Cloud Backup: How It Works, Techniques, Pros and Cons

Under the circumstances of constant disruption, a cloud backup solution is an inalienable part of business disaster recovery and compliance. This is especially essential for SMBs, as 93% of small firms and 82% of medium companies keep their information in public cloud storage.

The present post is written with SMBs in mind. It explains in great detail what cloud backup is, how it operates, and why it is essentially necessary for SMBs. It also delivers a 10-point list that will help you select a cloud backup provider.

What Is the “Cloud”?

To understand cloud backup, let’s first discuss the cloud. People manipulate this term in their everyday life. However, not everyone fully understands what it means.

Cloud service is a system of high-end physical and virtual technologies accessed via the Internet by individuals and organizations for the purposes of retaining digital data and computing.

Why is it so popular? Think about this. IT technologies have been developing at an excessive pace. Their complexity is growing almost as fast as the talent gap and cybersecurity risks. Meanwhile, the costs of acquisition and maintenance do not seem to decrease.

It becomes financially unsustainable to keep on-prem solutions that get outdated too promptly.

Another important aspect is globalization and the Internet, which bring both positive and negative aspects. On the one hand, companies can cut costs by finding cheaper workforce overseas or outsourcing some of their operations.

Contrarily, the last pandemic forced most firms to switch to working from home model. Cloud technology enables both accessing the international workforce and WFH.

What Is Cloud Storage?

As we mentioned before, the cloud service is used for two purposes: computing and data storage. Cloud storage is the technology that serves the second purpose.

Benefits

  1. Enhanced security
  2. Cutting costs (on acquisition and maintenance)
  3. Closing talent gap
  4. Accessibility
  5. Scalability

Types of Cloud Storage

We have found two typologies:

By Ownership:

  • Private

Being very expensive, a private cloud platform is usually created and owned by large organizations. Enterprises and governments want to have full control over their information while making it accessible to their employees. They build and maintain their own data centers.

  • Public

Most entities cannot build their own data centers, thus, they employ public cloud storage offerings from other companies. Examples are GCP, AWS, Azure, etc. The usefulness of this model is its price and scalability.

  • Hybrid

This cloud platform is the merge of two previous types. This model enables cutting costs while tweaking security and maintaining partial control.

  • Community

Such cloud storage is owned and maintained by several entities or a community. Some experts say it’s a subtype of a private cloud service.

  • Multi-cloud

It is a platform consisting of multiple public cloud providers.

By Data Organization:

File Storage is a simple system of files and folders retained on the server.

In Block Storage, the data is sorted into independent blocks. You can access each only if you own a special ID.

Object Storage stores individual files along with their ID and metadata. It is oftentimes used for large files.

What Is Cloud Backup Solution?

Data loss is a sad yet inevitable part of human history and business operations. That’s why we have invested so many resources in creating methods to prevent it or at least minimize its impact.

The emergence of the cloud service, its rapid evolution, and the surge in use created both new challenges and new opportunities.

When discussing challenges, the first thing coming to mind is the loss of files and folders as a result of human mistakes, ransomware attacks, insider threats, and service malfunction. On the other hand, cloud computing presents an opportunity for storing file copies in a well-protected repository.

A Cloud Backup solution is a program designed to create and keep data duplicates for subsequent recovery in the event of an emergency. One more condition should be met: at least some portion of this process should take place in the cloud.

Types of Cloud Backup

The typology of the cloud backup solutions is based on the inclusion of the on-prem. Thus we have two categories:

  1. Hybrid (they take on-prem data and back up in the cloud or vice versa)
  2. Pure (they duplicate data from one cloud to another)

In this blog post, we extensively and exclusively discuss cloud-to-cloud backups for SaaS applications like GW, MSO 365, and Salesforce.

How Does Cloud Backup Solution Work?

Quite straightforward. To complete both cloud backup and recovery tasks, the tool connects with one cloud storage and duplicates a single entry or all records to another cloud storage.

Remote backup for GW, MSO 365, and SF utilizes the application programming interfaces to perform these tasks. Since API calls are limited, the performance of cloud backup is slower than purely on-prem.

The low speed is partially balanced by the incremental or differential method when only changes in data are duplicated.

As a rule of thumb, cloud backup services include other functionality. For example, automation enables companies to minimize human participation in the cloud backup processes except for cases when manual data duplication is demanded.

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Cloud Storage vs. Cloud Backup

The distinction between these two solutions isn’t at all times understood by companies. First, it is due to the fact that some businesses still use cloud storage as a backup. Furthermore, certain firms use cloud sync for this purpose. To comprehend these dissimilarities, read our in-depth post.

Cloud storage is an indispensable component of the cloud backup offers. However, the backup includes the functionality that is essential to copy, preserve, manage, and restore information when necessary. Furthermore, it can have features like enhanced data encryption.

We’ll use SpinOne cloud backup services for Salesforce, Google Workspace, and Microsoft Office 365 to illustrate the distinction. This tool keeps all the backed-up data in the cloud storage of our client’s choice (AWS, GCP, Azure, or third-party).

In addition to that, it has the functionality as follows:

  • copying data from the source automatically or on demand
  • accessing the backed-up files and folders when necessary
  • restoring in bulk or granularly to a specified location.

Some additional features include, for example, comparing data sets for Salesforce to identify the changes to data or metadata.

What are the pros and cons of cloud backup services?

Normally, cloud backups are regarded as beneficial in comparison to the on-prem backup solution. However, they have several disadvantages that businesses should take into account.

Advantages of cloud backup services

  1. Adhere to the 3-2-1 rule.
  2. Get the most out of cloud resiliency.
  3. Achieve compliance.
  4. Cut down expenditures on building and maintaining on-prem backup software.
  5. Take advantage of large well-protected cloud storage.
  6. Leverage additional functionality like automated data copying and restoration.
  7. Access the backed-up files from any point in the world.
  8. Back up SaaS solutions like SF, GW, or MSO 365.
  9. Enjoy times more flexible scalability compared to on-prem backup software.

We recommend some in-depth further reading on the cloud backup benefits.

Disadvantages of cloud backup service

  1. Dependence on Internet access.
  2. Low recovery speed due to API limitations in SaaS solutions.
  3. Absence of control by your IT department.
  4. Some providers of cloud backup will make you pay for additional storage space.

Why is cloud backup service important for business?

We’ve already discussed the advantages of cloud backups in comparison to on-prem. In this section, we’ll discuss the advantages an organization can get from this class of solution, especially compared to making copies manually.

1. Eliminate the risks in the cloud

More often than not, firms leveraging online backup services are unaware of the risks pertaining to them. Want to study the subject in detail? Read about the 5 biggest risks of cloud computing.

Data loss in the cloud is more prevalent than most people think, especially if we look at SaaS collaboration tools. Ransomware, human error, and insider threats are among the most common reasons. And while businesses can protect against ransomware, they can do little against mistakes or malicious intent.

When this happens, cloud backup will recover your data.

2. Achieve compliance

The regulations governing data and cybersecurity are constantly growing in numbers. The responsibility lies solely on businesses, and the fines and legal implications are considerable. More and more countries around the world impose data retention on companies.

Need more information? Read our Cloud Compliance Guide and checklists for various regulations:

3. Decrease the mistakes

Imagine your IT team having to do regular backups manually. This will inevitably lead to a mistake. This is primarily critical for SMBs that can’t employ many IT specialists. And in the case of small companies, oftentimes, employees carry out IT responsibilities in addition to their main role (e.g., the founder is a Google Workspace admin).

4. Save storage space

Cloud backup offers are predominantly incremental. This means that they do not produce a complete replica of your data every time. They will only duplicate the changes that have been made since the last backup.

Obviously, your team won’t be able to do it manually (imagine the number of hours necessary to examine the difference between the last copy and the current version). Thus, they will only be able to do full backups absorbing too much space.

5. Lessen the IT team workload

Cloud backups have an interface that enables people to work with data in a more convenient way. For example, in the screenshot below, you can see the SpinOne functionality for point-in-time data restoration.

 

Cloud Backup

6. No siloed solutions

How do you copy emails from your employees’ Gmail, Contacts, Drive, and Calendar at once? These services contain critical data for your business. Or you need to back up both metadata and data in SF. You’ll have to employ multiple applications to attain such a goal. It will consume resources and inevitably lead to even more mistakes.

That’s why it’s essential to have a single cloud backup solution.

7. Enhanced security

Last but not least, certain cloud backup services developed additional tools to secure cloud data, like ransomware protection or application risk management.

How to Choose a Cloud Backup Provider? 10 Points to Consider

With the cloud backup market heading towards saturation, it’s hard to analyze all the tools and make a good buying choice. This 10-points list will help you in this endeavor.

Study the subject in-depth from our guide on choosing cloud backup.

1. Consider which SaaS applications you want to back up

Most companies use cloud collaboration tools offered by either Google or Microsoft. Some use both, although it’s rare for small and medium businesses to do it. Within these two environments, there are plenty of services (like email, contacts, and calendars). The data contained in them can be business-critical.

E.g., in Salesforce, some firms often introduce modifications to the metadata, so its backup is a must-have for them.

It will be convenient to analyze which of the services mentioned above and the classes of data you want to back up when searching for the best cloud backup service.

The ability to maintain a united console for diverse cloud backup services is another thing to scrutinize. For example, some of our clients pick SpinOne because it offers a single pane of glass for Microsoft and Google collab tools as well as Salesforce CRM.

2. Determine your cloud backup and recovery strategy

As a rule of thumb, such strategies are a component of a firm’s business continuity and disaster recovery plan. We understand that building such strategies is hard for SMBs that suffer from a talent gap and necessary resources. If you have time, learn how to build a cloud backup strategy or cloud data recovery strategy.

If you have no time, here are some tips on how to outline your backup essentials:

  1. Choose the type of backup you need. Here’s a hint: incremental backups work best for the cloud.
  2. Identify your backup frequency. Mostly, for SMBs one time per day is enough. If you need insight, check out Recovery Point Objective.
  3. Think of your scalability needs. If your business grows rapidly, you will need backup software that can quickly add more users or decrease them in case of unexpected events.
  4. Outline the necessity of archived users. Some cloud backup tools offer a better price for archived users.
  5. Plan data retention. A cloud backup service can offer retention functionality that will help you get rid of unnecessary data and maintain the critical ones.

3. Outline your compliance needs

We suggest identifying several aspects. First, create a list of regulations that govern your business operations directly (HIPAA, GDPR, etc.). You can check if the cloud backup contains all the necessary certificates stipulated on this list at the vetting stage.

Second, find out the requirements for the data storage location. From our own experience, many SpinOne users underline the importance of this. And we are talking not only about large enterprises. The inability to select a storage region can be a deal breaker even for an otherwise perfect solution. However, it’s better to pick a cloud backup service that will keep you compliant than face the legal implications.

Finally, take into account the ability to change the region of your storage. As mentioned above, the legislation is constantly tightening up. What was completely legal yesterday might not work tomorrow. It’s better to choose a backup software that is flexible geography-wise or can offer you the opportunity to back up data to the storage of your choice.

4. Think of the list of features you need

Such a list should depend on the unique needs of your business. However, it might be hard to create it if you haven’t used cloud backup providers before. Here’s an example of features that make the backup processes easy to manage:

  1. Automated and manual backup
  2. Granular recovery
  3. Data migration between users
  4. Archiving users
  5. Reporting
  6. Unlimited storage
  7. Preservation of file hierarchy during restoration

Another approach to this task would be to outline the goals and needs. Here’s an example:

  1. Our RPO is 2 days. We need to be able to restore data at least 2 days old.
  2. We are bound to store our user data for a long period and want to save on archive users.
  3. We actively change our sales pipeline, and we need SF metadata backup.
  4. We have large files and don’t want to pay for additional storage.

5. Define your budget

Many companies approach their IT budgets in a simplistic way: spend as little as possible. IT teams are afraid to request the necessary sums out of fear of rejection. Meanwhile, a suitable cloud backup can help you avoid substantial financial losses.

Before doing it, we suggest calculating the cost of data loss. It should contain the following three factors:

Cost of downtime

For SMBs, it ranges between $8,000 to $25,000 an hour. It includes revenue and reputational losses and possible legal fines. Learn how to calculate it in our blog post.

Cost of data restoration

Some SaaS applications have the option of paid data restoration. For example, Salesforce will charge you approximately $10,000 and will provide a file in up to 8 weeks.

Nevertheless, you are likely never to recover files. And your business will have to ‘recreate’ the data from scratch.

The consequences to the firm’s operations

Evaluate the implications of temporary or permanent data loss to your business. Some organizations cannot recover after major events like a ransomware attack. For example, Governing provides a disturbing stat in an article dedicated to the closure of Lincoln College. 75% of SMBs stop their existence after such an attack.

6. Pick and review several reputable cloud backup services

This is a pretty easy step. Here are 3 tips that will be valuable at this stage:

Check ranking and reviews

We suggest checking both the Marketplace (e.g., GW Marketplace) and ranking websites like G2. It is a great tool as they thoroughly check the reviewers to avoid shady marketing tactics. Furthermore, they enable you to filter reviews by the size of the company to see if it is a fit for you.

Check the number of users

A large number of users for cloud backup solutions is a sign of trust. It can also signify that large companies (that have significant demands for security) use this application.

Check the country of registration

The legislation of US, UK and EU members have strict regulations governing SaaS and digital data. Companies registered in these countries are mandated to comply with these rules and thus are accountable for service failure.

7. Analyze the functionality of cloud backup services

Review which cloud backup tools meet the needs you’ve outlined previously. At this stage, you can also ‘enrich’ your feature list as you learn more about the capabilities of cloud data backup.

8. Study Service Level Agreement

No technology performs at a 100% rate. This is true for both small applications and large environments like GW or MSO 365. The malfunctions hinder access to these apps and the firms’ information retained in them.

We recommend checking the Service Level Agreement (SLA) of a cloud backup service. This document outlines what the buyer can anticipate from a solution. It stipulates the percentage of downtime vs. uptime and steps that are taken in the event of the former.

If the cloud backup services don’t have an SLA on their website, you can ask the sales team if they have one.

9. Check the security and privacy of cloud backup software

We suggest checking the following things:

Data encryption

Search for the protocols and methods. For example, SpinOne uses TLS 1.3 for data transmissions and AES-256 for encryption. Furthermore, it encrypts each object separately in use, at rest, and in transit. Find out more about encryption in backups.

Storage

It is essential to understand where the cloud backup provider will keep your information. Search for those who do it in reputable and secure storage like AWS, GCP, or Azure.

Additional security features

Ask cloud backup providers about the additional measures they take to ensure your data is safeguarded, for example, multifactor authentication, access via VPN, IP restrictions, or login disabling in case it has been taken over.

10. Integrations

It might be essential for your business to be able to integrate your cloud backup with other solutions. For example, you need to receive notifications not only to your email but also to your corporate messenger. Or you need to feed your data analysis tool.

Cloud-to-Cloud backup with SpinOne

SpinOne has cloud-to-cloud backup solutions for Microsoft Office 365, Google Workspace, and Salesforce. Some of our clients use the combination of two or three of them in one single console.

Cloud-to-Cloud Backup

SpinOne backup offers:

  • Automation with 1x or 3x daily frequency of backup
  • Unlimited storage on AWS, GCP, or Azure
  • Opportunity to pick a custom cloud storage provider
  • Choice of data center location
  • Point-in-time granular recovery
  • Data management
  • Archived users
  • Additional functionality
  • Reporting and notifications
  • SLA 99.9%
  • SOC 2, EU Privacy Shield, and GDPR compliance

Learn more about SpinOne backup for different SaaS applications: Microsoft Office 365, Google Workspace, and Salesforce

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