Listen : Audio version of this article
Cloud adoption is at an all-time high with cloud computing models like Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). In enterprise environments, cloud is already playing an integral role in reducing data center footprint, optimizing business processes and delivering great value-for-money experience.
Speaking of cloud adoption, here are some statistics by Statista about the state of the “cloud” in 2017. 2018 and the expected growth rate in 2020:
- Public cloud computing market size in 2017 was $146 billion USD.
- Global cloud data center IP traffic in 2018 was 10.67 Zetabytes per year.
- Expected global public cloud services market growth rate in 2020 is 17%.
The flexibility, scalability and availability that Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) offer have made it simply the go-to choice for numerous enterprise use-cases. Verily, cloud storage tiers are a good option for business and organizations of all sizes ranging from Small to Medium-sized Business (SMBs) to large enterprises.
However, there’s one thing that cloud adopters need to remember about cloud storage technology: it does not protect from data loss.
Isn’t Cloud Storage Completely Secure?
Cloud Service Providers (CSPs), like Microsoft Azure, Amazon S3, Google cloud and other public clouds, take responsibility for data availability.
Data availability means that CSPs only make sure that your data is available but protecting data from data loss due to threats like accidental deletion, malicious deletion, ransomware attacks, viruses, malware etc. is the data owner’s (your) responsibility. Therefore, it’s imperative that along with cloud storage, reliable and effective data backup measures are set up to prevent data loss.
But before we talk about these backup or data protection measures, let’s try to draw a clearer line between data availability and data protection or data security.
Differentiating Data Availability from Data Security / Data Protection
Microsoft Azure and Amazon use geo-replication to replicate your stored data to different servers in the same data center. And additionally, the data is replicated between different data centers as well.
This is done to make sure that if a server in Azure or Amazon’s data center fails, you don’t feel any discontinuity or unavailability of data. If the primary copy becomes inaccessible, the system fails over the secondary copy (or replicated copy) and data accessibility continues seamlessly. And with replicas of data stretched across data centers, these CSPs ensure that you don’t feel any disruption even if an entire data center goes down.
You might be wondering, “That’s great and all, but what happens when a virus affects a volume or when a file is accidentally deleted?”
The answer: there’s no built-in failsafe for that. If a folder is deleted, then the real-time replication features make sure that it’s deleted from all replicas or secondary and tertiary copies. In other words, the virus, the file deletion, or malicious encryption, is replicated across all copies of the data whether it’s within the same data center or between different data centers.
So how can you protect business-critical files, folders and Virtual Machines (VMs) running in the cloud? You can do so by backing up your data stored in the cloud.
By setting up backup and Disaster Recovery (DR), you’ll ensure that in the event of a ransomware attack, virus infection, accidental or malicious deletion, you still have backup copies that can be used to recover your data.
It goes without saying here that backup copies are not the same as the replicas created with geo-replication or sync & async replication services.
For more detailed insight on the difference between cloud backup, cloud storage and cloud sync, we highly recommend this blog.
Thus far, we’ve established:
- Global cloud traffic per year is in zetabytes and will increase in the coming years.
- Data stored in the cloud is highly available.
- CSPs do not backup the data stored in the cloud automatically.
- It’s necessary to backup data stored in the cloud.
Now that we’ve established that it’s important to backup data stored in the cloud, the two consequent questions are:
- How to backup data stored in the cloud?
- And how to do it effectively?
Cloud Backup: How to do it & how to do it right
Data owners have a couple of options when it comes to setting up backups for data stored in the cloud. The best option varies depending on specific requirements, budget, internal policies, IT staff experience, and applicable industry regulations.
Following are a number of generally applicable & secure backup options for enterprise data owners using cloud storage solutions:
If your IT framework is open to setting up an in-house data center, then one option is to set up a dedicated backup & DR appliance. The purpose-built backup appliance creates backups of the data stored in the cloud and keeps copies in the on-premises infrastructure.
If you’re already in possession of backup software, then the fully integrated backup system can be replaced by a secure backup target storage; which can be a NAS or SAN storage appliance.
With this setup, data owners can keep backup copies on-premises and restore quickly. Not to mention, when considering the long term ROIs of on-premises infrastructure versus cloud, on-premises infrastructure has greater potential to deliver better value-for-money experience.
If your organization is more in favor of serverless computing, then cloud-to-cloud backups are the right choice for you.
Cloud-to-cloud backups are exactly as they sound like. By leveraging backup software, data owners backup NAS or SAN volumes stored in the cloud or VMs running on cloud HCI to another cloud repository.
The specifics of the backup strategy and execution vary depending on the chosen backup software vendor and supported cloud integration.
For instance, Veeam is now venturing into the cloud-native backup world by offering backups for VMs & data stored in AWS and/or Azure. With Veeam software, enterprise users can backup their data running in AWS to another repository provisioned in AWS; and the same goes for Azure.
Similarly, other backup software vendors are either already doing this or beginning to come up with similar options for enterprise users.
This should answer the first question: “how to backup data stored in the cloud?” Now let’s talk about “how to do it effectively?”
How to make sure your backup solution is reliable & robust
There are two major parts of any backup solution:
- Backup Software (Veeam, Acronis, Commvault, Veritas, etc.)
- Backup Target Storage (On-Premises or in the Cloud)
Which backup software best suits your requirements? To choose the right backup software, you need to have clear answers for the following questions:
- What should be the maximum Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs)?
- What kind of workloads qualify as business-critical? (NAS, SAN or VMs or both)
- How much budget are you willing to spend on your backup solution?
The second thing that you really need to pay attention to are the data security features of your backup target storage. For instance, the following is a list of very desirable features or data services for backup data storage:
- WORM (Write-Once Read-Many) Storage
- Immutable Read-Only Snapshots
- Deduplication for NAS & iSCSI Volumes
- Built-in Ransomware, Virus & Malware Detection & Removal
If your backup target storage has these capabilities, then you can be rest assured that your business-critical workloads are safe and secure from a number of cyber-security threats.
Cloud technology is cost-effective, reliable and it introduces operational efficiency to several business processes. Considering the volume that digitally transformed businesses have to process, cloud storage is definitely a great option.
However, without secure cloud backups, data stored in the cloud is vulnerable to data loss and consequent disruption and downtime. Therefore, it’s imperative for businesses going serverless to setup backup & DR solutions to ensure data loss prevention and business continuity.