Cloud backup for remote offices and SMBs

Cloud-based or online backup is an intriguing backup alternative for remote offices and SMBs. This tip provides a check list of best practices for leveraging cloud backup in remote offices and SMBs.

Cloud-based or online backup is a very intriguing backup alternative for remote sites and SMBs. Many cloud providers are currently targeting individuals and very small businesses. But cloud backup is also well suited for remote offices because it can handle dark backups -- automatic backups that don't require manual intervention.

If a remote office has a relatively modest amount of data to back up, a cloud service may be a good fit; however, bandwidth may still be an issue. At the least, a broadband connection is required, and consideration should be given to bandwidth requirements for large restores.

Reliability could also be an issue. There have been some well-publicized outages at large cloud providers, but a connection that's performing poorly or not working at all is more likely to be a problem. Let's take a look at some of the best practices for using cloud backup in remote offices and SMBs.

1. Check your bandwidth. You need to know how much data you expect to back up to the cloud service and if your current bandwidth is adequate, not just to handle backups in a reasonable time, but for restores.

2. Ensure reliability. A cloud backup service, like any online service, can experience outages. Check on the service's record, noting how many outages they've had and how long they've lasted.

3. Tally the costs. Because services have different fee structures, it's important to know how much data you'll ship to their site, how frequently you'll run backups and how often you expect to restore data. Using that information, you'll be able to make accurate cost comparisons.

4. Evaluate access controls. You may want your users to be able to do their own restores, but access to backup data should be controllable to limit unnecessary backups/restores and to protect the data, especially if remote access is allowed.

5. Make sure your data is safe. Ask what measures the service provider takes to safeguard your data. They should have backup data centers and offer encryption for data in flight and at rest.

6. Stop and resume. A cloud backup service should allow you to stop a backup in progress and then restart it from the point it was interrupted. Having to rerun an entire backup is costly and time consuming.

7. Big restores. If a disaster strikes and you have to restore your entire backup data set or a large part of it, online transmission will likely be impractical. Find out how the service handles these requirements.

8. Protect desktop and laptop data. If all of your company's user data is stored on servers, you don't have to worry about desktop or laptop PCs. But if you have a mobile workforce or allow local storage, ask if the service provider can also protect the data on those systems.

9. Agents and other software. Many services require an agent to run on the servers you're backing up. Find out if the agent will affect the servers' performance or interfere with other applications, and if they can be managed centrally.

10. Continuous or scheduled backups. Some services can back up your servers and other systems continuously, while others do backups on a regular schedule. Make sure your provider offers the types of services that best fit your company's environment.

This article originally appeared in Storage magazine.

About the author: Rick Cook specializes in writing about issues related to storage and storage management.

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This was first published in April 2009

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