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Cloud backup for business: Seven factors that dictate provider selection

For an organization considering backing up to the public cloud for the first time, the list of providers and offerings can seem endless. Discover key considerations.

Choosing an online cloud backup provider can be a challenging process. There are numerous vendors to choose from, and each one offers a variety of capabilities at different price points. The key is to focus on how well a vendor's products mesh with your organization's requirements.

In the case of backup storage, performance and the costs associated with storing your data are universal concerns, but they are not the only criteria. Additional important areas of consideration when contemplating cloud backup for business include the following:

Vendor reputation

While it is true that large, well-known cloud providers tend to be more expensive than lesser-known providers, you tend to get what you pay for. A smaller provider might not have the resources to provide adequate support when it is needed, and may not use enterprise-grade hardware. If you are averse to using larger providers, ensure the smaller provider has a good reputation and can handle your workloads.

Provider's service-level agreement

A cloud storage SLA guarantees a certain level of availability for the service. SLAs should be financially backed, meaning customers receive a discount or rebate if they suffer an outage.

Data security

Your data should be encrypted at the storage level in a way that ensures its privacy. Network encryption -- such as Secure Sockets Layer, Transport Layer Security or Internet Protocol Security -- should be used any time data traverses a network segment. One of the best ways to protect your data is to look for cloud backup for business service provider that is compliant with regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Even if your organization is not subject to such regulations, you can benefit from the security measures a provider implements to maintain regulatory compliance.

Method used to establish storage connectivity

The storage must be connected in a way that will be accessible to your backup application.

Storage compatibility

Some cloud storage providers maintain a software compatibility list. The scope of such lists can vary, but they commonly note the backup applications the storage works with. In some cases, the compatibility list also describes the operating systems or hardware appliances the service supports. Even if your backup application is not on the provider's list of compatible applications, it will likely work with cloud-based storage. However, using such an application could result in unforeseen problems that might not be detected until much later. More importantly, running a configuration that is not officially supported could result in an inability to receive technical support.

Redundancy

A cloud backup for business provider should offer a way of making redundant copies of your data. Some providers achieve redundancy through simple, storage array-level replication. Other offer customers the option of replicating data to other regions.

Provider-imposed limitations

A provider might limit the maximum size of your backups. Similarly, some smaller cloud backup for business providers have been known to throttle the performance of those backups they consider to be excessively large.

If you are using cloud storage as an archive, you may need to alter your selection process. Cloud-based archive storage varies widely from one provider to the next. Some simply use commodity storage, while others employ off-line or near-line storage. Archived data is rarely needed, but you must consider how quickly you can retrieve this data, if required. If instant, on-demand access is necessary, a provider that stores archive data online is the best option. If you don't need the data quickly, a provider that stores your archives on off-line or near-line storage can lower your costs.

Next Steps

Simplify your cloud provider selection process

Potential risks of choosing a public cloud provider

How to better evaluate cloud backup providers

This was last published in July 2016

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