18/05/2015

By Paul Evans, Managing Director of Redstor


As one of the most mature cloud technology applications, cloud backup has firmly established itself within the business landscape due to its reliability, efficiency and automation capabilities. The cloud backup market is fast becoming saturated with an abundance of service providers offering businesses and consumers a wide range of services to choose between.

However, as a quite heavily populated sector, the cloud backup marketplace can be a minefield for those looking to implement the technology for the first time.

1. Performance and Versatility

No two business are the same so it is unlikely that there will be one solution that is a perfect fit using a default configuration. When migrating to cloud it’s important to utilise a service that can be customised to meet your business’ specific needs.

Most enterprise cloud backup services will enable a business to reduce its backup times by minimising the total volume of data being transferred to the backup platform daily. As well as this, advances in file scanning, data compression and deduplication, means that businesses are able to take advantage of much faster backups and more rapid restores than traditional tape-based methods.

When selecting a cloud service provider, it’s important that it is able to support all platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux and UNIX, as well as applications that your business currently uses or may use in the near future.

2. Security & Compliance

When storing and managing confidential data, security and compliance is essential. Most reputable providers will be able to provide you with assurance that your data is encrypted not only before it leaves your infrastructure but also whilst in transit and on their platform. In addition, reputable providers will give the customer complete control over the encryption key and will ensure that the encryption key is only accessible by the customer.

A clear indication that a provider takes its quality control, procedures and security seriously will be if they are ISO 27001 and 9001 certified. Whilst there are a wide assortment of on-ISO professional certifications available, few are as rigorous as those published by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).

Furthermore, a number of businesses may be subject to legislation which restricts them from storing their data outside of Europe, with others obliged to store data within the UK. Therefore, for any business looking to adopt cloud backup, it’s important to understand the location of the provider’s data centre.

3. Pricing

Whilst pricing shouldn’t be the sole deciding factor in choosing a provider, it is important to consider for any business looking to balance service levels with costs.

All providers have their own pricing models but many are typically based on the amount of data being stored at the datacentre. This model is usually most beneficial for growing businesses as it allows them the flexibility and scalability to increase or decrease the amount of data being stored as and when needed.

As a customer it’s also important to question whether their provider also includes fees for upload, download, couriered drive restores, setup fees or general maintenance as this can introduce unpredictable costs.

4. Availability & Service levels

Service availability levels are a function of a provider's investment in its data centres and connectivity and a number of providers offer service credits for downtime within their service level agreement.

Another method of finding out whether the platform you are considering is reliable is to ask for references. Although you can sometimes get an inaccurate opinion of a company from one of their customers, speaking to an existing customer in a similar industry or with a similar dataset or environment to yours can provide an indication of how well the service would work for you.

5. Vendor lock-in

When choosing a provider, it’s important to consider your exit strategy. It’s not uncommon to hear of businesses continuing to use a service despite it no longer meeting their needs. This can often be due to the incumbent provider restricting or impeding the customer’s ability to transition to a competitor’s product or service. Before signing a contract with a provider, it’s worth asking whether they can facilitate moving customer data out of their service platform easily.

Conclusion

No matter the size of a company, protecting critical and sensitive data is a familiar challenge for all businesses. In addition, the amount of information needing to be protected continues to rise. Leveraging cloud backup can save businesses money, improve levels of data protection, scale with data growth, reduce management headaches and help comply with regulations. However, not all cloud backup services are created equal and neither are all cloud backup providers. Therefore it is essential to look very carefully at a prospective cloud backup provider as well as the service itself to ensure they are both a good fit for your business’ needs.