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Continuous Backup Part 1

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by James Keating III, Business Technology Architect, Evolving Solutions

Over the past year as I have been working primarily with cloud technology I have noticed that cloud backup is a topic that is brought up by many places and companies that are usually cloud avoidant.  It is something I have noticed and it seems to me to be widespread.  Basically this is the idea that a company that has a formal or informal anti-cloud strategy for some reason is comfortable or at least willing to discuss the idea of cloud backups.  Now as we all know the term cloud is really one of the most vague terms in all of IT today.  What is the cloud?  It seems for every person in IT you will get a slightly different definition of the cloud.  This however doesn’t seem to hold true when talking about cloud backups.  Almost everyone I have talked to is looking at cloud backups the same.  Since I like to define things in order to understand them, here is what I believe the majority of people are looking for with cloud backups:

  • A technology that allows for backup images to be stored off premises (not in the same location as the primary data)
  • A technology that allows for inexpensive storage of seldom or never used long term retention backup data sets
  • A technology that allows for simplified administration and accounting of backup data sets (usually the underlying desire is to get away from tape management)
  • A technology that allows for fast restores of data.
  • A technology that doesn’t require hours of administration to maintain.
  • A technology that allows for secure storage of data.

I know this list looks like a normal backup wish list, regardless of cloud.  That is my point, all of the items people are asking for in cloud backups are the same ones that one would think, would be requirements for traditional backup processes without cloud technology involved.  This is why I started to notice the willingness of those who are not as cloud friendly as others, still wanting to discuss cloud backups.  Why?  The conclusion I came to in my opinion, is that backup is an area that those who work in it day in and day out know is more complex and cumbersome than other parts of IT that get more money and focus.  Backups are an area where if somehow a new way of consuming technology would offer any relief regardless of the politics and emotions, it is worth looking at.  Basically backups are truly deep down what keeps up many administrators at night, knowing they are really one issue away from true disaster and that dreaded restore the data moment.

With all of this in mind, using the team of resources available at Evolving Solutions on the cloud team, the team and I set out and have tested many of the cloud backup offerings across the spectrum of SMB and Enterprise packages.  Full administration, backup, restore and disaster recovery testing has been done in various manners.  What came out of this testing is the technologies that allow for what I am calling continuous backup seems to be the ones that are the most effective and meet all of the above wish list items.  The issues with most of these offerings however are version control and cloud lock-in.

In my next blog post, Continuous Backup Part 2, I will go into what version control, cloud lock-in and continuous backup means and why these are the 3 main factors to investigate when looking at cloud backup technology.