Frequently Asked Questions about Cloud and Online Backup

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1 Frequently Asked Questions about Cloud and Online Backup With more companies realizing the importance of protecting their mission-critical data, we know that businesses are also evaluating the resiliency of their backup systems. Is tape still the way to go? Or is it time to move to online and cloud-based backup models? Ultimately either model will accomplish the same task, but the way they affect your IT experience including costs, time, labor and method longevity can vary significantly based on which model you select for your business. With that in mind, here are many of the most frequently asked questions regarding cloud and online backup. Don't see your question listed here? Contact us so you can be prepared with secure, resilient backups of your data! Q. What is cloud/online backup? Are they the same thing? A. Cloud and online backup are synonymous terms that indicate data replication directly to a cloud hosting model. Online backup may be used as its own model or, alternately, in a hybrid approach. A hybrid approach would introduce a local backup point (usually disk-based) to keep recently replicated copies of your data in an easily accessible location. The benefit of this local piece is that more often than not, your disaster scenarios are going to be localized to your office (think about a motherboard failure, power outage or natural disaster). You will also need data restored at your office location, and if it has all been backed up directly to the cloud, it will take some time to get back to your office. Q. What are the benefits of online backup for my business? A. Like all backup models, online and cloud-based backup is your data insurance policy in the case of a full disaster. Unique to cloud-based backup, though, is that your infrastructure resides off site. Your local data is not the only copy you have, so even if your office is inaccessible or, in the worst-case scenario, is destroyed, all of your company s data lives in at least one additional location. Q. How does online or cloud-based backup compare to other backup options? A. Tape-based backup, the most traditional data backup method, does feature off-site storage to protect against local disasters. However, writing to tape is much slower than disk or cloudbased backup. More importantly, if you need to restore files from tapes that are already off site, it can take a long time to retrieve and then restore from those tapes. The equipment needed to read and restore tape-based backups also becomes costly to support and maintain, whereas online and cloud-based models keep the data digital and more readily Xtium, Inc All Rights Reserved. 1

2 accessible to the latest and greatest hardware and operating systems. In short, online and cloud-based backup models offer greater speed and flexibility. Of course, online backup is not instantaneous, either. If you have 100 gigabytes of data in your cloud that you need to restore, it can take a while to retrieve it based on your network connectivity. This is why hybrid approaches to data backup are often innovative and effective methods of ensuring data redundancy and quick availability in the event of a disaster. Read a full comparison of tape, disk and cloud-based backup options here. Q. What data is backed up? Do I have a say when working with a service provider? A. Typically all data is backed up, but sometimes trying to back up everything costs you in your ability to replicate it as quickly and efficiently as possible. You should take a close look at your data and decide which mission-critical resources you need off site. If working with a service provider, you should engage in conversations around tiering your backup needs. The process of tiering segments your data between mission-critical, immediate restoration needs and more long term, just don t lost this data type of requirements. Ultimately, your decision will be based on your data, applications, and the servers they rely on. Q. Are there any types of data or applications I should not back up to the cloud? A. Ask yourself these questions: Is the data important? Would your business suffer if you didn t have this data? If you answer yes to either of those questions, then ensure you have a backup solution for that data. End of story. People often wonder if sensitive data for example, financial or healthcare information should be backed up to an off site location. Remember, regardless of your own security policies, always confirm that your service provider adheres to those same policies and standards. Encryption at rest, in transit, and dual authentication are all pieces of the puzzle to confirm. Data integrity should be considered paramount to your overall backup strategy, regardless of the model (physical tape, virtual disk). Q. How secure is my data that is backed up in the cloud? A. 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. Xtium, Inc All Rights Reserved. 2

3 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. Q. What about highly regulated data subject to things like HIPAA and PCI? A. 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. Q. What happens to my data in the event of a disaster? A. 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). Q. How quickly can I access my data in the event of a disaster? A. 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. Xtium, Inc All Rights Reserved. 3

4 Q. How do I access my backed up data? A. 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. Q. When and how often do data backups run? A. This depends on the method being used, your end goals, and what exactly you are backing up. For example, a domain controller doesn t need to be backed up often; backups for these might only run once per week. However, something like a file or exchange server is changing all the time, so to give you the best granularity for restoration points, you may want to back these up hourly. Backups run depending on restoration points or recovery point objectives. A standard for backups is typically every 24 hours. Increasing or decreasing frequency should be driven by this question: How much processed business (or number of business transactions) can I afford to lose? If your business is an online catalogue ordering platform, you ll stop processing business the minute your data is no longer connected to your systems. As such, you may want backups to run more frequently than once per day. This would provide what we call rollback or restore points throughout the day. Conversely, if your business processes orders weekly in a batch mode, you would most likely be covered by weekly backups completed just prior to the weekly run. Q. How long does it take to back up my data? A. The first time you back up your production data, the process will likely take a long time. After all, you ll likely be backing up many gigabytes or terabytes of data at once. While the initial backup will be lengthy, your ongoing backups will happen much more quickly as these incremental backups need to only replicate changes in your data since the last backup point. Xtium, Inc All Rights Reserved. 4

5 Q. How long are backup copies available? A. Service providers will typically keep backup copies from the most recent restoration point(s). This should, by nature of the most recent backup having contained all data that came before it, suffice to restore your production environment. Service providers may also set systems to save backups for a few days prior to each recovery point, so that in the case of a recovery situation there are multiple distinct recovery points. This is important because, unfortunately, servers don t always come back into production perfectly. Service providers should always support your business legal requirements for retention. Ensure that your data is maintained for your specified length of time. The use of tiering is also applicable here to minimize the cost of long-term online and cloud-based storage. A hybrid backup approach, combining tape and online models, is often used for keeping some data close at hand and other data in long-term legal retention mode. Q. Are there bandwidth optimization tools to prevent backups from interrupting other applications and business processes? A. Yes, there are, but the best practice here is to schedule your backup cycles at times that will not interrupt critical processes. Often, data backups will occur later at night so as not to disrupt work during usual business hours. Work with your service provider to define the timing and processes to best suit your needs. Q. How will tape vs. online cloud backup affect my team s productivity? A. On a day-to-day basis, online backup (or, for that matter, any other backup method) should not at all affect your office s productivity. It should be transparent to you as a user. In the event of a disaster and recovery scenario, however, cloud backup will help restore your team to normal productivity levels as soon as possible by providing access to data and applications. Keep in mind that your choice of backup model will, however, affect your team s productivity in a post-disaster scenario. When restoring your data, it will take significantly longer to restore your data to your team due to tape transit and load times. With online and cloud backup, your service provider can restore data at a much faster pace and thus allow your team to focus on higher-level business restoration activities. Q. What determines the price of backup for tape, online and cloud-based models? A. Pricing is usually dependent on factors like the amount of data and the type of disk used in the backup process. There are some software elements in each of these solutions for accessing and writing the data. Don t forget about the physical equipment needed if Xtium, Inc All Rights Reserved. 5

6 pursuing a tape solution (readers, spoolers, tape libraries) and tier of data. You will need to discuss all of these elements with your service provider at the outset to ensure that the solution fits both your needs and your expected price point. Q. Where is my data actually stored? A. When implementing an online backup model, your production data resides (and is used) within your office while backups are copied to, and stored in, your service provider s data center(s). In the hybrid approach suggested earlier, a backup of your data is also stored locally in your office on disk so recent backups are readily accessible without having to download huge backup files from your cloud. When determining the location of your backup(s) that is, the location of your service provider s data center(s) consider geographical redundancy to better prepare you for a disaster. If your data center is in the same city as your office, a localized disaster will still leave you unable to work since both your production and backups will be inaccessible. Instead, it is critical to have at least one instance of your backup files in a completely different geographic zone. Xtium, for example, backs up customer data to centers in Pennsylvania and Nevada. Visit for additional information. Xtium, Inc All Rights Reserved. 6

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