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Data protection and the cloud

A look at how cloud services can protect critical data against catastrophe

Your business' most critical asset is information, from contracts, customers, employees, premises and hardware to software and accounts. Therefore protecting it by backing it up is indisputable. The process can be expensive and time-consuming if you do it all yourself, and many businesses continue to rely on local, tape-based backup.

Not only does this start to eat into your physical storage space and require regular hardware upgrades as the volumes of data increase, it also needs human intervention. Someone needs to remember to switch tapes, which is usually the last thing. Restoring a file from tape is a slow process, and worse still, tape degrades so you cannot rely on it as an archive.

Cloud backup services offer a range of advantages, and in backup we include disaster recovery, which usually takes the form of replication or mirroring. A key attribute of cloud backup is that it takes the data off-premises, enabling recovery after a disaster. In the event of a fire or flood, for example, your data will survive - and so will your business.

Just as importantly, cloud-based data protection ensures that you can back up data from any location, which is increasingly important as employees become more mobile, accessing and using data in multiple locations. As they create and manipulate corporate data, it needs to be protected.

Cloud services are more reliable too. With the right backup service, you can be more certain that your data is being protected than if it were being stored on tapes in the back office.

Of course, there are challenges. The main one is to ensure that your premises have a fast network connection to the backup provider's data centre. In today's world, with high-speed links becoming cheaper, this should not be seen as an insurmountable barrier.

That said, it is good practice to keep recent copies of your data locally, to enable fast restoration of a critical data set. You could use anything from "spare server internal drives, USB drives or a dedicated PC to a deduplication appliance, depending on the cloud backup provider, volume of data and desired local backup data retention requirements."