Cloud-based backup: Best strategies and practices
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As the use of cloud services grows, so too do options for protecting the data used by these applications. While there are still only a handful of cloud-to-cloud backup providers, those vendors are expanding the cloud services that they protect.
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A Tech Target IT priorities study conducted in late 2013 found that 44% of IT decision makers said they would consider Software as a Service (SaaS) this year. A recent Forrester survey of 943 companies that use SaaS applications found that these companies expect to use an average of more than 50 SaaS apps this year and 66 in 2015. That amounts to a lot of data that companies will entrust others to protect, unless they implement their own cloud-to-cloud backup.
Most cloud-to-cloud backup vendors still only protect a handful of apps, but they are adding apps and capabilities. Backupify last year went beyond Google Apps and Salesforce.com backup by making its application programming interfaces available to SaaS providers, application vendors and even enterprises who want to quickly add backup for cloud apps. Backupify CEO Rob May said his company will add backup for Box and Microsoft Office 365 this year.
Spanning, which has backed up Google Apps for several years, went beta with Salesforce.com backup in late 2013 and is scheduled for general availability over the next month or so.
Other cloud-to-cloud backup vendors include CloudAlly and syscloud.
These services allow customers to back up copies of data stored on SaaS apps to another cloud, such as Amazon Web Services. These copies often include metadata and audit logs and can be searched for quick and granular restores.
Are these tools even necessary?
Cloud-to-cloud backup can be viewed as a luxury that many companies don't need even if they have critical data in the cloud. Bill Suarez, director of IT for software security firm Bit9, uses a combination of Veeam Software Backup & Replication and TwinStrata CloudArray to protect his on-premises data but said he sees no need to add a tool to protect his company's data on Salesforce.com.
"We rely on Salesforce for that," Suarez said. "I have to wonder about the real value of cloud-to-cloud backup. When it comes to cloud operations, Salesforce has written most of the books."
In the Forrester report "Back Up Your Critical Cloud Data Before It's Too Late," Forrester senior analyst Rachel Dines warns users not to overlook cloud-to-cloud backup. "Many SaaS providers will not restore lost data for users or will only do so for an exorbitant fee," she wrote.
She listed several risks to data stored in cloud applications, including data lost during data migration to the cloud or from one cloud provider to another, accidental deletion of data by users, malicious insiders, departing employees, cyber criminals and rogue applications.
"For years, it has been standard practice to back up your critical data. … Yet, every day, enterprises send critical data to SaaS providers without any plan for how they will back up the data and restore it," Dines wrote. "Only when they experience data loss do they ask the question, 'Who is responsible for backing up my data?'"
While many SaaS providers have sound restore and recovery policies, some won't disclose their policies, and others can be expensive or put data at risk. Salesforce.com charges $10,000 for a service that restores data that has been permanently deleted or corrupted. Google Apps deletes data when a user deletes it, and data cannot be retrieved from a user account that has been deleted.
Security, compliance could drive cloud-to-cloud backup
Backupify's May said his company has 1.7 petabytes under management with more than 7,000 customers, some with tens of thousands of employees.
May and Spanning CEO Jeff Erramouspe said sales to large companies are driven by security and compliance concerns, and they are working on adding features in those areas.
"We'll do a lot more with security," May said. "We're looking at giving our customers the ability to provide their own encryption keys and manage those themselves. We're also looking to do a lot more with our search functionality to give them more refined ways of searching for data."
Spanning claims more than 3,000 customers, including Netflix.
"Our big deals are driven by compliance guys," Erramouspe said. "Auditors say, 'You need a separate copy of cloud data stored somewhere else.' If the auditors say, 'You need to have separate backup for cloud data,' then we'll be in a great position."