In my last column I discussed how cloud usage is approaching the ‘tipping point’, where companies will have to use the cloud in order to meet their expected infrastructure demands. Coupled with the price wars that are going on between the large cloud providers, one could see a ‘perfect storm’ brewing, and easily conclude that their data in the cloud needs added protection. But cloud viability as a business in the face of exploding demand isn’t the only reason that the cloud itself may be overdue for a backup.
Many companies are using cloud-based productivity applications, like SalesForce.com, Google Docs, Office 365, etc, instead of running these applications themselves. They are also using more enterprise-appropriate file, sync and share solutions like BOX. These Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) businesses are becoming even more popular as people do their work on mobile devices which can’t run complex applications, or store lots of supporting data. These providers certainly build resilience into their infrastructures, but is that all the data protection users need?
Let’s take a look at traditional, on-site backup that was used to protect the files created when all companies ran MS Office and other productivity applications locally. These backups provided protection against server crashes, for sure, but what drove most of the restores? It was user error. People deleted files accidentally, they saved the wrong changes or brought viruses and other corruption into their work computers. Most of the restore activity was a single file or two, not an entire server or file system.
So what kinds of protection do these SaaS providers offer for our data? It’s basically protection for them, for their infrastructures. They backup entire data sets and (presumably) entire environments to multiple locations. They protect themselves, the backend, against data loss, but most do little or nothing to guard against the front-end user errors that generate most restore requests. Frankly, that’s your problem, not theirs. Fortunately, there are solutions available.
What’s needed is a backup process that copies files from these SaaS providers into a dedicated backup location. In many cases this is to another cloud service. These services act much like traditional end-point backup solutions have for years. They schedule backup jobs to pull users’ data from the appropriate cloud service provider at specific times and use change-based technologies to minimize the time and bandwidth required – and the capacity in the backup cloud. When the time comes users, or their IT admins can set that restore in motion and recover the files they need, from the points in time they need them.
Even if SaaS solutions did offer some level of user data protection it would mean running a separate process for each provider. Dedicated cloud backup companies simplify this by supporting multiple SaaS applications and controlling them from a single screen, some integrating that protection into the existing on-premise backup solution. They also provide another level of protection, getting your data into another cloud and having it managed by another business separate from the SaaS provider itself. In the next few weeks we’ll review some of these companies on StorageSwiss.com.