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Does cloud-based file syncing qualify as backup?

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Many cloud-based file synchronization and backup services have a “free-mium” business model that offers some cloud storage capacity at no charge. This has created a “Wild West” scenario, with corporate endpoint users subscribing to cloud-based services and copying files -- both personal and corporate -- to cloud repositories without regard for privacy, regulatory or corporate policies.

The lack of awareness of cloud-based corporate data copies creates vulnerability for IT, and the absence of administration features for the centralized IT function creates management headaches.

On-premises endpoint backup and backup SaaS

It’s very clear that the landscape of endpoint backup solutions is evolving. On-premises, purpose-built endpoint backup/recovery solutions are catering to the needs of both the endpoint user (nondisruptive and enables self-service recovery) and IT administrator (automated, optimized and centrally controlled), and starting to eclipse more traditional client/server backup approaches. Solutions like those from Copiun and Druva are mobile worker-friendly, supporting different endpoint device types, as well as file access from endpoint devices like smartphones and tablets. They also ensure data privacy with features such as role-based access control and encryption, and optimized data transfer with features like block-level incremental backups, deduplication and compression that minimize the impact of data transfer on the network

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and reduce storage capacity requirements. The solutions enable self-service recovery and don’t interfere with endpoint user productivity. They also centralize administration of policies (retention, deletion), scheduling, alert conditions and error handling.

Corporate cloud-based backup services, such as those from Axcient, EVault, Hewlett-Packard (which acquired Iron Mountain’s backup services portfolio via its Autonomy acquisition) and Symantec, have furnished companies with commercial-grade backup SaaS solutions; however, not all have met the requirements of the mobile and alternative endpoint device user by supporting nontraditional devices or file access/synchronization capabilities. On the other hand, solutions from Carbonite, Code 42 Software (CrashPlan), EMC (Mozy) and KineticD, which have traditionally catered to consumer and small business audiences, are appealing for corporate customers who need to support mobile workforce and/or file sharing and syncing requirements.

Headed into 2012

H.G. Wells’ call to “adapt or perish” is apropos when it comes to the megatrends of mobility, cloud and consumerization. Taking proactive steps to support access to corporate data -- retained on-premises or in the cloud -- on a myriad of devices should be a top priority for IT organizations. Otherwise, companies risk employees “going rogue” and making the company susceptible to privacy/security breaches or noncompliance fines. If endpoint backup is in place, pressuring vendors to provide file sharing and synchronization features (especially from handheld devices) may make sense. For organizations already using a file sharing/synchronization solution, instituting policies and guidelines for backup/recovery (based on what’s available with your chosen vendor) should be a priority for 2012.

BIO: Lauren Whitehouse is a senior analyst focusing on backup and recovery software and replication solutions at Enterprise Strategy Group, Milford, Mass.

This was first published in February 2012

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