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Be ready for tomorrow’s challenges today, with innovations in cloud backup and recovery

By John Pickford, CTO, Synapse360

Setting the scene

Businesses must take a more strategic approach to cloud backup and recovery and become smarter when it comes to data protection across modern IT infrastructure and cloud environments. Data protection should be prioritised as part of the core IT responsibility and be ingrained in the daily life of the IT department. If IT resources are too scarce to manage, monitor and control such technologies then the use of backup service providers should be considered.

John Pickford, CTO, Synapse360

IT leaders must ensure that such providers are able to meet their requirements in terms of Service Level Agreement (SLA), Recovery Point Objective and Recovery Time Objective, in addition to providing the scalability, security and performance required for copying data over the Wide Area Network.

With the wide-spread use of cloud-based infrastructure, applications and hybrid environments, data is everywhere. Businesses must ensure that they have the right tools to enable recovery across all platforms. Not paying due attention to backup and recovery could cost a business dearly.

Situation and experience 

A big misconception among businesses is the assumption that the cloud provider is protecting customer data by default, across any platform, whether it be one of the big three (Azure, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform) or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings like Office 365 or Dynamics 365, for example.

The harsh reality is, although some SaaS providers will protect data to an extent, it is often limited and won’t cover the typical dwell times of ransomware and malicious code which often manifests for over 100 days before impact. The intention of cyber-criminals is to make it impossible to simply recover data, thus causing businesses to hand over sometimes millions to regain their data.

Businesses must also realise that public cloud workloads still require disaster recovery planning, irrespective of availability SLAs promised by the providers. Whilst active-active applications are highly stable and improve uptime, they won’t protect you from application or data issues – only a recoverable point in time copy will. 

Disaster recovery plans should consider the use of separate providers, but this is seldom implemented due to incompatibility, complexity and the costs associated with data egress. 

Although large public cloud providers such as Microsoft, Amazon and Google offer global availability services, they are not immune to outages. This was demonstrated clearly by the Azure DNS outage which led to 14 hours of downtime in April 2021.

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Traditional replication technologies are often incompatible with modern public cloud platforms, businesses therefore have a handful of solutions. These are often point solutions designed to solve a specific problem such as replication or backup, which can lead to further complication, increased costs and additional suppliers to manage. 

A modern backup solution provider, with the ability to integrate different platforms and technologies as part of its service or product set, is often the recommended defence against data recovery issues. Backup vendors and service providers have become responsible for delivering more use cases and differing layers of protection to businesses. 

Attempting to utilise either legacy backup and recovery technologies or make a wholesale shift to a modern cloud-native backup recovery solution will lead to weaknesses in certain areas. Protection may be compromised, while complication and unpredicted costs may arise as the number of point solution providers and varying managed service options increase. 

Recommended approach 

A cloud backup and recovery strategy must take into consideration the varying scenarios in which data could be lost. These could include a natural disaster, infrastructure failure, accidental deletion, corruption, or of course cyber-attack. Each requires varying service features which are difficult to obtain from a single technology provider. Therefore, IT leaders must be prepared to manage multiple vendors and technology or offload it to a Managed Service Provider. 

The key featured capabilities from a backup recovery service should include:

  1. Backup of data for long-term protection to help with compliance and accidental data deletion over a long period of time.
  2. Continuous remote protection offering the ability to failover to a remote location and to a specific point in time that is typically much more granular than a daily backup job but on a shorter retention.
  3. Automated recovery processes that reduce the recovery time and allow for routine testing of failover.
  4. Cyber Recovery through the combined use of immutable data copies, air-gap technology and offline threat scanning. This will allow data to be recovered in the event of a ransomware attack.

In addition, enlisting the services of a backup service provider which includes network connectivity, regular reporting, routine testing and demonstrates a clear process for recovering data whilst accommodating the use of different cloud platforms is hugely advantageous for businesses. To mitigate risk and remove any responsibility ambiguities linked to the many moving parts of a solution, a backup service provider ensures protection against tomorrow’s threats, today.

Key takeaways

As businesses shake off their naivety around data protection and integrate it into their core IT responsibilities, there are a number of key considerations to be made. Backing up your network with a solution which is scalable and allows for visibility and frequent reporting, as well as consideration of your existing back up data, will allow your business to gain control and peace of mind when it comes to data protection. Each situation has its own intricacies however, and it is a worthwhile investment to capture a full assessment of your cloud backup and recovery requirements. Engaging the services of a specialist data protection provider will help ensure optimum data recovery planning and therefore, peace of mind.

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