Using Cloud Services For Backups

Using Cloud Services For Backups

Introduction

With the explosive growth in this as a service, that as a service, and clouding everything in sight, it comes as no surprise that cloud backup services are starting to crop up everywhere. And we’re not just talking about some of the excellent services targeted at consumers like Dropbox, box.net, and iCloud, we’re talking about enterprise grade services.

If you are one of the growing number of administrators who is looking at cloud backup services to augment or replace your tape backup or disk to disk backup, you’re not alone. To help you with your quest, here’s some of the things you should consider when evaluating solutions.

Bandwidth

This is going to prove to be the most important consideration you have when using cloud backup services. You won’t be moving data across the LAN to your tape backup system, or copying data disk to disk over dedicated service buses, you will be backing all your data up to the cloud, and it’s your Internet connection you’ll be using. Carefully evaluate your circuit, traffic patterns, and whether or not you need to increase your bandwidth.

Backup times

How long will it take you to back up your data over the Internet to your cloud backup service provider? Can you complete your backups during the available windows, or will you be in a constant state of backup, replicating deltas or moving from machine to machine?

Restore times

Of course, the reason we back up is so that we can restore. With all your data in the cloud, consider how long it will take to restore your data in the event you need to. Rolling backups may make backups more manageable, but in the event of a disaster, you will want to restore everything at once, which just won’t be possible. Consider your recovery time objectives and make sure they can be met.

Connectivity from the DR site

And in the event of a disaster, make sure you have at least as much bandwidth in your DR site as you do in your production environment. Many companies get smaller circuits, opting to accept reduced performance during disaster to save money, but you need that pipe to perform your restores. A burstable circuit with a high maximum, but a low committed rate, may be a cost effective solution.

Staging appliances

Consider whether you want to run your backups from hosts directly to the cloud services provider, or if you want to use a service that takes advantage of staging appliances. These have advantages that can include better compression, adaptive traffic patterns, and local storage of your most recent data, but will also need to be replicated in your DR site, which could add significant costs, and data that is staged but not yet uploaded could be lost in the event of a complete site disaster.

Conclusion

Using cloud backup services is a great way to move your backup and restore services offsite, to save money, and to provide flexibility, but this is nothing like your tape backup system. Assumptions about RTO, windows, and provisions for DR all must be reexamined, and while you may save money by getting rid of tapes and offsite storage, you may spend that much or more on bandwidth. Carefully consider your options and make certain you test your backups and restores to confirm they meet your time requirements before you scrap those tape drives.

By Casper Manes

Casper Manes blogs for ITChannelinsight.com, a site for MSPs and Channel partners.

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