This content is part of the Essential Guide: Backup and disaster recovery services: A comprehensive guide

Cloud backup comparison helps enterprises make the best choice

Bandwidth, latency and security are just a few areas to assess when evaluating enterprise cloud backup service providers. Discover how to make the right decision.

An explosion of new products over the last three years, as well as legacy data protection vendors adding some form of cloud extension to their technologies, have contributed to enterprise cloud backup becoming a reality. But IT professionals undertaking any type of cloud backup comparison need to carefully consider the various options at their disposal to determine the product that best meets their organization's needs.

Universal areas of concern

There are three major factors when dealing with enterprise data in the cloud.

The bandwidth constraint of the internet connection. For the most part, thanks to new offerings coming to the market, bandwidth is becoming less of an issue. In addition, bandwidth as a raw number is increasing. As a result of the increased bandwidth, data moves efficiently through a small pipe, and the size of that pipe is getting larger almost every quarter.

Cloud latency. No matter how wide (bandwidth) the connection, distance (latency) is always a factor. Data is limited by the speed of light, for which there is no upgrade. Moving production closer to the cloud or reducing the amount of data to be moved are the only ways to eliminate the impact of latency.

Any cloud backup comparison should take a long, hard look at products that encrypt data on the cloud backup gateway on premises, and then keep it encrypted during transfer and at its destination.

The primary concern with bandwidth and latency comes into play during recoveries, when a large percentage of backup data needs to flow from the cloud backup provider to the primary data center.

Security. The majority of enterprise cloud backup providers encrypt data throughout the process. Any cloud backup comparison should take a long, hard look at products that encrypt data on the cloud backup gateway on premises, and then keep it encrypted during transfer and at its destination.

But who holds the encryption key? If users hold the key, they decide if they will encrypt the data. If a cloud backup provider holds the key, it can better assist the customer with backup management as well as provide access to the data, even though the user may not want to share it.

On premises plus cloud equals fast recovery

Most enterprise cloud backup services cover the basics of data protection quite well. This includes protecting major OSes like Windows and Linux; providing online backup support of Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server and Exchange; and supporting major hypervisors like VMware and Hyper-V.

With foundational protection being equal in a cloud backup comparison, IT professionals should consider services that can maintain a subset of the protected data on premises as well as in the cloud. Most data centers will never experience a disaster quality outage, but they will face a server or storage system failure. If a cloud backup product maintains a local working set of data, those recoveries can occur much faster.

Data transfer approach can avoid bottlenecks

As the enterprise cloud backup market matures, users need to look at how vendors transfer data to the cloud and manage the recovery process.

Most vendors protect data by backing up to an on-premises appliance. Then, through the use of deduplication and compression, data is efficiently transferred to the cloud. In this design, all data is sent to a single appliance that transfers the data. This makes the appliance both a bottleneck and a single point of failure. As bandwidth increases, the ability of the software to identify unique data and transfer it to the cloud becomes critical. Your cloud backup comparison may find large differences in transfer rates among various products. Don't assume the internet connection is always the bottleneck -- look at the on-premises appliance as well.

Some vendors have forgone the cloud backup gateway approach. Instead, a heavier agent is installed on each server, and all the servers send data directly to the cloud. While having an agent on each server may give some data centers pause, performance improves greatly because data is only transferred once and there is no single bottleneck or failure point.

DRaaS offers anytime, anywhere recovery

While quickly creating clean backup copies of production data is important, the best way to judge most backup offerings ultimately comes from their ability to recover data. Recovery is the Achilles' heel for enterprise cloud backup products. Deduplication does little to help the recovery process; all data has to come back. Some vendors provide the ability to bulk ship the initial set of data via plane or overnight delivery, but disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) is a more interesting option.

DRaaS allows organizations to start their application in a provider's cloud. While there is certainly time involved to initially position the data, instantiating an application is much faster using a DRaaS methodology. DRaaS allows enterprise backup offerings to clear that last hurdle, providing a legitimate cloud-based data protection answer to the enterprise.

DRaaS is one way cloud service providers are able to keep costs lower.

The advent of DRaaS should have enterprises strongly considering cloud-based data protection. Vendors are designing products to be inexpensive and to eliminate much of the data protection heartburn so typical among organizations.

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