud

The cloud has become the most viable option for businesses to be able to have a readily available backup solution. Now, we have the ability to restore from everywhere in the world and have access to it, if need be. By having this option to store it in the cloud, businesses can restore data from cloud backups in snapshots and get their physical sites back in working order quickly. This is the primary reason why having cloud backup and having a copy of your data stored in the cloud makes a lot of sense.

Nothing is Perfect…

There are a few concerns with storing your data in the cloud.
1. Malicious hackers can grab your data. Several universities have gone through this and had to pay a lot of money to get the ransomware removed.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a matter of if you’ll need to improve your security, but rather when. You will build the better mousetrap, but someone will always build a smarter mouse.
So, your ability to protect your data before it leaves your facility and gets to the cloud—whether it’s through phishing, snooping the line or stealing directly—is crucial. That’s why having the proper level of security is the concern for companies. If the data gets breached, your reputation is put on the line. If your reputation is ruined, your company could be done for good. Not to mention, the potential for lawsuits.
2. Cost structure hasn’t been super clear. Deploying an entire solution into the cloud means you’re going to have fluctuating cost due to data rates. This could be VERY expensive if those data rates are high, and it also depends on how much data you’re moving back and forth. So, the cost of going to the cloud could be more expensive than DR solutions – it all depends on amount of data you are dealing with.
When you ask what’s holding companies back from transferring all of their data to the cloud, the most common answer is “the unknown” of the cost. But now, there are ways for them to dip their toes in the water and move from keeping everything on-premises in a private cloud to moving to a hybrid option. The days of on-premises tapes are disappearing. We’re moving to using snapshots to back up the data to the cloud, and managing costs is actually easier than many think.
Another small catch: Customers taking advantage of this solution have to make sure their environment is able to compress and encrypt the data before it’s sent to the cloud. They also have to make sure the provider they choose is compliant and doing everything they need to in order to secure the data. This, unfortunately, puts a lot of responsibility on the customers. It’s up to the customer to determine how to encrypt and compress the data, increase infrastructure. This makes this often too challenging and costly for most customers to take advantage of.

So, What’s Changing the Game?

Some solutions providers now have the ability to add snapshots to the cloud that are all built directly into the system – no additional hardware-add needed. IBM has led the way in doing it within their storage system, and other vendors will probably follow suit soon. The robust snapshot technology and integration with a transparent cloud capability is now going to be a big selling point.
The typical data cloud storage conversation involves these important questions: “Where is the data being encrypted, who’s handling that and where is it being stored?” IBM is simply integrating everything into the storage system where the customer is already doing their storage.
Arrow is rapidly moving toward this hybrid approach, leveraging and reconciling with what’s already onsite. If you have additional questions about moving to a hybrid cloud backup environment, please contact our experts.
This article was originally published in February 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Last modified: May 3, 2019