Planning for the unexpected is never the most exciting task, but it's a part of the IT department which has become indispensable in recent years, as more businesses have become digital dependent. With so many operations relying on IT applications and digital data, even a few minutes of downtime can have a catastrophic effect on a company's operations, and the longer it goes on, the more likely it is to become a business-threatening issue.
You can't predict what might happen in the future. Maybe your data center will fall victim to a flood or fire. Or a key server will suffer a critical hardware failure. Or perhaps a systems engineer may make an input error that wipes an entire database. Despite what you might think, it happens. That's why having strong backup and disaster recovery plans are essential.
Growing demand for cloud services
Firms have more options than ever when it comes to this area. And as businesses generate more data, traditional methods for doing this, such as tape backup, are being increasingly impractical. Therefore, a growing number of companies are turning towards cloud backup and Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS).
Indeed, a study conducted last year by IT Pro Portal found almost nine out of ten firms (89 percent) were planning to increase their use of cloud-based backup and recovery tools, while 75 percent recognize the cloud’s ability to offer offsite backups and stronger business continuity.
But is this really the magic solution many firms seem to think it is? While cloud backups certainly have some significant advantages, if you aren't careful you could find your businesses in the middle of a backup nightmare right when you need it most.
The benefits of cloud backup
For many businesses, one of the key positives of adopting a cloud-based backup and disaster recovery solution is the efficiency of the technology. They are quick to set up and allow IT pros to easily select exactly which parts of their landscapes they wish to backup and how often.
Like with other cloud services, scalability is also a leading benefit of these services. Being able to take advantage of the resources of third-party cloud providers means businesses never have to worry about expanding beyond the capabilities of their backup solutions, as they will simply be able to provision more resources as and when they are needed.
Another benefit of relying on the cloud is that IT departments will not need to be as hands-on compared with doing it them self. As well as making sure that all the technology used to backup and store data is always kept up-to-date, cloud computing providers also offer the highest levels of security and encryption to keep data safe and ensure that compliance needs are being met.
While some professionals may be naturally wary about the security of handing control of their data to external suppliers, cloud companies are well aware of these concerns, and their business depends on winning the trust of users, therefore they go to great lengths to reassure their customers.
Being aware of the drawbacks
On the other side of the coin, there are a few potential negatives to cloud backup that enterprises must be aware of. For example, one issue that's particular to DRaaS solutions is what will happen should you decide to terminate your relationship with a supplier, or if the provider unexpectedly goes out of business.
If you haven't studied the terms of your agreement carefully, you might find it a complex process to ensure that all your data is extracted successfully. For instance, a provider may store your data in a proprietary format that makes it difficult to easily pass across to a different company.
While there will typically be no limitations on how much data you'll be able to backup using cloud providers, there may well be restrictions on how quickly and efficiently you can actually do it. Uploading large amounts of backup data to the cloud requires bandwidth, and no matter how good your connection, there will be a practical limit on how much data you can feasibly backup on a daily basis, which may mean you have to prioritize certain data and restrict the times to hours when it will not disrupt other activities.
Another potential pitfall may be how quickly you can actually get your data back if something does go wrong. In emergency situations, the limitations of ceding control to third-parties can quickly become clear - particularly if you're dealing with representatives via email or online chat who may not have a thorough understanding of your business' needs. To minimize these risks, it’s important to choose a provider that offers a strong service-level agreement that gives clear performance guarantees.