For individual consumers, the value of cloud-based backup sites — such as Dropbox, Box, Carbonite, and Microsoft OneDrive — can become apparent very quickly, especially if one's PC hard drive crashes. The idea of backing up files and pictures in the cloud takes a way a lot of worries.
But is cloud backup a good bet for the enterprise? At first glance, it would seem like a logical choice, given the risks of maintaining critical data in one data center. However, security enters the equation, and there's often concern about what happens to data that is managed on someone else's site. It may not even be clear where the actual physical site is located. This can be problematic, because in some areas, such as the European Union, it's illegal to store data outside of the borders of the federation.
Data security is one risk, the other is the capabilities and the business viability of the cloud provider. If the cloud provider experienced a prolonged outage, or if it suddenly folded and went out of business, a lot of valuable and sensitive corporate data may go with it.
The best bet for on-premises data is to employ cloud as a back-up option. Conversely, the best bet for cloud-based data may be to back it up on-premises.
With these risk factors in mind, Bastiaan van Driel, who works for a cloud backup vendor himself (BackupAgent), provides a list of key questions every enterprise needs to ask before adopting cloud as a backup resource:
- Is my backup secure? At a minimum, data should be encrypted and compressed, preferably before it goes to the outside site.
- What happens when we reach the maximum storage capacity? This requires an upgrade of service, and customers need to be aware of the pricing boost that goes along with it.
- Can I make a backup of several versions of my files? This requires some explaining. “Most online backup providers work with retention policies,” van Driel points out. “For example, if you make a backup once a day and retention is set on 30 days, the backup up data will have up to 30 versions. On the 31st day after the backup has run, the oldest version expires and is removed.”
- How do we know whether a backup was successful? Customers should receive a notification if a backup isn't completed or it has failed.
- Where is our data being stored? This may be an issue due to government regulations in various countries. The cloud provider should have multiple backup locations.
- What happens when a cloud service is terminated? Not addressed in van Driel's overview is the matter of what happens to data in service agreement terminations. Contracts should call for data being turned over to customers within 30 days. However, there is a risk of the data being eliminated or locked away. This needs to be discussed up front.
Ultimately, as is the case with everything cloud, data security is the responsibility of the customer — it is not something that can be outsourced to the cloud. If a cloud backup storage provider can't guarantee security and availability, the onus is on the customer to either find a cloud provider who can offer such service, or bring it all back in-house.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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