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Data protection vendors add options for cloud backups

To help their customers get used to cloud backups, software and hardware vendors add options for moving protected copies of data to public clouds.

In the early days of cloud backups, people wondered if the cloud would threaten traditional backup vendors by alleviating the need for their software and hardware. But backup vendors are embracing the cloud, giving customers more options for hybrid models that keep critical backup data on-site, and using the cloud for copies and disaster recovery data.

Larger backup vendors such as Symantec and CommVault offer cloud backups as a target option, and others are following their lead. There were several product and service launches this month that expanded hybrid backup capabilities. Virtual machine backup specialists PHD Virtual Technologies and Nakivo added cloud backup options a month after rival Veeam Software did the same.

Deduplication disk target device vendor ExaGrid Systems forged a partnership for a data protection cloud service, and EVault added appliances to store data on-site before moving it off to its hosted cloud.

PHD Virtual launched CloudHook, which lets customers move backups directly to the cloud without using a gateway. Customers can send the backups to disk or the cloud, or use a hybrid model that keeps the most critical virtual machine (VM) backups on-site and moves other data to the cloud. Amazon, Google, Rackspace and OpenStack clouds appear on a drop-down list of targets.

CloudHook is sold as a separate module to PHD's virtual backup appliance, and costs $75 per virtual host per year. Customers must also pay a monthly subscription to their cloud providers.

"It's always a good idea to keep local backups," PHD product manager Joe Noonan said. "In most cases, cloud storage is used as a copy off-site. We think people can leverage cloud storage as their main backup for less-critical VMs to save space and avoid the cost of buying more local storage if they are running out of space."

Noonan said CloudHook is the first stage of PHD's cloud strategy. The vendor plans to add archiving to the cloud and then the ability to recover data into a cloud for disaster recovery (DR). Noonan said the DR cloud would be different than the public clouds PHD uses as backup targets. "People can use PHD together with a cloud service that can instantly recover VMs."

Putting cloud backups through their paces

Smaller companies have been using software from Mozy, Carbonite and others to back up to the cloud for years, but many larger organizations are still kicking the tires for cloud backups.

Ryan Makamson, systems engineer for Washington State University's School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, said he was a beta tester for PHD's CloudHook, although he probably wouldn't use it in production unless PHD hosted its own service.

Makamson, a PHD customer since 2006, said his cloud backups to Amazon S3 were "not as fast as your LAN" but speedy enough after the first one. He said his initial backup of about 100 GBs took about three hours using virtual fulls and changed block tracking. "We have a big pipe. I can get about 50 megabits per second. The first push took forever, but subsequent pushes were sometimes 15 seconds because no data had changes, and other times they were about 10 minutes."

Makamson said his school isn't ready to trust public service providers for backups yet, but would consider backing up to a cloud if PHD hosted its own because it has a relationship with PHD. He said if he did use the cloud, he would keep a copy of his backups on-site, but isn't sure how frequently he would push data off-site.

"Pragmatically, I would like to be able to use it as a monthly backup," he said. "I'd back up the same way as I do now, then push it out there once a month. But the flaw in that logic is, the longer duration between deltas, the more changes and the more there is to upload. So it's probably as cost-effective with bandwidth and time to continue to do nightly updates. There's that old adage, 'I can eat a brick if you can cut it up into small enough pieces.' So it might be more effective to continue to do nightlys to some cloud DR site."

Nakivo Backup & Replication 3 for SMBs simplifies backups to Amazon EC2 with what the vendor calls "single-click integration", which means the customer fills out credentials, including the amount of space required, and the application creates a connection in the EC2 cloud. Nakivo Director of Product Management Sergei Serdyuk said the vendor is considering adding single-click integration with Google and Rackspace clouds.

Nakivo's latest upgrade also allows single-file restores from local, remote and cloud backups. In previous versions, customers had to recover an entire virtual machine.

Nakivo deduplicates and encrypts data before sending it to the cloud, as does PHD.

Disk backup vendor ExaGrid Systems is moving to the cloud with partner ATScloud. The companies launched a backup and DR service, Secure BRDcloud, allowing ExaGrid customers to replicate between their on-site libraries and another ExaGrid device hosted by ATScloud.

ExaGrid positions the service as an alternative to using off-site tape for DR. Marc Crespi, ExaGrid vice president of product management, said ExaGrid customers already replicate data to another ExaGrid system off-site, but not all customers can afford a second system or have a secondary site.

He said ExaGrid worked with ATScloud to optimize replication between devices at the client side and in the cloud to complete the first backup in a few days for new customers. "Normally, it can take a month or two to get the first replicated backup into the cloud. The first backup doesn't dedupe dramatically because it's new data and the system hasn't seen it before. The vendor and cloud provider have to create a rapid export method to get the data into the cloud and backup."

EVault, the Seagate-owned data protection service provider, upgraded its backup appliance software and added two new appliances that connect to the EVault cloud. EVault Plug-n-Protect backup appliances come with 3 TB, 6 TB or 12 TB of usable capacity, and can replicate data to the EVault cloud or to another appliance off-site in a private cloud setup. The EVault Express Recovery Appliance for EVault's Software as a Service customers caches data on-site to speed recovery.

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