Michael Otey is president of TECA, Inc., which focuses on Windows and SQL Server product development and consulting. He is a frequent contributor to technical publications and the author of several books on database development and programming.

What’s Different about Backup to the Cloud?

A lot of businesses have begun to incorporate the cloud into their backup processes and most businesses that haven’t done so yet are looking into the process. Using the cloud as a backup target has a lot of advantages; Cloud services have matured and provide extremely high levels of availability.

Most businesses are experiencing extremely high rates of data growth which means that your backup requirements increase right along with it and using the cloud can reduce or eliminate the need to buy expensive local storage. In addition, cloud backups are inherently off-site which provides a built-in measure of disaster recovery and can eliminate the need for employing a third party off-site data protection service.

Cloud backup differences

So what are the differences between using local backup and using cloud backup? In some ways they seem to be about the same and on the surface they both have a lot of similarities. Both can use the same backup processes – many times the exact same backup applications can target both the cloud and local storage.  Both essentially save those backups to some form of storage. However, the devil is in the details and when you look closer almost everything else about backing up to the cloud is different. While both target some form of storage the underlying plumbing is quite different. Local storage is typically much faster for local systems as cloud backup for local systems is limited by the upstream and downstream bandwidth that is available. However, cloud backup for cloud-based VMs and applications can be as fast as local backups. Cloud storage is also different from local storage and has additional capabilities and attributes that are not present in local storage.

For instance, cloud storage can be setup to automatically replicate to different geographical regions. In addition, some cloud providers offer other capabilities as well. Amazon has a feature called Object Lock which can be used to create immutable backups. In other words, Object Lock can be used to create backups that are read-only and cannot be altered after they are created. This has a number of advantages as the backup storage is securely protected against ransomware, malicious insider threats and accidental deletion. There are other differences as well.

The cloud enables you to access your data from any connected device. This can allow your backups to be restored in many different locations but it also potentially opens up possible access to those backup underlining the importance of encrypting your cloud backups. Expectations can also be different as customers expect cloud backup and restore to be slower than local backup so they will often adjust their Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) for cloud backups.

Better together

Cloud backups are a different animal than traditional on-premise backups. However, using cloud backups in conjunction with local backups can provide the best of both worlds. Local backup can provide faster backup and restore times which can help reduce your RTOs.

Then taking a copy of those local backups up to the cloud can enhance offsite disaster recovery and in some cases add data immutability which can help provide protection from malware, ransomware and accidental deletion. Taking a second copy of your backups to the cloud also helps you to meet the 3-2-1 rule of backups where you have three copies of your data on two different media types with one copy offsite.

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