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This content is part of the Essential Guide: Cloud-based backup: Best strategies and practices
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How do I know if cloud backup and recovery is right for my data?

Are you ready to implement cloud backup and disaster recovery? There are a number of questions you need to answer first, from the financial to the operational.

The popularity of cloud services continues to increase. It's getting harder to find medium and large organizations that do not have some sort of cloud service arrangement. 

But is cloud backup and recovery the right choice for all of your data?

Major public cloud service providers, such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google and IBM, offer many services to address data backup, application backup, disaster recovery (DR) and other useful protective services. Even smaller "boutique" cloud providers offer similar services and may also have better pricing options. 

With options like these and many more, IT managers have several fundamental cloud backup and recovery questions to answer:

  • Does a cloud-based service arrangement make sense operationally and financially?
  • What resources would we move to a cloud environment?
  • What happens to our legacy data storage and management arrangements?
  • What happens to our technology DR activities?
  • What do we do to our policies and procedures for data storage and DR?
  • Could we move our entire infrastructure onto one or more cloud platforms?

For the first question, experience has shown that -- properly configured and with strong security in place -- cloud-based products for data storage, backup and recovery, emergency system failover and other requirements make good sense. Make sure to analyze the TCO and ROI of a cloud backup and recovery platform. 

Deciding which data, systems, databases and other assets to relocate to a cloud offering should start with medium- to low-risk infrastructure and data elements. This approach gives you time to evaluate a provider's capabilities, technical support, security provisions, and emergency response and DR capabilities. Over time, consider moving other more critical assets to the cloud platform, but not all at once. 

Existing legacy storage assets, such as on-premises storage, SANs, NAS, RAID and other technologies, may still be financially and operationally viable. They may be paid off, for example, and are still performing well on a maintenance contract. Ask yourself what risks and exposures might occur if your on-premises storage technology is discontinued.

Make sure to analyze the TCO and ROI of a cloud backup and recovery platform.

You may be able to offload most or all technology DR activities to your cloud vendor, especially if you have moved mission-critical systems and data to one or more cloud platforms. This could save you money by not needing to maintain your DR plan on site, reducing the staff needed to maintain the plan and not needing technology on site to facilitate recovery activities. You may still need something on site, such as a specialized appliance, to coordinate DR with your cloud backup and recovery vendor, but it's worth the investigation.

Administrative activities, such as policies and procedures associated with backup and DR, should still be in place -- especially for auditors -- but these can probably be edited to accommodate cloud-based arrangements. 

Finally, determining whether all of your IT assets should be moved to the cloud rests with a number of factors:

  • upcoming company activities, such as a merger and/or acquisition;
  • client requirements that specify a minimum amount of technology must be on premises;
  • regulatory mandates;
  • competitive and reputational issues; and
  • performance issues, such as whether restoration of technology is faster with a cloud backup and recovery product.

Your business requirements will most likely dictate a total -- or partial -- move of your IT assets to a cloud platform. Also, you might want to use at least two cloud vendors, so you won't have to depend exclusively on the fate of a single service provider. 

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How much backup data has your organization moved to the cloud?
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Good article, Paul. My company Index Engines offers highly scalable software that enables our customers to classify unstructured data prior to a cloud move. Also, by utilizing our catalog prior to touching any media, our customers can select just the forensically accurate data they need from their old legacy backups, and store that in a file-level deduplicated state.
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