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Backing up your data doesn’t have to be the nightmare it used to be. Cloud backup services have made backup a simpler process, easily replacing the arcane tape backup solutions that were once the only game in town. Cloud backup is cheaper, easier and more secure than most local solutions.
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In the cloud model, your IT manager only needs to ensure that (a) all your target devices, whether disks, computers, phones or servers, are supported; and that (b) all such targets have an Internet connection. Then schedule and test from a central console, and each device can download the necessary client software from the Internet. You can even automate this task in many different ways. So why is backup still often neglected by small to medium businesses (SMBs)?
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Because, even with the new simplicity of the cloud, being effectively backed up usually requires more than just signing up with a provider. The backup needs to properly match each organization’s specific needs. This means that planning and execution is complicated, so most operations managers avoid it.
This is a problem, because properly backing up data has more uses now than ever. Disasters aren’t just natural, like a storm destroying your office; they could also be a disgruntled employee who hits the “Delete” key when they shouldn’t, or cause your company to be infected by one of several types of nasty malware. In all of these cases, having previous versions of your business, customer and employee data can mean the difference between a small delay and a major meltdown.
Backing up your data also allows you to be up and running after your endpoint protection software has determined that a breach has occurred. And some malware even requires an excellent backup to defeat. Ransomware is the best example. This type of malware holds your data hostage, usually by encrypting it and then demanding a large sum of money in exchange for the key you need to decrypt it. Sometimes ransomware affects the devices it initially infected, but increasingly it becomes smart enough to spread across your network and hold your entire organization’s data captive.
Having an up-to-date backup of everything off-site and adequate security can help make it easier to defeat ransomware. Several data backup providers have added new features to their software specifically to deal with the threat of ransomware. With a combination of security software and regular backups, you’ll be able to detect threats as they occur, remove them from your network, and then restore your network to a newer, more secure state.
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To help you build an effective data security and backup plan, we’ve listed eight steps below that will make this process more accessible, no matter the size of your organization.
You don’t want to manually back up your data every time there’s a problem. Instead, you should be proactive and set automatic backups to occur on a constant and recurring basis. That way, no matter when disaster strikes, you know there’s a backup waiting for you. On the contrary, manually backing up data means you are relying on your diligence or that of an employee (someone who may be sick or leave the company). If they miss a day, a week or a month of backups, you could be in big trouble if disaster strikes.
Several companies, including data backup software vendors and operating system builders (such as Microsoft and Windows), now provide intelligent backup capabilities. These not only maintain frequent backups, but also intelligently manage the target device’s bandwidth usage, so your backup streams don’t clog up your network. These measures have become so sophisticated that many companies can implement near-continuous backup streams, so your backups are available in near real-time. This can be important not only for disaster recovery, but also for staying in compliance with regulatory requirements, such as those imposed by HIPAA or SOX.
While you can build an effective backup strategy with a single cloud provider, you’ll be even more secure if you spread your backup load across two or even three providers. When doing this research, be sure to choose vendors that integrate with your competitors and all the cloud applications and services you use to do business. That way, if you need to migrate bits and pieces of your data from vendor X and bits and pieces from an application from vendor Y, then you’ll be able to push that information into the vendor platform. Z without having to write new code.
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An example here might be the difference between an all-in-one backup solution from a vendor like Acronis CyberProtect versus a combination solution. These solutions use backup software from a vendor that stores your data in that vendor’s cloud space and another public cloud, such as the S3 virtual storage bucket found in Amazon Web Services (AWS). In this scenario, you want to ensure that your third-party backup provider is integrated with AWS and that the data you store in Acronis can either access the data on AWS or use it as an alternate target.
Integrations worth considering include any service application that stores valuable data for your business on the cloud service side. This includes not only productivity software, such as Google Workspace, but also more serious operational applications, such as Quicken Deluxe or Salesforce. To grab the data stored in these silos, your backup provider must provide a dedicated connector, so make sure these are available for the apps you need.
It is very important to create copies of your data in multiple regions, especially if you work in more than one location. For example, if your New York-based company has offices in the UK and Spain, you should probably have multiple copies of your data stored in New York, the UK and Spain. This practice can protect against location-based disasters and file-level problems. If New York and Spain cannot access your company’s data, the UK will still be able to access and share it with other locations.
Areas of caution include redundancy and compliance. You need to ensure that any redundant data copies are completely separated, which is difficult to do if you only use one provider. A single provider can store your data twice in the same data center, which wouldn’t do you much good if that data center was down. You also want providers that store data in different regions and understand how to make sure you comply with the laws in each region before you get the hard way.
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For small businesses, the same logic applies. Although you may only have one location, you can always save multiple versions of your backups, and you can always diversify where and how data is saved. Most data backup applications have settings that allow you to automate backups to multiple locations, so it’s often just a matter of point-and-click. But if you no longer want to save your data to another cloud service, you can still get the same effect by saving an extra copy on a local resource, such as a network attached storage (NAS) device.
Most backup providers will push or even require you to store your primary backups in the cloud. However, many people do not have their own cloud; instead, they are leased from larger public cloud providers, such as AWS or Google Cloud Platform. This is an important consideration, as you will want to know where these data centers are located. You also want to know which cloud your backup provider uses if you will be using the same public cloud provider to store a redundant backup. Again, if you keep redundant copies in the same physical location, they are not as effective or even completely useless in the event of a disaster.
Talk to your backup provider about how to go about using their service to store backups in other clouds. Sometimes it’s easy; for example, if the backup service already has a connection for the target cloud. If not, you may need to create your own, but for that the backup provider must have an application programming interface (API) available. You might even consider leaving a dedicated backup provider and check out the backup options offered by many of the larger public cloud providers.
With public cloud infrastructure, all you have to worry about is managing dashboards from vendors like Microsoft and Amazon. They will deal with the on-premise administration, hardware issues and data recovery issues that your IT staff would have to deal with if a problem were to occur on-site. Whether you choose to go with a hybrid or private cloud, you’ll manage your dashboard with specific aspects of the cloud and on-premises infrastructure. This will be more complicated than buying a dedicated backup service subscription, so sit down with your IT staff and make sure it’s the right way to go.
Cloud Backup Solutions For Small Business
The cloud has become a great help for companies that want to quickly and easily implement a reliable backup strategy. Open standards at low cost have replaced proprietary, local hardware technology
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