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Backup Solution Providers: Your First Mate on the Voyage Over the Sea of Change With Cloud Backups

Backup and recovery operations was once a set-it-and-forget it design architecture with a static reference architecture. Disk-to-disk-to-tape, with standard rotation schedules. Then along came the cloud, disrupting everything about how data is stored and processed. Today, change is the only constant in the relationship between the cloud and backup and recovery operations, and it is no longer a task delegated to the most junior operator. Now, more than ever, organizations are looking for their solution providers to lean in and help them navigate the shifting tides of “cloud backup.”

As cloud backup evolves, solution providers must act as guides

Even the definition of the term “cloud backup” has been subject to change. Back in 2012, at the dawn of public cloud computing, cloud backup would have referred to the use of public cloud storage as a container for tertiary backup data; a strategy often employed to replace large tape libraries and offsite storage and retrieval services. A few years later, a seminar on cloud backup would have explored new recovery strategies for data that was stored in public cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) environments. Now in 2021 and beyond, over half an organization’s data is stored in the public cloud services, cited in Flexera’s 2020 State of the Cloud Report. This movement has forced the cloud backup discussion beyond data protection in IaaS and PaaS and now includes the extraction of content from Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environments such as Office 365 products and Salesforce.com.

As data moves from one underlying platform to another, its backup strategy must be revisited. We all went through this with the shift from bare metal to virtualization, the only difference now is that the changes are occurring more frequently than the normal refresh cycle of our backup and recovery infrastructure.

This pace of change puts pressure on the solution providers to act as guides and assist their customers in navigating the velocity of changes that are impacting their data protection plans. Their role here is to offer solutions that are scalable and adaptable to these changes, whether that stems from the solution’s technical architecture or its license model. Done correctly, this will not only support but even accelerate the customer’s navigation to the cloud.

Backup software is a key utility in an organization’s cloud migration strategy

In the earliest stages of their journey, organizations are often looking at using cloud-native storage in lieu of large banks of tape drives. This is where we need software, like Micro Focus Data Protector, installed on the media server to support connectivity to a cloud-native repository, such as an AWS S3 bucket, a Microsoft Azure Blob store, or even a Ceph object store running in a private cloud. Optionally, the solution could also integrate with a cloud storage gateway or backup appliance that facilitates connectivity to the cloud storage backend. These intermediary devices provide the benefit of faster restore times because of their proximity to the media server while still leveraging the cloud as a storage platform for data with more forgiving restore time objectives.

Further on in their journey, IT operations groups will be deploying new workloads in IaaS and PaaS environments, alongside traditional data center resident workloads, looking to balance the value and risk of cloud in a hybrid approach. The challenges this shift brings to traditional backup and recovery operations are multifaceted. When a solution provider can provide backup from one deployment area, such as a data center, and recovery to another one, such as a public cloud, their solution is not only functioning as a data protection mechanism but can also act as a critical lynchpin in that organization’s migration to the cloud. This is also where the scaling unit for recovery software licensing tends to shift from host based to capacity based. Info-Tech has seen organizations favor vendors with more flexible licensing models that support pay-as-you-grow consumption models, which are more likely to be based on data backup capacity (sometimes even after deduplication) rather than on an arbitrary number of hosts.

Data protection and SaaS

In a report cited by Information Age, revenue for SaaS is expected to be over $140 million by 2022, which is nearly the same as the combined projections for IaaS ($80 million) and PaaS ($72 million). While this isn’t a direct measure of data, it is certainly indicative about where data will reside. Almost every single organization that Info-Tech Research Group has worked closely with on their cloud strategy has an increasing SaaS footprint, and many of those organizations have adopted a SaaS-first vision. Just as organizations needed their solution providers to solve the hybrid cloud problem, they’re also expecting them to integrate directly with major SaaS vendors. Microsoft Office 365, Google Workplace, Salesforce.com, and Adobe Creative Cloud are just some examples of SaaS providers that are holding data that enterprise IT is seeking to protect. This is the field that the backup and recovery market will be playing on in the years to come.

Summary

Through all this change there has been one constant: recovery and availability services remain business critical. No more critical than they were ever before perhaps, but due to the added complexity that IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS bring, providing these services effectively is harder! A comprehensive data protection strategy must now encompass multiple delivery models from SaaS to IaaS while still protecting data resident in the data center. Ensure your backup software vendor should be approached as a partner who can help you navigate these shifting tides.


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