An online backup strategy can be more cost effective, efficient and safer than relying on a pile of hard drives or physical servers.
As any cloud service is, by definition, off site, your backup doesn't go up in the same fire or disaster as the rest of your business, allowing you to quickly set up shop elsewhere. Plus, the scalable nature of cloud storage means you pay only for the capacity your data consumes. There are some challenges as well. The right online backup strategy will need to answer a few important questions.
Some industries and some classifications of data fall under strict regulations on where and how it is stored. This includes online backup, so if you store financial, government or private health data, for example, there may be restrictions on the location and methods used for any cloud backup.
Check where your cloud provider's data centre is located. Sometimes, this can be difficult to determine as some providers run a number of data centres around the world, moving data back and forth. Keeping your data local may severely restrict your choices of provider, but it could be a lot easier for you to stay on the right side of regulators.
So you've had an emergency and now need to recover your valuable data to restore service as quickly as possible. Depending on the provider and the service level, this can be quick and easy or a more complex process. You'll need to weigh up convenience against cost so that when you need it most your backup data can be made available and quickly restored.
Data transfer speeds
When first setting up your online backup service, you may have a very large amount of data to transfer. Future backups may simply sync changes or new data, but that first upload can be a real challenge. Just a single terabyte of data could take you the best part of a week to upload on a standard broadband connection. The NBN will make this a lot easier, with much faster upload speeds, but that could still be a few years off for many of us.
Of course, not every business has a full terabyte of data. A website and a couple of databases can take up a lot less space. Many businesses do, however, store large amounts of valuable and continually growing data. Some industries work with files and digital information on a massive scale, such as video or large graphics files. So your available upload speeds could be a deal breaker, depending on the size of your backup requirements. Some cloud providers allow you to send the data on a physical hard drive for direct transfer onto their server. Sending your data by courier can present a few other security challenges to consider.
How secure is the provider's data centre? Do they comply will all the same strict regulations that you do? Are they exposed to unauthorised access and hacking? It does happen. Hosting and cloud providers can come under attack. It's how they fend them off and protect your data that's most important. Don't let your online backup strategy become the weak link in your security.
What matters to you?
Once in the cloud, your online backup strategy could be safer and more flexible than traditional physical alternatives. Cloud technology also means your business can access the data from anywhere.
As with any strategy, there are benefits and risks to be weighed up. Every business scenario will be different, so always look closely at your own requirements and business model when making a final decision.
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Jonathan has worked within, and written about, the technology industry for many years. Before going freelance as a writer in 2012, Jonathan had worked for Netregistry (web hosting) and Ninefold (cloud computing). Jonathan has won awards for his articles on online business for Nett Magazine and his over-opinionated blog Atomik Soapbox. He continues to write for Chief Content Officer magazine.