The Biggest Challenges with Cloud Backup and Cloud Disaster Recovery

  • Traditionally in scenarios where a critical site is lost, a special site, known as a disaster recovery site, is brought online.
  • Shifting from a process where backup media is driven to a special off-site facility by a courier to having data moved off-site to the cloud is the sort of change that brings new challenges and concerns.
  • DRaaS is ideal for small businesses looking to get their data off-site without the cost and complexity of building or maintaining a second infrastructure.

The last few years have seen some big changes in backup and disaster recovery. As with almost every other aspect of IT, the cloud is making its presence felt. Integrating the cloud into a backup and disaster recovery strategy involves rethinking many of the ideas on how organizations go about managing these processes. In this essential guide you’ll learn about some of the challenges around cloud backup and disaster recovery including:

  • The traditional way of doing off-site backup and recovery
  • Cloud security worries
  • Concerns about pricing blowouts
  • Managing and monitoring cloud backup and disaster recovery
  • Taking advantage of Disaster Recovery as a Service
Most recovery operations, which almost always involve recent data, occur primarily using the on-premises storage. Those recovery options that require older protected data are able to retrieve it from storage in the cloud.

The traditional way of doing off-site backup and disaster recovery

To understand the new challenges that cloud backup and disaster recovery present, you need to remember some of the traditional ways of handling backup and disaster recovery. It’s straightforward to remember that organizations with a great backup and disaster recovery plan back up critical workloads frequently and perform recovery drills to ensure that their disaster recovery preparations provide the needed coverage. One aspect of a great backup and disaster recovery plan is moving backed up data off-site to a secure location. Another aspect is having a separate disaster recovery site.

Moving backed up data off-site protects organizations from those events where the location that houses the original workloads itself is lost, such as when a critical site is destroyed by a natural disaster such as a flood during a hurricane. While the original on-premises site may be written off, the data, at a separate location, is still safe.

Traditionally in scenarios where a critical site is lost, a special site, known as a disaster recovery site, is brought online. This disaster recovery site has the necessary infrastructure to host the critical workloads from the original site. The backed up data at the secure site is recovered to the infrastructure at the disaster recovery site and the organization retains access to critical workloads while the original site is restored to operation.

The cloud as a way of moving recovery data off-site

Several factors have come together to make moving data off-site using tapes less common than it used to be. These factors include:

  • The cost of shifting data massive amounts of data over the Internet has declined dramatically.
  • Broadband speeds continue to increase, making it feasible to shift gigabytes of data every day between an on-premises location and the cloud.
  • The cost of storing vast quantities of data in the cloud has declined dramatically.
  • The functionally limitless storage capacity of the cloud, as long as organizations are willing to pay for it.
  • The concept of hybrid cloud is building a lot of momentum. By keeping copies of data on-site as well as in the cloud, you can cover the majority of recoveries on-site from recent copies.

Rather than have to deal with the complexities of ensuring that physical media is physically transported from the organizational location to a secure off-site facility that specializes in storing backup media, recovery data can be transmitted over the organization’s Internet connection and stored in the cloud.

Cloud security worries

It’s been said that change can resolve existing challenges only to introduce brand new ones. Shifting from a process where backup media is driven to a special off-site facility by a courier to having data moved off-site to the cloud is the sort of change that brings new challenges and concerns.

A challenge around backups is that if a nefarious third party gets access to that backed up data, they have access to all of the critical information generated by and owned by the organization. If you look at the advertising around off-site storage of backup data, much of it uses imagery of something of a cross between a nuclear bunker and a bank vault. This imagery is used because it is designed to reassure organizations that their backed up data is in a secure location, somewhat similar to a bank vault.

With a traditional off-site backup provider, access to the backup tapes involves multiple layers of security. Someone can’t just turn up at the off-site backup provider and request tapes. They must provide appropriate physical identification before someone hands over the tapes. An additional layer of security allows organizations to encrypt the backup media so that the data stored there cannot be accessed by anyone except for a person who has access to the decryption key. Encrypting backed up data means that even if someone at the backup storage facility did manage to steal backup media, they couldn’t recover the data stored on the tape.

Concerns about pricing blowouts

Another concern that organizations have about moving backed up data to the cloud is around cost. While it might be cheap to export data from organizational sites to the cloud, organizations are concerned that significant expense will be incurred when that data needs to be brought back from the cloud in the event recovery is necessary. They worry that while shipping data to the cloud is cheap, the cloud provider has the organization over a barrel when that data needs to come back as a part of your recovery process.

How quickly can I recover my data

One aspect of a great backup and disaster recovery plan is moving backed up data off-site to a secure location. Another aspect is having a separate disaster recovery site.

One thing that many have learned about storing data in the cloud is that the cost of cloud storage usually involves trading speed of storage for price of storage. You can get exceptionally fast storage from cloud providers if you pay an exceptional price. You can get exceptionally cheap storage, but your ability to write and read from that storage is going to be at a speed drastically lower than that of the more expensive option. While it’s great to be able to store petabytes of data cheaply, it’s less wonderful if it takes days or weeks to restore that data should it be required. Some providers specialized in off-site backup offer services to speed up the restoration process by allowing large volumes of data to be repatriated to the on-premises environment through physical media, though the amount of time that this might take to organize will vary depending on service level agreement.

How long can I store my data in the cloud?

Using the cloud for long-term data archival may not replace this type of off-site storage entirely; it may simply reduce your need to utilize such facilities. Many organizations now store their protected data in the cloud, whilst also sending backup media to a secure location on a periodic basis to a secure location to meet compliance requirements. It’s critical to note that using cloud-based backup and disaster recovery isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. It’s possible to still use off-site locations for some types of protected data while primarily using the cloud to host the majority of the protected data workload.

Similarly, many organizations that adopt a cloud backup and disaster recovery strategy still initially back data up to on-premises data storage. Data then replicates from the on-premises storage to the cloud for longer-term off-site storage. Most recovery operations, which almost always involve recent data, occur primarily using the on-premises storage. Those recovery options that require older protected data are able to retrieve it from storage in the cloud. This aligns with an industry best practice known as the “3-2-1 Rule,” stating that a business could maintain three copies of their data, on at least two types of media, and that one of those copies should be off-site.

Managing and monitoring cloud backup and disaster recovery

The best cloud backup and disaster recovery tools use a “single pane of glass” to allow backup administrators to perform all important tasks related to backing up data from on-premises servers to the cloud, as well as recovering data when necessary, either from an on-premises store of protected data, or from data stored in the cloud.

Taking advantage of Disaster Recovery As a Service

Disaster Recovery As a Service (DRaaS) provides an alternative to the traditional model of recovering data to an on-premises server in the case of failure. With DRaaS, when a hardware failure occurs that requires a server be recovered entirely, instead of performing the recovery to another server on premises, you can instead recover that workload so that it runs in the cloud. DRaaS is ideal for small businesses looking to get their data off-site without the cost and complexity of building or maintaining a second infrastructure, but it is also becoming more appealing to larger enterprises because it is becoming increasingly cost-effective.

The advantage of DRaaS over a traditional DR site is that organizations don’t need to maintain a remote DR facility, with all the expenses associated with maintaining idle server hardware that needs to closely mirror the on-premises environment just in case something terrible happens and the original on-premises site can no longer be used.

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