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Cloud backup is ready for the enterprise

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Iron Mountain Inc. has one of the strongest brands in the backup world but its cloud message changed with the sale of its Connected Backup and LiveVault backup software to Autonomy. Iron Mountain is currently focusing on backup services rather than software development.

“We continue to offer cloud backup services for businesses,” said Ken Rubin, senior vice president and general manager of the Iron Mountain healthcare service. “For the healthcare and financial services sectors, we provide advanced solutions; for instance, for hospitals we offer a managed backup product with tight integration with all major PACS [picture and archival communication system] systems.”

Cloud-enabled backup apps and gateways

While small companies are more likely to opt for the MSP approach, larger companies are more apt to extend their existing backup infrastructure into the cloud using either their existing backup software or a cloud gateway. The incentives to expand the backup infrastructure into the cloud range from replacing off-site tapes with backups in the cloud to leveraging the cloud for backup jobs that can be performed more cost-effectively.

Cloud support in commercial backup applications varies considerably. CommVault Systems Inc. has added extensive cloud support and supports a wide range of cloud service providers (AT&T, Amazon, Microsoft, Nirvanix and Rackspace). Supported cloud providers appear as additional backup media and all

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backup features, such as deduplication, are available when backing up to the cloud. Archival into the cloud with stub support for on-demand retrieval of archived data and block-based replication of changes into the cloud for recovery into a compute cloud service such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) are just a couple of features that distinguish CommVault Simpana. Similar to CommVault, both Symantec Backup Exec and NetBackup support backing up into the cloud, but they currently only support Nirvanix. Arkeia Network Backup supports replication of backup sets into Amazon and Nirvanix.

EMC Avamar and NetWorker currently don’t have out-of-the-box integration with cloud service providers. Instead, EMC is selling Avamar to MSPs. “We decided on Avamar to power our enterprise backup service because of its efficient source-side deduplication and scalable Avamar Data Store grid,” said Dick Mulvihill, co-founder and managing partner at Hexistor Data Protection Service LLC, a Chicago-based backup MSP.

IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) doesn’t currently support direct backups into the cloud. “We’re working with cloud gateway manufacturers such as Riverbed for cloud backup support; cloud backup gateways are simple and quick to set up and have the advantage of locally cached backups for quick restores,” said Steve Wojtowecz, vice president of storage software development at Tivoli.

Cloud gateways that move data into cloud storage are available from Nasuni Corp., Panzura Inc., Riverbed Technology Inc., StorSimple Inc., TwinStrata Inc. and others. While some gateways are touted as hybrid cloud storage products to extend on-premises storage into the cloud, Riverbed Whitewater’s focus is exclusively on cloud backup. Available in different configurations for small businesses to large enterprises, traditional backup applications back up to the Whitewater gateway appliance, which then deduplicates, compresses, encrypts and asynchronously moves data into supported cloud providers (which currently include AT&T, Amazon and Nirvanix). The StorSimple gateway stands out because of its extensive support of Microsoft SharePoint.

Cloud backup goes mainstream

Backup to the cloud is moving from a niche application into the mainstream, especially in the SOHO and SMB sectors, and it’s being used increasingly by larger companies to supplement their existing backup infrastructure. The increased adoption of cloud services by public companies and even government agencies suggests that security concerns with cloud services are slowly abating. However, proper due diligence must be taken when evaluating cloud backup, such as implementing solid backup processes and strong controls, to avoid unpleasant surprises.

BIO: Jacob Gsoedl is a freelance writer and a corporate director for business systems. He can be reached at jgsoedl@yahoo.com.

This was first published in September 2011

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