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Is cloud-based backup right for you?

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Before deciding if cloud-based backup is a fit with your company, you need to understand the two basic flavors of cloud backup -- SaaS and hybrid.

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Cloud-based backup is garnering a lot of attention from small and large companies alike. There are many reasons why you might consider outsourcing all or part of that function, ranging from the need to improve backup processes, a desire to reduce costs or an interest in taking advantage of the elasticity of the cloud. But how do you know if it's right for your company?

To answer that question, you need to understand the two basic flavors of cloud backup: backup software as a service (SaaS) and "hybrid" cloud backup.

With backup SaaS from the likes of Carbonite Inc., Decho Corp., IBM Corp., Iron Mountain and Symantec Corp., IT accesses an application hosted and operated at a central location via a Web interface and takes advantage of a shared, scalable infrastructure. Disk-to-cloud transfer of data occurs at scheduled intervals.

The hybrid scenario calls for the use of existing on-premises licensed backup software and hardware with data backed up to a cloud storage provider. Vendors in this space include Axcient Inc., Barracuda Networks Inc., CA, Hewlett-Packard Co., i365, IBM, SunGard, Symantec, VaultLogix LLC, Venyu Corp. and Zmanda Inc. The hybrid approach allows you to maintain on-premises control of infrastructure while taking advantage of off-premises infrastructure and services staff. Often, the cloud provider's data center facility, infrastructure, staff and processes are a step (or two) above what you may have at your primary site. Typically, data is backed up first to on-premises disk, and a duplicate copy is maintained at a third-party cloud provider.

Where cloud-based backup makes sense

Cloud-based backup is increasingly becoming the basis for the entire backup strategy at smaller companies. At bigger organizations, it can help plug gaps in the data protection strategy -- gaps that can't otherwise be filled due to staffing or budget constraints. For instance, some IT shops don't have a core competency in data protection, so outsourcing all or part of the function may make sense. One of the current contributors to backup angst is a lack of budget to support staffing levels or to acquire and maintain infrastructure. Without the people, processes and technology to manage backup and recovery, it's difficult to meet service levels.

It's also possible that you just don't have the ability to provide complete protection. For instance, at some firms, laptop and desktop PCs aren't incorporated into server backup processes, creating vulnerabilities. Similarly, edge data at remote offices and branch offices (ROBOs) is often underprotected or not protected at all. In those scenarios, outsourcing these pockets of the data protection function may be wise.

This was first published in September 2009

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