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Most businesses are talking about the cloud these days. There are pros and cons to the cloud just as with all things and you need to consider them in comparison to other solutions. Today I specifically want to address the concern of backups.
The general rule of thumb that we follow here at The Gurus is this: If you have less than 3 copies of your data, then you are not backed up. Of course, you start with the original or production data. Then, we need a copy of that data on-premise for quick reference and restore if needed. Finally, we need a copy of that data stored in a different geographical location. In an ideal situation, if you are on the east coast your offsite copy would be somewhere on the west coast.
That model has worked fine for our computing needs so far. It assumes we have some of our clients that access data on servers in their offices, and then we get their backups offsite. However, what do you do when you are using cloud services to store your data? The data is already offsite. Does that mean no additional backups are needed? The short answer is no.
A good solution would be to have an on-premise copy of the data that is being stored in the cloud. In the case of a Windows Fileserver, Shadow Copies can be used to provide versioning, while the cloud copy provides the wide area availability and business continuity solution. Many of our clients will already have at least a Domain Controller or Small Business Server on-premise that can provide the storage space needed. Of course, if there are on-premise servers, they should be backed up with a solution that will allow for expedient restores in the event of disaster or system failure. Whatever critical data and/or system states that live in those servers that is not also in the cloud solution needs to be sent offsite as well.
At the end of the day, it is about ensuring that in the event of a disaster, all probabilities are covered so that recovery is possible. Simply having data in the cloud is not enough to ensure business continuity for most businesses. Moving to the cloud is about more than files. Databases and entire applications can be hosted in the cloud. Email is frequently cited as the most obvious first step for business to implement cloud computing.
Moving to the cloud has many benefits, but it always needs to be thought through. The best options are not always obvious and I would strongly recommend working closely with your employees to determine what they do with their data before making any moves.