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Pole Vaulting the Chasm: Backup Software’s New Cloud Race

Cloud backup, like cloud computing, is one of those big fuzzy umbrella terms that has shifting meaning. Today it is just as apt to mean backup of the cloud as backup to the cloud. Make sure to address both in your protection strategy and software selection.

Info-Tech sees backup of cloud – for example backing up Office 365 or Google Suite – as a major trend in enterprise backup software capabilities. The vendors need to do this to chase your business. Cloud is in your future. It may not be all of your future but it is a certainty that less will be done here and more will be done there.

Traditionally, if anything can be traditional in a market less than a decade old, cloud backup has been about treating a cloud service (like Amazon Web Services – AWS – or Microsoft Azure) as a backup target. This is often based on the erroneous assumption that cloud storage for backups will be significantly cheaper than on-premises storage.

Speaking of erroneous assumptions, I have often noted that the simplest and least accurate definition of cloud computing is two words: Not Here. Even before the cloud buzz we had online backup providers. These would provide an on-premises appliance for backups that would send the data to an off-premises data center.

Many an online backup provider – whether service or software provider – has renamed their offerings as cloud backup. They must be cloud because the backups are not here anymore. (In fairness, some can be called cloud backup because they have added public clouds as targets and their own data centers can be private clouds. See. Big fuzzy umbrella.)

Case for Backing up the Cloud

Increasingly cloud backup isn’t just about tossing backups to the cloud. As more critical data and services get moved into the cloud (in software-as-a-service and cloud-hosted infrastructure-as-a-service) “cloud backup” is now also referring to the backup of data and services from a cloud (possibly to another cloud).

But wait a minute here. Is it not legitimate to ask, “Do I even need backup in the cloud? It is already, typically, redundant and highly available.” The answer is yes. The data may be more available than on-premises, but there are still dangers that need to be mitigated. These include:

  • Malicious code and individuals. If the data is rendered unusable by a hack or malware you still need to be able to restore it from somewhere.
  • Failures do happen. Outages do happen and just having an SLA uptime commitment doesn’t mean you will be able to retrieve important data when the service is offline.
  • Synchronization and replication are not backup. Replication of data to a cloud service, and in a cloud service, certainly improves availability. If your laptop is run over by a truck and all your data files are synched to Box or OneDrive, the files remain available. But this is not backup because the files are synchronized. If through user error or malicious intent a file is improperly changed or corrupted, that bad file is replicated in the cloud. There may not be a copy of the last good version.

Professional services firms make extensive use of office suite productivity software. These are moving to the cloud in the form of, for example, Office 365 and Google Productivity Suite. Increasingly, cloud-based file sync and share is also being used within firms and with clients. In the past, important files were being backed up. As these critical files have moved to the cloud, has backup moved with them?

Backup Software Race to the Cloud

Here lies the dilemma for any vendor with a strong footprint in on-premises IT infrastructure. As more moves off-premises there is less need where they are strong. How do you mitigate this march to irrelevance? You vault the chasm to the cloud world and be waiting for your customers at the other side of the bridge.

Veeam, for example, has a core strength in the data center backing up virtual machines (VMs). Lately it has extended to backing up non-virtual servers and PCs as well as cloud services including Office 365. Commvault, another leader in on-premises backup, has been pursuing a multi-cloud strategy that includes a wide-ranging partnership with Google Cloud.

Remember though that in this new frontier of cloud backup the usual suspects in enterprise backup work are fast followers. Typically with a new frontier you start with first mover innovators (often start-ups) and then more established players come on board as fast followers. There are some first movers in this type of cloud backup.

  • Spanning is an example of an early pioneer that focused on “cloud to cloud” backup. It has mature backup offerings for O365, Google Suite, and Salesforce.
  • Druva InSync is another example of a backup of cloud services software. It does “protection and governance for Microsoft Office 365, G Suite, Box, and Salesforce.”

Recommendations

  • Include cloud-native data in backup strategy. In backup strategy engagements, Info-Tech typically sees the focus on primary data hosted on premises. The cloud is considered as a target for off-premises secondary copies (backup), but increasingly primary data will already be in the cloud. Your backup strategy will need to account for protecting that data as well.
  • Challenge incumbent, and considered, backup vendors. There is a rush right now to provide cloud native backup services but this is early days. Challenge your current backup software provider, or a provider you’re thinking of moving to, to show what its specific capabilities are in this area. This should include released features and imminent roadmap features. If you’re not satisfied, consider one of the pioneers for immediate need.
  • Beware the cost of inaction. If you have grown your use of cloud services – software as a service, infrastructure as a service, and platform as a service – and have not concurrently updated backup, it is time to get started. You don’t want to wait for that critical file to be corrupted or overwritten to find that you don’t have appropriate data protection in the cloud.

Bottom Line

Backup is about a secondary copy of primary data. Traditionally cloud backup has been about using a cloud service as an offsite target for that secondary copy. But with more primary data already in the cloud, cloud backup will increasingly be about creating the secondary copy of cloud data.


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