Will Cloud Backup Really Reduce Your Backup Investment?

Organizations make significant investments in their infrastructure. As production data continues to grow, the exponential impact on backup storage threatens to deplete IT budgets. The cloud promises to reduce on-premises backup infrastructure but most solutions only use the cloud to store a disaster recovery (DR) replica. Data protection solutions need to fully embrace all cloud resources to save organizations from drowning under backup infrastructure.

Cloud as a DR Copy

On-premises backup solutions primarily use cloud storage and ignore cloud compute. Backup solutions use cloud storage for the cold storage of backups as a tape replacement in case of disaster. In a cloud as DR model, all the backup infrastructure remains in the data center so there is almost no reduction in infrastructure.

The value of storing a cold copy of backups in the cloud means that, in the event of a local disaster, that backup copy is available. However, IT needs some way to transfer that data back to the primary data center or recovery site. Internet bandwidth limitations mean the organization must somehow transport that backup data by either waiting a very long time for the transfer to download or selecting a provider that can copy the backup copy to disk and ship it to them. Even with the provider copying the backup data to disk and shipping it back to the organization, IT will still need to wait for a day or more to receive the data copy.

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Cloud for Backup Archive

As an alternative, IT can select a backup solution that uses cloud storage more intelligently. Instead of only using the cloud for a DR copy of backups, it can age older backups to cloud storage. Using the cloud as a backup archive does reduce some of the on-premises infrastructure. Solutions that support backup archiving typically keep a year’s worth of backup on-premises and use the cloud for long-term storage of older backups.

However, backup solutions that more intelligently use the cloud still need to have enough backup storage capacity to store the required on-premises copies plus backup metadata and configuration files. The organization also needs to buy servers to run the on-premises backup application.

Additionally, the organization also needs to manage the disaster recovery site, which means equipping it with servers, replicating the latest backup copies and occasionally visiting the site for disaster recovery tests.

Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

Backup applications with cloud-based recovery provide the next level of infrastructure reduction. These solutions still store and process backup data on-premises but replicate the latest backup copy to the cloud so that disaster recoveries occur there. Cloud based recovery, also known as disaster recovery as a service solutions, eliminate the need for the organization to dedicate resources for disaster recovery. Instead, the organization “rents” those resources when it needs to test disaster recovery or actually perform one. Cloud based disaster recovery represents a significant step forward in infrastructure reduction but it still requires on-premises infrastructure to manage backup operations.

Data Protection as a Service

Data protection as a service (DPaaS) can completely eliminate on-premises infrastructure. Data protection as a service not only replicates ALL backup data, new and old, to cloud storage, it also processes backup operations and data management in the cloud. The only on-premises components are data transfer software and potentially an on-premises cache for non-disaster data recoveries. The DPaaS protection model releases IT from equipping a disaster recovery site and on-premises implementation is minimal.

DPaaS also manages scale. Keeping pace with a rapidly growing production storage infrastructure creates a major challenge for on-premises backup architectures. The backup infrastructure requires constant upgrading and fine-tuning. DPaaS solutions automatically scale as growth requires it.

StorageSwiss Take

As production storage continues to grow, the backup infrastructure grows even faster. IT planners continue to look to the cloud for answers but are continually disappointed. Legacy data protection solutions typically only use the cloud as a digital dumping ground and don’t fully exploit the cloud’s potential. IT needs to look for solutions that can move old backups to the cloud, perform DR in the cloud, and even move all backup processing to the cloud.

The lack of a flexible backup infrastructure is one of the ways that VMware backups break. The cloud can help but selecting the right cloud implementation method is critical. We discuss how to select the right cloud for VMware data protection in our webinar “What’s Breaking Your VMware Backups and How to Fix them Quickly.” now available on demand.

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Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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