When COVID-19 forced businesses to shift, almost overnight, to fully remote operations, the need to digitize operations and move to cloud storage became urgent. Half of organizations accelerated their digital transformation efforts, and 91% increased their usage of cloud services — 31% of them significantly — according to the Veeam 2021 Data Protection Report. 

The reasons are obvious. Centralized IT operations suddenly had to support a distributed operation, with a highly remote workforce using SaaS-based collaboration services. With offices closed, it was challenging for IT to maintain on-premises physical operations, and the limitations of legacy systems and technologies posed serious problems. It was imperative to reconsider what mix of physical servers, virtual machines and cloud-hosted services made sense. The conclusion for many businesses was that cloud was the way to go.

The cloud is a convenient way to get backups offsite, but there are significant challenges that must be considered to ensure comprehensive data protection across all environments. Backup and recovery issues have taken on even more importance as ransomware attacks and disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires and power outages become all too common. 

Using the cloud as a backup target

The cloud has several significant advantages as a backup target, especially when compared to the alternatives. Most organizations have traditionally backed everything up after hours to external hard drives or backup servers, or to tape or disks they shipped offsite to a third-party repository after a certain period of time. 

That has drawbacks: Managing physical storage media requires time, effort and expense, and recovery can take a lot of time, especially when the backups are offsite.

Cloud storage is much more convenient. Whether data is stored with a managed service provider or a hyperscale cloud company such as Amazon AWS, Google Cloud Platform or Microsoft Azure, it offers a number of advantages. There’s no need to manage storage media, it’s inexpensive to send data to the cloud and it’s accessible from anywhere. 

All cloud storage is not created equal, however. The time it takes to recover data varies depending on a number of factors, including the level of service a provider offers and its location. If all your vendor offers is a place to store backups, you can encounter various problems.

Though granular recovery of individual items or subsets of a large dataset can work well, a larger recovery can present issues. Speed is one. Typically, hyperscale cloud providers’ facilities are far from populated areas, which can introduce latency into the recovery process. If backups have been compressed, that adds even more time. Cost is another consideration as you’ll face egress charges to take your data out of the cloud.

Other scenarios pose risks as well. What if you don’t have a recovery target? If your problem is a dead server, a power outage or a flood or fire in your data center, backups in the cloud won’t be of much help — where will you restore them to?

Spinning up virtual machines in the cloud is tricky, requiring highly specialized skills. Even if you manage to spin up VMs in the cloud or in an offsite data center, you haven’t truly recovered your data unless users can access it. But it can be complicated to provide access to all employees, especially if they’re remote. 

Advantages to a full-service provider

A trusted provider can solve, or prevent, most of these problems. First, they can help you strategize to determine the level of protection you need for different types of data — say, a matter of minutes to recover mission-critical apps vs. 24 hours for archived data that can be unavailable for some time without disrupting your operation. 

They will guarantee specific recovery point objectives (RPOs) and recovery time objectives (RTOs) in a service level agreement. If you suffer a disaster that takes your original server or entire data center offline, they can mount your apps and data in the cloud or in their own data center to keep your business operating until you regroup. 

Conclusion

It’s obvious that the cloud can provide many advantages for backup, and it’s equally clear that it requires a specialized skill set or a trusted partner to realize those benefits. If not done properly, an organization will encounter serious challenges — and in many cases unfortunate surprises. 

Want to learn more about how OffsiteDataSync can help your organization protect and restore data quickly with their cloud? Find pricing here!