SME Cloud Backup Considerations

Recently I have been working with a client on securing their critical data both onsite and offsite. 

Article by Simon Challinor
Photo by Gnist Design from Pexels

Like many companies, they have realised the benefits of moving their applications to the cloud and slowly reducing the need for maintaining their own servers (hardware) within their offices. 

In this kind of situation, I have long realised that the word ‘backup’ can be misleading and is often misused; an oversimplification of a process that requires a great deal of thought for each type of data.  The application the data is derived from will set precedence for how it is restored in the event of a problem.  The individual file sizes may vary greatly from one set of data to another and this will have an impact on the cost of storage and data transfer (especially within the cloud). 

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Cloud storage can be expensive but the major cloud players such as Microsoft Azure, AWS, AliCloud etc all provide numerous storage options at different price levels.  The speed of the storage medium is usually one of the key factors but providers also break down the challenge by other dimensions such as frequency of access, geographical region of availability and the reliability of the storage medium.  Within their OSS (Object Storage Service) product offering, AliCloud provides classes such as “Standard” , “Infrequent Access” and “Archive”.

Whilst Archive is the cheapest per gigabyte there are certain restrictions on how frequently the data can be accessed and how quickly that data can be retrieved in the event its needed. It can take up to a minute for data to be unfrozen from its Archive state before it can even start to be downloaded.

IT professionals tasked with designing backup solutions need to have a good knowledge of the underlying systems that created the data originally in order to make educated decisions on how that data should be stored and restored. Database dumps can be hundreds of Gigabytes per file and that data should be treated very differently to images, text documents or email files. 

Unfortunately backup is often delegated to juniors within the company or the remit is taken over by desktop support companies who had no part in designing the original systems.