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Cloud-to-cloud data backup: How to pick your provider

From cost to a product's capabilities, there is a lot to assess when selecting the right cloud-to-cloud backup technology -- and provider -- for your organization.

One of the side effects to moving IT resources into the cloud is that backups often become more difficult. This is especially true for software as a service clouds, because it is generally impossible to back up these types of services in the same way an organization might back up local applications. Microsoft, for instance, will not allow Office 365 customers to install a backup agent onto its servers because the servers are shared among multiple tenants. In addition, there is always the chance a backup agent could impact a server's performance or stability.

Although SaaS clouds defy traditional approaches to backup, customers still need a way to protect their data. This is where cloud-to-cloud data backup comes into play. Although the term sometimes refers to the practice of backing up virtual machines from one infrastructure as a service cloud to another, cloud-to-cloud (C2C) backup has more recently begun to refer to cloud-based backups of SaaS data.

The rise of cloud-to-cloud backup

SaaS-oriented cloud-to-cloud data backup is still in its infancy, but a number of key players are emerging, including:

SaaS-oriented cloud-to-cloud data backup is still in its infancy, but a number of key players are emerging.

Cloud-to-cloud backup providers generally focus on the most commonly used SaaS applications. The vast majority of vendors, for example, can protect Google Apps/Google Docs, Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce. Some even offer protection for other SaaS applications. Datto Backupify, for instance, provides backup capabilities for Box and corporate social media accounts, including Facebook and Twitter.

Cloud-to-cloud data backup costs

Each cloud-to-cloud backup vendor uses its own pricing model. Generally speaking, cloud-to-cloud backups are based on a per-application, per-user, per-month basis. For example, a backup vendor might charge customers a specific fee each month for each Salesforce user. If the organization also uses Office 365, there would be a separate monthly, per-user cost associated with backing up Office 365 data.

Not every vendor uses this licensing model. Spanning, for instance, uses a similar pricing structure, but bills customers on an annual basis rather than monthly. Backupify offers per-application, per-user, per-month pricing, but has separate pricing plans for enterprise and professional customers. Enterprise customers can perform automated backups up to three times a day and have an unlimited number of administrators, while professional customers are limited to a single administrator and one daily automated backup. The company also offers an Enterprise Plus pricing plan, which is based on the number of domains that need to be protected, rather than the number of users.

Cloud backup vendor considerations

Support for the applications you need to protect is the most obvious requirement when choosing a cloud-to-cloud data backup vendor, but here are four more important considerations:

  • Application subscription independence. This is one of the more overlooked requirements. Suppose an organization decided to cancel its Salesforce subscription after several years of use. Keeping that valuable Salesforce data may be a priority, so a good backup provider should provide a path to data recovery, even if the SaaS subscription has been canceled.
  • Regulatory compliance. A cloud-to-cloud data backup product should be compliant with regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Even if your organization is not subject to regulatory requirements, it is a good idea to choose a cloud backup vendor that meets regulatory requirements, because such a provider adheres to long-established best practices for data security.
  • The frequency with which data can be backed up. Some vendors allow data to be backed up more frequently than others. Likewise, a vendor should offer an acceptable service-level agreement for data recovery.
  • A strong e-discovery engine. You may not always know the exact name of a file that needs to be recovered. An e-discovery engine can help you to locate data when you don't know exactly what you are seeking.

Cloud-to-cloud backups are essential to protecting data created by SaaS applications. Because there are so many different cloud-to-cloud data backup vendors, it is important to spend some time researching each one's pricing and feature set to find the product that is the best fit with your organization.

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