Traditionally, businesses have used physical servers stored at multiple locations to store their most sensitive data. But physical servers present a variety of risks. If not maintained properly, cyber-criminals and physical threats could render a business’ data useless. That is why more businesses are trusting the cloud for backing up their data instead of using physical servers. But switching to a cloud-based data back-up is a big decision for business owners. They need to have a solid understanding of how it will integrate with their business as well as the people they do business with.
Here we discuss what the cloud is, why businesses should use cloud-based back-up solutions, how to implement these solutions and what the future holds for the cloud.
What Is the Cloud?
The cloud is a virtual location utilising the power of remote servers to allow businesses (and individuals) to store their data via a cloud-based storage service provider. This storage solution eliminates the need for physical storage back-up devices or hard drives. The cloud-based back-up service provider takes over the responsibility of keeping your data safe by using sophisticated encryption methods.
Think of the cloud of a mesh of remote servers that are connected in a network. Data in the cloud can then be shared with authorised users via the internet.
Why Back Up to the Cloud?
Most companies, no matter their size, rely on customer information. That customer information needs to be safely stored and archived in order to avoid losing that data or exposing it to cyber-criminals, especially in the wake of the GDPR. Data in the cloud is heavily encrypted so that even the back-up service provider won’t be able to access it.
Backing up to the cloud is an added blanket of security that stores data in a secure data centre that is typically more reliable and even more cost-effective than physical data storage methods.
Benefits to Users
There are many reasons why organisations should back up their files to the cloud instead of relying on physical servers.
Safety and security – The main appeal of cloud-based back-up is because it protects valuable data. The alternative of saving data to a hard drive or disk is not a reliable method of storage for any business. Physical storage has the risk of getting lost or ruined in natural disasters with no option for data recovery. Cloud storage can back up data regularly so the most recently updated data can be recovered as needed. Plus, only authorised users can access the data.
Convenience – Data can be accessed from any device with cloud-based storage, as long as the user is authorised. It can also be accessed via different operating systems. In addition, video and audio files can be streamed without first having to download them, saving a significant amount of time as well.
Productivity – The convenience and speed of access to data stored in the could also increases productivity, especially when data is set to automatically be backed up on a regular basis. This takes the pressure off employees who don’t have to worry so much when they forget to back up a file.
Support – Organisations that utilise a cloud-based backup service provider can receive valuable support when they have questions. There are typically also online tutorials on how the service should be used as well as how to get the most out of the service. This support can be especially valuable to companies that can’t yet afford a proper IT department.
How to Choose a Cloud-based Storage Provider
When researching which cloud-based data back-up service to use, there are four key points to consider:
The number of devices that need to access the data – If a large number of computers and mobile devices need to access the stored data, and if there are different operating systems involved, you need to ensure that the cloud-based service provider you choose can accommodate them. You should also be provided with the ability to share files both internally and externally, as well as apply different permission levels to different users.
Security – While cloud-based back-up is secure overall, different businesses need different security features. Cloud-based data storage providers also offer different security features which include the ability to wipe data remotely if a device is stolen, user-owned encryption keys and varying accessibility levels to specific folders or applications. Also, businesses should ask whether the service provider being considered uses a third-party’s servers or if it has its own servers that it maintains privately. Private servers have better security as data is less exposed.
Bandwidth and internet connectivity – Although it is rare, some cloud-based back-up providers don’t allow data to be accessed offline because they have data limitations. In other words, if you exceed their bandwidth when backing up data, it will pause until more bandwidth is available and take longer to back up altogether. Some services provide a bandwidth throttling feature that allows businesses to control the amount of bandwidth needed when performing back-ups so that business can continue as normal.
Costs – Determining how much you’re ready to invest in cloud-based data back-up beforehand can help you make your final decision. When considering how much you should pay, you need to assess the scope of your needs, the reputation of the provider and the features they offer. Overall, it is value you’re looking for, so research the provider beforehand and ask for testimonials from current customers.
How to Implement Cloud-based Back-up
The most popular providers of cloud-based back-up are Dropbox, Google and Amazon, but there are also other service providers with bespoke options. They are surprisingly easy to implement and maintain. However, it is important to understand how the process works and what features to look for. Do some research beforehand and make sure you know how to access the features you need before committing to a contract. In addition, see if the provider has a trial period that lets you see if it is easy to use and does indeed address the unique needs of your business.
Doing some due diligence and ensuring you understand how to back up and recover data is critical, as well as how any of the provider’s licenses may impact your organisation. Doing this research before choosing a provider helps ensure a smooth transition as any issues are identified early on instead of during the implementation process.
That being said, here is a snapshot of the main steps businesses take when implementing cloud-based data back-up:
Perform an initial back-up – The first implementation step is for the organisation to copy all of its data that requires back-up and transfer it to the cloud service provider. Depending how much data has to be copied, this could take days or maybe just hours. It is only the initial back-up that takes the longest amount of time to copy over, as any back-ups after the initial one take much less time.
Schedule subsequent back-ups – Next, back-ups need to be scheduled on a regular basis, depending on the requirements of your customers and the applications you use. The most common back-up schedule involves daily incremental back-ups and then full back-ups on the weekends or at the end of the month. Again, this all depends on the needs of your business, however. You will have to consider the fact that data may take more time to access when it is being backed up, so it is important to choose a time that allows you to maximise its use.
Train employees – Don’t assume that every employee will know how to access data or use the data responsibly when it is stored in the cloud. They need to be properly trained on backing up and restoring data and, for that, you need to implement a training plan. The provider you choose should have some guidance you can use to train your employees, but it is ultimately your responsibility as a business owner to see that your employees have access to and understand the training provided. The training plan should include what steps should be taken should something go wrong on the employee end and how to prevent it from happening again.
Determine your data retention period – As a business owner, you need to decide upon a schedule for how long to retain the data you’re backing up. Most cloud service providers recommend keeping it for two weeks, while some recommend keeping it for as long as three months. It all depends upon the needs of your data, who needs access to it and your resource constraints (eg data type and volume limit of the service provider). As your business grows and changes, you’ll need to check in periodically to see if the retention period needs to be adjusted.
This type of capacity planning is much easier than it is with conventional data back-up methods, especially in terms of cost and scalability. It should be simple enough to calculate how much storage you anticipate needing in the future, whether six months down the line or 10 years into the future. Doing so provides organisations with the advantage of being able to determine and plan for future infrastructure needs so there are no surprises.
Factor the cost – While cloud-based data back-up is typically more affordable than traditional methods, it is still a factor when deciding on a solution and determining which features your business will need, such as how much data to include on the back-up schedule, whether files need to be viewed offline and making them accessible from any device. Each cloud service provider has different services that they offer. They’re also customisable, so it is important for a business to know exactly what it wants before implementing a solution. After all, as a business owner, you don’t want to be paying for services you won’t need.
The Future of Cloud-based Data Back-up for Businesses
The nature of the internet and reliance upon data transferability means that businesses will be increasingly reliant on data storage. That storage method needs to not only be secure but also reliable and accessible. This demand for data storage in the cloud means that there will be increased competition amongst cloud-based storage providers, and they’ll have to invest in even more secure modes of encryption and data accessibility. Technology should become more advanced, and cloud-based back-up storage should be faster and more affordable.
Loss of data can devastate an organisation and even cause legal troubles. Cloud-based back-up puts the responsibility of safe data storage on the cloud-based storage provider, adding an extra layer of protection for businesses of all sizes. Combined with its ease of accessibility and potential for increased productivity, businesses have nothing to lose from cloud-based back-up and should see it as a tool for future profitability.
About EC-MSP, your Cloud Back-up Partner
EC-MSP are one of the most trusted IT support providers in London. If you would like more help advice and support with Cloud-based data back-up for your business, contact us today to see how we can help.