Data protection used to be relatively simple, so simple that the need for a true backup service provider wasn’t known. The process was to back up everything to tape after hours and then keep them around for a certain period of time until you feel safe shipping it offsite to a third-party repository.
Of course, it had its downsides. Recovery point objectives (RPOs) could be as high as 24 hours, and recovery from tape was agonizingly slow, especially if the required backup was offsite.
Today, IT can measure RPOs and recovery time objectives (RTOs) in minutes, depending on the level of service. But with these very low RPOs and RTOs comes a lot more complexity. Foremost, overstretched IT departments already have a ton on their plate. If left to the internal IT team, especially at small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs), backup processes frequently do just the bare minimum for protection, and disaster recovery (DR) often doesn’t get done at all.
Backup software vendors and managed service providers (MSPs) have stepped in to fill that gap. It’s commonplace now for companies to partner with a service provider and send their backups to the cloud, whether that be one operated by the MSP or one of the major hyperscale cloud companies.
There are many advantages to keeping backups in the cloud. It can be less expensive than copying to tape or disk, and there’s no physical storage medium to manage and store. But when it comes to outsourcing backup and DR, providing an online target for backup storage is the lowest bar an MSP has to cross. There’s much more involved in protecting data properly, and, as I noted earlier, most IT organizations at SMBs don’t have the resources to give data protection the attention it truly requires.
Data protection is more than just storing backups
If the only service you’re getting from your backup provider is a cloud target, here’s all the other things you’ll need to take care of:
- Determining the proper protection for different tiers of data: Not all data is created equal. Some data and applications you can afford to wait hours to recover. Others, however, may cripple the business if they’re unavailable for more than a few minutes.
If you’re using the cloud as a catch-all backup target, you may be unpleasantly surprised to find that, while the cloud provides incredible scalability and stability, it can be a fairly slow medium when it comes to recovery. It gets even slower if your backups are deduped and compressed, because it’ll take a fair amount of processing to “rehydrate.”
- Alternate recovery targets: If the problem is a dead server or a data center on fire, all those backups in the cloud won’t do you much good with no place to recover. You can try to recover in the cloud, but that’s tricky, even for experts, given how different the architecture of the cloud is from a typical data center. It’s definitely not something you want to figure out in the middle of a crisis.
- Monitoring and management: No matter how automated your backup process may be, it still needs to be monitored and managed, and backups should be tested for recoverability.
- Troubleshooting: If you run into issues while recovering data, you can expect some support if the problem is on the MSP’s side, But, again, if all you’re engaging them for is a simple cloud backup repository, you’re on your own if recovery is proving difficult on your end.
Working with a trusted provider
A true backup service provider gives you more than just a place to store backups. They’ll help you design a backup strategy, provide options at different levels for different tiers of data, guarantee RPOs and RTOs backed by a service level agreement (SLA) and they’ll monitor the entire data protection process end-to-end.
If your original server or, God forbid, your entire data center is out of commission, a backup service provider will be able to mount your apps and data in the cloud or their own data center, so you can continue to function until you get back on your feet.
Of course, short-term, a backup target in the cloud may be less expensive. But so is not buying home insurance. Until there’s a fire, that is.
At OffsiteDataSync, managing backup and DR is what we do all day, every day. Our experts have created hundreds of backup plans and many DR failovers. If you run into any issues, you can trust our entire team of data protection veterans to have your back.
Planning ahead is key to recovery and uptime. If you’re looking into disaster recovery, too, download our free eBook and create the right technology approach!