Backing up the Cloud

Backing up the Cloud

Dan Bremner, President, Castema Technology Services, Inc.

When I first started working in IT, I would occasionally hear someone refer to their mirrored hard drive in their server as a "backup". I would explain to them that backups are a very different thing from hardware redundancy. A mirror will protect you if one of the hard drives fails, but offers no protection from accidental deletions, or file system corruption, or any number of problems that can destroy your data, such as ransomware, for example. (The reason, of course, is that ALL activity on the main drive, including deletions, corruptions, and malicious encryption, is immediately reflected on the mirror also.)

A best practice for securing your data is to make sure it exists in at least two places, or three to be even safer. For a typical small business, the primary location might be your file server, then a daily backup to a local storage device as the second location, plus an offsite backup either to cloud storage, or manually moved off-premises. A robust backup strategy should allow you to quickly restore a deleted file, or revert to an earlier copy, as well as to recover from disasters.

These days, most people understand the value of backups and realize that a mirror or a data sync, while valuable for other purposes, doesn't meet the requirements for a true backup. When it comes to using cloud services, however, whether for data storage or for email, there is a tendency to forget those best practices.

"My data is in the cloud, so I'm covered," is a common misconception. The best practice of having your data in two or three places gets forgotten. Many people assume the cloud service provider is taking care of backups so they don't have to worry about it. That isn't necessarily a good assumption, and it could lead to trouble.

While it may be true that the cloud provider is backing up your data, those backups are intended to protect them, not you. Often, recovery using their backups, if it's even possible, is an all-or-nothing proposition. In other words, they can restore your entire set of data back to last week (thus losing all the new work done since then), but they can't restore just this file or this folder back to last week's versions. If you look at the cloud service as a "black box" where your data lives, what happens if you lose access to that black box? If someone forgets to renew a subscription, or there's a billing glitch and your account is locked out, how will you get your data, and how long will it take?

We think about things like this because we don't ever want to be in a situation where we have to tell a client there is no way to get their information back. So last year, we introduced Cloud-to-Cloud Backups (C2C) as a new service. As the name implies, C2C Backups takes your information in the cloud, such as Office 365 email boxes, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, Teams, etc. and backs up that information to Amazon cloud storage. Since the point of this is to diversify our risk, we made sure our backup was to a different storage location than the source. In other words, we don't want to back up from Microsoft's cloud to Microsoft's cloud, because what if there's a Microsoft-wide outage?

Cloud-to-Cloud backups give us and our clients additional peace of mind, knowing that we have a backup plan for all of their data, both on-premises and in the cloud. We consider C2C Backups such an important component to the backup strategy that we have incorporated it into our offerings for all new customers. For existing clients, the C2C Backups option is available as a discounted add-on service. If you aren't a Castema customer, feel free to reach out to me to talk. Otherwise, be sure you ask your IT service provider what the backup plan is if you aren't able to access your data in the cloud. Your business may depend on it.