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Contain cloud backup costs as data growth soars sky-high

Techniques to reduce the cost of cloud backup become more important as the volume of data climbs at historic rates. But the cloud also has to be practical and efficient to work.

Throughout the world, data continues to accumulate at an unprecedented rate. According to some estimates, the total amount of data surpassed a zettabyte in 2016. Some sources have gone so far as to predict that there will be 40 zettabytes of data in existence by 2020, raising the question of how backups can keep pace with such explosive growth.

The most obvious solution for backing up massive repositories of data is the cloud. After all, one of the major marketing messages trumpeted by public cloud providers is that the cloud offers nearly unlimited scalability. But is backing up an exponentially expanding data set really as simple as copying it all to the cloud? What are the cloud backup costs?

Consider practicality, efficiency and cost

When it comes to backing large volumes of data up to the cloud, there are two key considerations. The first is practicality and efficiency. If, for example, you have a petabyte of data to back up, and you are accumulating multiple terabytes of new data every day, backing up to the cloud is probably not going to be practical. If, on the other hand, your volume of data and your data change rate is such that cloud backups are practical, then you will want to be able to back that data up in an efficient manner.

Another key consideration is cost. Cloud providers usually charge subscribers a monthly fee for every gigabyte of storage space that they are consuming, plus additional fees for transferring that data into or out of the cloud. As the size of your protected data set increases, cloud backup costs increase, as well.

Given these factors, it is important for organizations to adopt a sensible cloud backup strategy. Unfortunately, backup strategies are not one size fits all, so you will need to base your strategy on your organization's own unique needs. Even so, you can use some of the more common cloud backup techniques as starting points.

Techniques to reduce cloud backup costs

One of the first things that you should consider is how you might reduce the volume of data that is being transmitted to the cloud as part of your backup. Remember, every gigabyte of data incurs a cost. Besides, there is a finite amount of bandwidth available for uploading that data.

Here are a few ways to cut cloud backup costs:

  • Take advantage of a cloud storage gateway appliance. Cloud storage gateway appliances tend to vary in capability, but are often able to emulate a virtual tape library. You can back your data up to the appliance, and then the appliance can upload the data to the cloud. This approach provides two distinct advantages. First, because the appliance has its own internal storage, it will likely allow you to keep a copy of your most recent backups on premises, thereby avoiding the need to restore from the cloud. The second advantage is that many appliances will perform data reduction prior to transmitting backup data to the cloud. The use of deduplication, compression or other data reduction techniques can dramatically decrease the amount of data you have to upload to the cloud.
  • Consider what types of data are being backed up, and whether there might be some relatively unimportant data that does not need to be uploaded to the cloud.
  • Review your cloud storage options. The major cloud providers tend to offer a variety of storage options, with some being high cost and high performance, while others are far less expensive.

Even if you cannot get away with writing your cloud backups to the cheapest available cloud storage tier, you might be able to adopt a data lifecycle policy that is designed to reduce cloud backup costs.

Although public cloud providers can accommodate massive backup repositories, cloud backup costs can quickly escalate.

For example, such a policy might keep the most recent backup data on a midgrade storage tier, and automatically migrate aging backup data to the least expensive storage tier. Such a policy might also purge old data from your backup altogether once that data is no longer needed.

Although public cloud providers can accommodate massive backup repositories, cloud backup costs can quickly escalate. It's important to have a strategy to reduce the cost of cloud backup. 

Next Steps

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This was last published in October 2017

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