Cloud and online backup are relative newcomers to the backup space, but as more businesses evaluate the resiliency of their business continuity plans, they are proving to be valuable options.
In the first part of this three-part series, we took a look at the basics of cloud/online backup, their benefits, and how they compare to other backup methods. In this part of the series, I’m going to turn our attention to data security (always a point of concern) and data access in the event of a disaster. After all, the best continuity program in the world is useless if your backed up data is unavailable.
1. How secure is my data that is backed up in the cloud?
The cloud is just as secure – if not more so – than any prior technologies. Still, it is up to you and your service provider to ensure that your deployment model is as safe as possible. If you are working with a service provider, be sure they can meet your standards and follow industry best practices such as data encryption both at rest and in transit. Be sure to also understand the security protocols of your provider’s data center.
Of course, you must also ensure security on your end of the equation. Your cloud may be the most secure data fortress possible, but if you allow unfettered access to your primary data stores, your data may be at risk from its point of origin. Both in your office and in the cloud, there are always proactive measures to take to ensure data access and control, so don’t overlook the physical aspect of data integrity.
2. What about highly regulated data subject to things like HIPAA and PCI?
If you handle personal health information (PHI), personal identification information (PII), or personal credit information (PCI), your service provider will be handling that information on your behalf, as well. Therefore, ensure your service provider is able to provide the appropriate audit information and follows all practices related to HIPAA and PCI compliance.
3. What happens to my data in the event of a disaster?
A disaster halts access to your production data. This, of course, is the reason you replicate your data off site so your IT team or service provider can bring it online in a virtual environment. While the production environment is being restored – a process that will inevitably take time – your office and employees can continue working in this virtual environment.
Sometimes, depending on the severity of the disaster and the likelihood that the company may be impacted by the same or similar future scenarios, IT managers use backup and restoration as a way to “test drive” full cloud-based production hosting. If the time is right, it’s also an opportunity to move their data to the cloud instead of waiting for a full local data restoration (and repeating that process after any future disasters).
You can read more about the move from disaster recovery to fully managed production hosting here.
4. How quickly can I access my data in the event of a disaster?
The full answer to this question will really depend on several factors, the biggest being the amount of data to which you require access. Sure, you may be able to gain access to 10 gigabytes of data pretty quickly, but will that help you if you’re waiting for another four terabytes of data be restored?
In short, how quickly you can access your data will depend on your environment and your agreement with your service provider (if applicable). Understand that your relationship with a backup provider is a partnership, and both parties must put in the time and effort to define service level agreements, environment specifications, data priorities and level of expenditure on the services. If you don’t put in the time and effort to work these out before a disaster strikes, things will take longer than they should.
5. How do I access my backed up data?
In the event that an outage or disaster scenario requires you to access your backed up data, your access method may vary depending on your model or service provider. Some service providers will have self-service portals, while others require a simple support ticket. Either method will begin the process of restoring your data from recent backup copies.
The actual way your backed up data is restored will largely be dependent on your backup model. With tape-based backup, you will need to have your tapes removed and shipped from their off-site residence to your office. Once they arrive, those tapes will need to be sequenced and loaded, one by one, to feed the data copies back into your system. In a less labor-intensive and timelier process, a cloud-based approach allows your data to be transferred via wire back to your office. Of course no process is instantaneous, but cloud and online backup models offer more ready and efficient access to data backups.
Part 3 – the final part of this series – will be coming shortly. Stay tuned for the last questions, including logistics of data backups, pricing, data storage and, most importantly, how cloud/online backup will affect your team’s productivity.
Meet the Author: Shawn Fichter is a data center veteran who has been working in the DR and business continuity space for over 15 years. Over the course of his career, Shawn has been involved in managing infrastructures through the transition of client server to utility computing to cloud-based service models. He now leads the development of next generation cloud-based products and services for Xtium.