Analyst Brien Posey discusses today's cloud backup options

Cloud backup offers businesses another alternative for offsite storage of backup data. In this 2012 Chicago Storage Decisions TechTalk interview, independent analyst and frequent contributor Brien Posey explains how cloud backup is being used in enterprises today. He discusses the different cloud backup options available in the market and outlines some of its benefits and limitations. He also talks about cloud gateways, backup software cloud integration and why cloud backup is suited for backing up endpoint devices. If you are evaluating cloud backup options, check out the video or read the transcript of the conversation below.

Is cloud backup only for small enterprises, or can large enterprises use it as well?

Enterprises are using cloud backup, but they're not using cloud solely as a one-shot solution. They're using cloud more as a more supplementary solution to go along with their on-premises solution.

Does cloud backup tie into traditional backup software, or does it replace the need for that software?

Well, it really depends on each vendor's solution. Some vendors do offer a tie-in to their on-premises solution that will allow you to do cloud backups, but some certainly are standalone solutions that are cloud only. What I tend to see in the real world is mostly a mixture of on-premises and cloud-based solutions.

How are backup applications integrated into the cloud?

A really good example is Acronis. They've got an on-premises solution, but they also offer a cloud-based add-on, and you can back up to their own cloud-based storage seamlessly through their on-premises solution.

Are cloud gateways geared toward cloud backup or are they more for primary data?

There are a lot of different cloud storage gateways out there. Some of them are geared toward backups, some of them aren't. The ones that are geared toward backups work really well because data is saved on-premises within the backup appliance and then seamlessly uploaded in the background to the cloud. And those particular appliances do things like deduplication and WAN optimization to make the upload process go a lot quicker than it otherwise would.

What kind of recovery can I expect from cloud backups?

Well, again, it depends on what you're using. But, as a general rule, the recovery does tend to be a lot slower than if you were recovering from an on-premises solution, and that's one of the reasons why a lot of enterprise environments use cloud as a supplementary backup solution -- because it is faster to restore from an on-premises solution.

What can be done to speed up cloud backup recovery?

One of the biggest things is deduplication, specifically at the block level, because if you deduplicate at the block level, then files that are very similar can be downloaded a lot quicker than they would be if you had to download the entire file.

What are the main cloud backup options (like Software as a Service or disk-to-disk-to-cloud) available today?

SaaS stands for Software as a Service, but in the backup realm, it's often referred to as BaaS, or Backup as a Service. That's essentially a subscription-based model where you've got a cloud backup provider that lets you [back up data via] a Web interface. Typically, an agent gets installed on the protected systems, and everything gets uploaded to the cloud behind the scene. With disk-to-disk-to-cloud, that's a solution that's geared more toward larger organizations where you do an on-premises backup to disk. But then once that backup is done, your disk-based backups get copied up to cloud behind the scenes.

Are you seeing SaaS or disk-to-disk-to-cloud as a more prevalent cloud backup model?

At this point, the SaaS or BaaS, or whatever you want to call it, does tend to be the prevalent model. But, again, like you said at the beginning, that's mostly for smaller companies.

Are you seeing much adoption of cloud connectors as backup software?

Not really. I mean it's still relatively new, and I think some organizations out there are looking at that as kind of on a trial basis. But it's not something that I'm seeing a lot of as far as widespread adoption at this point. I think that'll change in the future, though, as the technology proves itself.

Is cloud backup a good way to handle data on endpoint devices, smartphones and tablets?

Yes, I think so. Those types of devices have traditionally been really hard to back up. So if you can use a cloud-based backup that seamlessly backs those up without any kind of user interaction, then that's very helpful. I don't think it's going to be an issue on Windows 8 tablets or Windows RT, as they're calling it, because Microsoft's implementing a feature called Direct Access that will allow those to constantly be connected to the corporate network. And, they can be backed up like any other resource. But for iPads and Android devices and things like that, I think cloud-based backups are absolutely the way to go.

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