white paper Using Cloud for Data Storage and Backup By Aaron Goldberg Principal Analyst, Content4IT

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1 white paper Using Cloud for Data Storage and Backup By Aaron Goldberg Principal Analyst, Content4IT (Former analyst with Ziff Davis Enterprise and IDC)

2 Executive Overview Industry research shows the amount of digital data in your company is growing 30% to more than 150% per year. This great variance depends on your industry, but the reports are unanimous: Data is growing quickly across all sectors, in companies of all sizes. Not only must you manage all this data, but it s also essential to protect it with backup and restore capabilities. Faced with these challenges, an increasing number of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are migrating to cloud storage and backup. In fact, Cisco s SMB research shows more than 40% of SMBs are using cloud for at least one storage need. After all, cloud storage provides SMBs with faster responses to storage needs; improved management for compliance and audit goals, and more effective backup to a remote site, which helps provide access to information during a natural disaster or on-site data loss. In addition, a good cloud provider should provide attractive pricing, high levels of security, and very high reliability. These are the most common decision points. In this paper, we will define cloud computing and discuss why businesses of all sizes should look to the cloud for data storage and backup. What is Cloud? Simply put, cloud is a term that refers to the use of computing resources that are not physically present at your location and are built on an Internet backbone. The goal behind cloud is to enable customers to no longer drain money and IT staffs time managing their own IT resources, buying physical devices, or paying for all the attendant management and ownership costs. With a cloud-based solution, you pay for what you use, and the cloud provider handles the management and technical overhead, including upgrades, security, and maintenance. When it comes to data storage, cloud offers a number of additional advantages that are compelling, especially for SMBs. These include the ability to scale-up storage for peak periods such as the holiday shopping season or tax time or an unexpectedly large storage situation; simplified and improved data backup; improved management tools, and multiple options for primary and secondary storage tiers. It s not surprising then that for many SMBs backup in the cloud has become a far superior solution to many technologies that are commonly used today. Specific Benefits of Cloud Storage and Backup for Small and Midsize Firms A recent study by Ziff Davis Enterprise found that 69% of small businesses are very concerned with backing up their data and ensuring its availability. Also, 33% of small businesses are spending between 11% and 30% of their IT budgets on cloud services, the Cisco report found. SMBs, then, are spending a lot of money and losing a lot of sleep over storage and backup. No wonder that cloud-based solutions are attractive alternatives to existing systems. There are many tangible benefits that organizations receive from cloud-based storage and backup services. Among the most important: Improve your financial picture: Pay only for the storage used in the cloud, rather than incurring capital costs for buying new hardware and software. Reduce time and resource demands: Most SMBs don t have storage expert s on-staff or the IT time available to manage comprehensive storage solutions. Leverage the staff of cloud supplier and empower your IT experts to focus on core business issues. Key Characteristics of Cloud Platforms: Built on the Internet Multi-tenant architecture Requires little to no on-premise software or hardware Pay-for-usage or subscription pricing model Inherent elasticity and extensibility Built-in community and interoperability Offers seamless scalability Flexible and adaptive Allows you to deploy quickly, if not immediately White Paper: Using Cloud for Data Storage and Backup 2012 Content4IT 2

3 Dramatically improve back-up reliability and quality: Between 42% and 71% of all tape recoveries fail, according to Business Continuity Advice. Cloud based back-up is orders of magnitude more dependable. Enterprise-class capabilities on an SMB budget: With the explosion in data, SMBs often need enterprise-class capabilities for storage, but don t have the budgets, staff, or time to implement more complete solutions. Cloud solutions make these improvements available without demanding a lot of staff and funds. Improved security for your data: Not only are the number of internal and external security threats growing, but encryption, protecting data in flight, and other demands are increasing the resources and costs SMBs need to be secure. By partnering with a cloud supplier, you leverage their secure storage infrastructure and dedicated security experts. Meet compliance issues: Solving compliance issues can be a huge nightmare for SMBs. As the pressure of meeting compliance, audit, and legal directives grows, it can be hard to catch up. Cloud service providers can help you meet these demands by using their proven and documented solutions; some providers may have divisions specializing in your vertical market or industry to offer further, in-depth assistance. Cloud storage and backup providers give SMBs the expert staff capabilities they need but can t afford, coupled with compliance and security solutions that you pay for by the drink, without soaking up your capital. This also liberates your IT staff to drive the success of your business, unburdened by the management minutiae. How Cloud Storage Helps SMBs Be More Successful Any technology solution should help an organization be more successful, with improved results. It s a simple idea, and one that should be at the forefront of any decision. Cloud storage providers generally drive to these benefits, and as we ll see later, some clouds deliver more than others. In this section we ll examine how cloud storage and backup help your business results. The three key areas are: 1. Solutions that Meet the Speed of Business 2. Simplifying Storage Use that Allows IT to Focus on Business Problems 3. Improved Protection for Your Critical Business Data Solutions that Meet the Speed of Business To drive the speed of business, cloud storage and backup services have some highly compelling offerings. Among the most commonly used is scalable storage that lets users and organizations change their storage size with a mouse click or phone call. Imagine full box problems solved in an instant, or the data to run a new inventory application available in real time. Without cloud it could take weeks to order, install, test, and deploy more storage. A bigger, but thankfully rarer issue, is what happens when you have data loss? It s common to hear SMBs say it took a week or longer to recover and resume normal operations. Can you afford a week of downtime? Few businesses can. In the case of disaster or unscheduled down-time, cloudbased backup can reduce your Time to Recovery (TTR) from days to mere hours or even minutes. That means your organization can be back, up and running without any major negative financial impact on your business. Returning to normal operations faster is essential in today s competitive world. Simplifying Storage Use that Allows IT to Focus on Business Problems Simplifying IT is an essential component of allowing SMBs to fully drive their business success. After all, if you have complex systems that demand time and attention each time you change a business process or just update software, it becomes costly and inefficient. Cloud-based storage and backup dramatically simplifies the situation. First, all the important software and management tools such as de-duplication, version management, support for virtual servers, data management software, and others, are already integrated, deployed, and available in better quality storage solutions. You can use these as you need without going through a whole purchase process, vendor decision, testing, and training each time your organization s needs change. Improved Protection for Your Critical Business Data Finally, there is the issue of protecting your data and information to ensure that your business can be resilient, only minimally impacted from any number of events that can harm operations due to data-loss or a crashed on-site server. Cloudbased backup has become one of the most popular uses of cloud by SMBs, in part because businesses know their data is safeguarded hundreds or thousands of miles away. White Paper: Using Cloud for Data Storage and Backup 2012 Content4IT 3

4 Another important issue is the frequency of data backup. In many traditional, on-premise solutions, backup is done daily, or more often, weekly. This means your business can lose everything that happened in the last day or week the so-called backup window when all that information such as new orders, prospective clients, and customer orders could be lost. Cloud-based backup can shrink this window from a week to an hour, or in some applications you can even have real time back-up. Just what a fast and thriving business needs to protect their vital data lifeblood. In addition, two-tier backup (where you backup files locally and elsewhere), recommended by industry experts as an important Best Practice, can be done with cloud suppliers without much fuss and bother. This helps insulate you from the effect of a local event such as weather, fire, equipment theft, power outage, and other manmade or natural disasters. Top Three Keys to Picking the Right Cloud Storage and Backup Provider Now that you re considering cloud storage and backup for your business, how do you find the best supplier? There are a number of different elements you should consider, and we ll cover them all here. 1. Pricing: Cost or pricing is always high on the list. After all, you re looking for efficiency, and if your cloud provider s service costs substantially more than your on-premise storage, it s a much more difficult Return on Investment (ROI) calculation. There is some allowable premium for cloud services, but the price per gigabyte or terabyte shouldn t be orders of magnitude higher than your own drives. Any financial manager worth their salt will look at this comparison as one of the first parts of a purchase analysis, so be sure you have a supplier that passes this simple comparison. 2. Security: Security is also a top decision point. With the importance of your data, the proprietary nature of the information itself, and the fact that it will no longer be housed at your location, ensuring that it is truly and reliably secure is non-negotiable. Look for very robust encryption and a solution that encrypts data in flight as it s communicated to your cloud supplier and back, and also that it is encrypted at rest on their devices. Demand encryption standards such as AES-256. In addition, data keys are an important element of securing your data. Avoid any supplier that uses human-generated keys, as they are easily compromised. But do look-out for suppliers that have earned their own compliance chops. For example, the vendor should be SSAE 16 Compliant (formerly SAS 70 type 2) or be able to prove other auditable certifications. 3. Availability and Reliability: This is critical, because if your data isn t available when you want or need it what good is back-up? There are a few important aspects to consider. First, is your data stored where there is a single point of failure, such as one internet connection, a single data center, one set of hardware, or other parts of the solution where a single failure or loss of use means lack of access to your data? If so, avoid it. Spend the time to investigate providers architectures to make certain they are up to snuff. Also demand a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that gives you a clear percentage of guaranteed uptime, or an actual amount of time that any outage will be limited to. Consider the financial penalties your provider will pay if it does not meet its SLA obligations to you. Other important criteria to evaluate when choosing a cloud backup vendor: Ease-of-Use and Management: Don t just focus on the offering itself. A big part of your success will be driven by the ease, or difficulty, of implementing and using cloud storage and backup solution. If using the solution eats up hours of time, force you to change procedures, or otherwise be a poor team player in your organization, look for another option. If you lose the efficiency of cloud because it is too cumbersome to use and you must spend your resources working out its processes, you haven t made any gains. File Sharing: A new twist and one to look for in a cloud storage vendor is collaboration or file sharing. Many SMBs are finding the easiest way to share data in a secure, yet highly available, manner is to use a cloud storage solution. While this may not be a near-term need for your organization, it will very likely become a capability that you ll require in the future. Not all vendors have this; if it s not in your prospective provider s existing solution, see what s on their roadmap. Data Recovery: Finally, if you are looking at using cloud backup, a key part of the solution is the length of the backup window and how fast you can recover lost data. The demands here will be different if you are using cloud as your only backup, or whether you have a two-tiered solution where cloud augments your in-house back up. Using cloud should improve and enhance what you have today, and add more protection for your data. White Paper: Using Cloud for Data Storage and Backup 2012 Content4IT 4

5 Security is an issue you can t ignore and it should, in fact, be a key consideration for you. Not all security is the same. First, make sure your data is protected both as it s passing through the network either to or from your cloud provider, and that it is also protected while residing at the provider s storage location. This means that the service provider incorporates strong encryption, strong key management, and industry-leading security principles throughout the operation. You should consider, and perhaps demand, militarygrade encryption, if you are in healthcare, financial services, legal services, or other industries with privacy statutes. Clever cloud service providers will also break your data into independently secured blocks, an attractive feature that makes data theft far more difficult. Finally, make sure that machines, not humans, generate or manage the system s security keys. People are always the weakest link in any secure environment, and putting all important security keys in their hands is a known vulnerability. The first thing a prospective cloud user should create is a clear picture of how you want to use cloud and build your usage model from that specific need. When it comes time to choosing a supplier, there are three aspects that stand out as the most important decision points; Pricing, security, and reliability/availability. You ll want to add more capabilities, but these three criteria must be on your list of vendor requirements. For backup solutions, ensure your supplier of choice actually improves upon the backup solutions you have in place now, whether that means smaller back-up windows, better recovery, easier extension of your onpremise storage, or improved ability to respond to a natural disaster, in addition to the Top Three above. Cloud services are truly a more modern approach, borne out of both technological advances and business demands. Most SMBs will find cloud provides them with the secure, reliable, and cost-effective storage and back-up they need for the foreseeable future. In today s highly competitive climate, taking advantage of the best and most efficient infrastructure approaches, especially for your critical and invaluable data asset, is a task you can t afford to ignore. Conclusions and Recommendations As you can see, the use of cloud storage and backup makes a great deal of sense for nearly all organizations. Driven by ROI, operational efficiency, speed of solutions, and the ability to leverage the compliance and audit support cloud vendors provide, it s the best choice for many SMBs. The range of solutions can cover everything from an organization s entire storage and data protection activities to specific niches, such as collaboration storage, peak demand storage, or two-tier back-up. About Content4IT Content4IT is an organization focused on the information needs of the business-to-business IT environment. Our professionals have more than 20 years of experience in IT and technology analysis, including work for leading IT analyst firms such as IDC Research. The result is information that identifies the business benefits of technology, how that solution or technology fits into the IT architecture, and the key issues IT Professionals, Line-of-Business, and Executive Management must consider as they acquire and implement new solutions. This information is presented in a straightforward and succinct style for today s highly-engaged professional. WP-CIT White Paper: Using Cloud for Data Storage and Backup 2012 Content4IT 5

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