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How can cloud computing data protection be achieved?

When it comes to deciding on a data protection method, the public cloud is a popular choice. Here are three ways it can be incorporated into your data protection strategy.

Public cloud is a great option as a target for data protection. There has been a lot of buzz surrounding cloud computing data protection, and it's easy to see why. The scalable and on-demand nature of public cloud storage means organizations can mitigate many of the issues involved in maintaining a data protection service, such as long term costs, capacity concerns and recovery time objectives.

If you're looking to implement cloud computing data protection, there are a number of ways it can be done:

  • Cloud as a backup target. The public cloud is simply used as a backup target for data. Many vendors now support platforms such as Amazon S3, or Simple Storage Service, as a data repository. With sufficient network bandwidth and security, backup software can simply be pointed to the cloud. Restores will be limited to the performance of the network, and restoring many systems may not meet service-level agreements so capacity will have to be carefully managed.  Backups could be pure application data or virtual machines (VMs).
  • Cloud as a VM target. In this instance, the public cloud is used as the target for backing up virtual machines. This differs from the previous cloud computing data protection option in that the VM can start in the public cloud and run from there in a disaster situation. This kind of operation is more complex, but there are a number of vendors offering products that can modify a VM backup image, inserting the correct drivers to make it run in the public cloud. There are also network considerations here, as end-user access to the application may have to be managed through a virtual private network or other networking options.
  • Cloud as an active site. The third cloud computing data protection option is to consider using the public cloud as a permanently active replica of the production site, running applications in an "active/active" mode. This is the most expensive option and requires significant planning to implement.

As with all data protection methods, the level of protection is dictated by the criticality of the application. In most cases, a tiered approach is preferable, applying disaster recovery methods to each application as the importance is assessed in conjunction with the business owner.

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