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What are nine SaaS backup best practices?

Software-as-a-service backup is an important, but sometimes overlooked, aspect of data protection. It's also complex, so planning, documentation and testing are key.

More services are being delivered through third parties using software as a service.

SaaS backup, though, can be quite complex. Here are nine important elements to keep in mind when backing up applications such as Salesforce, Office 365 and G Suite:

1. While large providers may have backups and redundancy, the ability to access and use those backups will be limited for a customer. A company should not rely on its provider to back up its data. Multiple copies of the data are crucial. Therefore, it is worth looking at backup products for the likes of Office 365 that allow cloud-to-cloud backup using the Microsoft API.

2. Who owns the SaaS infrastructure? If it is not your company, make sure there is an agreed-upon service-level agreement. If you own the service, the onus is upon you to provide the SaaS backup as required. Failure to do so could mean absolute disaster.

3. Outages cause unhappy customers, and they can happen in the cloud. Unhappy customers are not good for business. Therefore, it is essential to have the ability to fail over as quickly as possible. Having a comprehensive SaaS backup and disaster recovery (DR) plan is key.

4. Multiple backups are a must. You never know when that backup you made will be needed and if the required backup works.

5. Separate out the DR and backup. These processes serve different purposes. If you have to go to backup, it is "last chance saloon."

6. Periodically test the SaaS backup and DR plans to ensure they work. Perform these tests yearly, at a minimum. Frequently, in highly complex environments, there will be issues that are only highlighted once the backup and DR infrastructure is tested. These are things you don't want to find out when disaster strikes and the pressure is on to restore service.

7. Good documentation is critical. No one knows when disaster is going to hit. What happens when the system fails? This is where concise and tested documentation is worth its weight in gold. Not having a proper implementation plan will cause delay and potentially exacerbate the situation.

8. Look at the dependencies of the infrastructure. Treat each application in isolation, but take care to include all the dependencies, such as Active Directory and database infrastructure.

9. There are different types of data to consider. Sometimes administrators fail to get a copy of the metadata, which is important. Without the metadata, the rest of the data is next to impossible to recover.

Ultimately, the process of SaaS backup is similar to backing up a standard but complex on-premises application. Look at the whole service and ensure all the components and dependencies are covered in the backup plan.

When managing a SaaS application, the nature of the business is providing services to consumers, not internal staff. The stakes -- in terms of both reputation and financial impact -- can be significant. It is essential that, as a provider, any disruptive issues around providing the service are mitigated as much as possible. Backup is part of that continuity planning.

This was last published in May 2018

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