by Omry Farajun on 07/06/12 at 7:29 pm
In a recent report, Gartner predicted that a significant percentage of the server data at large enterprises would be moved into the cloud. In its report, titled Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Disk-Based Backup/Recovery, Gartner states that, in the next three years, at least 30 percent of organizations will have commenced cloud-based data migration and changed backup vendors — mainly due to frustration over cost, complexity and/or capability. The report also states that 80 percent of the market will have chosen advanced online or cloud backup software-only solutions over distributed tape or disk-based appliance backup approaches.
That’s a pretty big change when you compare it to the situation of only three or four years ago, when most companies were buying tape- and disk-based backup solutions. A closer look at the report reveals that it is mainly mid-size companies (not huge enterprises) that are seriously considering this approach for their enterprise server data, as well as for their branch-office and desktop/laptop data.
Here are some factors that I think are driving this trend:
- IT managers and business owners want to spend less time managing hardware and software. The SaaS revolution certainly triggered that, especially for smaller companies, which were attracted by the low up-front software and hardware costs of on-demand software.
- The high level of frustration with the ongoing babysitting and laborious procedures associated with tape-based approaches. (If you’ve ever had to restore a server or desktop computer from backup tapes, you know how tedious this can be.)
- Smaller companies are often technically sophisticated and nimble. For example, many of small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) are familiar with concepts such as virtualization, and they don’t have a major lock-in with software and hardware vendors.
Smaller companies are less tolerant of risk and waste
SMBs are also less tolerant of wasted time and inefficient processes than large enterprises because they have smaller teams that are more sensitive to wasted effort and redundancy. Similarly, SMBs are extremely interested data protection and business uptime because failure in these areas directly —and quickly— affects their bottom line. So, while SMB owners or IT managers at these businesses are familiar with continuous, online backup —they may even already be using it at home for their family’s computers— they also want to know if it represents a viable solution for the more complex office environment, which is characterized by the number and diversity of data sources: servers, desktops, laptops, and even tablets.
Cloud backup services are a great solution to their data security needs: they require little or no capital investment, are simple to install and manage, and are incredibly reliable. But, are all cloud backup services equal? It’s important to understand that there are huge differences among the various online/cloud backup solutions. Even file-sharing services like Dropbox and Box.net talk about backup as one of the things they offer.
If you’re a small-business owner or IT manager interested in cloud backup, you should focus your attention on true, enterprise-grade cloud backup that offers long-term data storage and compatibility with today’s networked environment. In other words, cloud backup solutions with these key attributes:
- Bare-Metal Restore: the ability to recover and restore the entire operating system, all applications, settings and data, for an entire machine, onto a new machine with different hardware than the original one. Most remote backup providers cannot perform disaster recovery this way, and yet this is a common situation.
- Agentless Architecture: in a typical SMB, there are numerous machines that must be backed up continuously. No one has time to install and update dozens of backup agents across all these machines, so it’s essential that just one server runs the backup/restore system and sends the backup data to the secure cloud-based data vault over a secure connection.
- Intelligent De-duping: to reduce bandwidth requirements, a smart cloud backup solution recognizes where data is duplicated across a network —no easy feat— and sends only one copy to the server.
- Message-Level Restore: often, a user doesn’t need an entire disk restored, but just a few crucial emails that were inadvertently deleted from the server. Message-level restore provides fine-grain resolution of the backup data, right down to a single email message for a specific user.
Sizing up a cloud backup system
If you’re a small-business owner or IT manager interested in cloud backup, here are some tips to get you started:
- 1. Select a solution that meets your needs. Most businesses are now totally dependent on their computers and the data that resides on them. One major trend in small and midsized businesses, in particular, is that servers are now often used to manage email, contacts, directories and business-specific databases. To backup that data and —more importantly— to properly restore it, the backup system must be capable of accurately recreating the state of the server at the time of the disaster. Keep in mind that none of the consumer-grade backup solutions offer this facility.
- 2. Look for flexible implementation models. Many SMBs have upwards of 80 GB of data that needs to be backed up, which means that it’s just not practical to use online backup solutions designed for consumers. Pricing models optimized for SMBs make it possible to make the jump to enterprise-grade cloud backup immediately, and then add advanced features like Exchange, Small Business Server, SharePoint Server, and Active Directory down the road.
- 3. Shop around for the best price. Cloud backup services have driven down the cost of online data backup. Look for a provider that can get you started for as little as $50 per terabyte, per month, and yet still deliver comprehensive enterprise-grade cloud backup services.
Keep these ideas in mind as you shop for your cloud backup service and you’ll soon have one less think to worry about: the safety of your data.
About The Author: Omry Farajun is founder and president of Storage Guardian, a service used by small and midsize businesses, enterprises, and multiple-platform LAN computing environments that want to safeguard their critical business data in a secure, off-site location.