Exploring cloud-based archival: The benefits, challenges and opportunities


In today’s enterprise, your data is your lifeblood. Everything you do and every decision you make is about how to create, utilise and protect your data. IT resilience, data protection and backups all play a part in making sure that your data is always accessible and available when you need it.

As part of your IT resiliency strategies, you build processes and infrastructure to ensure mission-critical applications can be recovered as quickly as possible via a variety of methods, such as cloud-based disaster recovery or secondary site mirroring. But, what about backups and long-term retention? You may be under regulatory guidelines to keep multiple points in time for multiple years, which can be a considerable amount of data in a short timeframe. The rule of thumb is to have at least three copies of your data, including the production data, across two separate types of media with one of these copies stored off-site.

There are a variety of technologies to manage all of this data, and which technology to choose comes down to your budget and your recovery goals. Typically, you see a combination of some type of short-term snapshots combined with on-site backups and then off-site rotations. However, to be competitive in the current climate, enterprises need a scalable, technology agnostic, affordable solution. Enterprises need cloud-based archiving and retention.

Benefits of cloud-based archival

Technology agnostic: I have been doing backups for a very long time. I remember single tape DDS2 drives, and then a cool six drive robotic DLT library and eventually a four cabinet wide robotic silo. Tapes also improved in density and reliability, but the landscape of backups and tapes is always changing. Always getting better. As you think about how you leverage your short-term disk-based backups and snapshots, medium-term on-premises tapes and long-term off-site archive, keep in mind the goal of archival is to make sure that you can recover it if you need it (even years down the road).

With changing technologies in drives and tapes, you now have the burden of keeping around old hardware just in case you need to recover data from an old tape. Have you ever tried to recover an old tape with old software on an old OS and been successful?

Cloud offers the ability to eliminate one of the major resource obstacles— the hardware issue. You don’t need to keep around old versions of servers and tape drives just in case you need to recover a tape. It also means you can keep up with new technology advancements. With cloud, your short and medium-term data protection strategies can benefit from cutting-edge technology and your archive system will not be locked in place based on hardware.

Most backup and recovery software today has inherent backward compatibility, so even your old backup files will still be recoverable from the cloud, while that one remaining old tape drive will ultimately fail you when you need it most.

Manageable and scalable: Have you ever tried looking for tape #20045 in a closet filled with tapes? Or even worse, stored in a warehouse somewhere? The more data you create, the more tapes you need for archival. The more tapes you need, the more space you need and ultimately, some sort of processes to keep it manageable. This is why services exist to come, pick up tapes and store them in a warehouse.

However, those services can be costly and take a long time when trying to retrieve data. Cloud archival removes the need for services like that. Cloud is a pay-as-you-need model and scale-as-you-grow process, so it can grow with you and your data and still be all in one easy to manage location.

Environmental variables: We discussed how cloud eases the pain of finding an old tape when presented with an e-discovery claim and how it helps you manage the amount of space you consume as your data grows. But we haven’t talked about the environmental variables yet.

If you need to keep data around for seven years and it’s on physical tape, how does the environment in which the data resides come into play? Hopefully, the tapes are in a climate controlled, humidity-controlled location. However, those aspects are outside of your monitoring and view. With constant cloud monitoring and verification, you can be sure that your data is available and consistent.

Recovery options: Recovering archived, off-site tapes is a time-consuming ordeal. You have to find the backup that contains the data, then associate it with the various tapes you need, find those tapes somewhere and bring them back. Oh, and then you need to recover the data.

Cloud saves you a significant amount of time and effort by simply being there and available at any time. Select a backup, or even a single file, bring it back and you are done. No need to worry about what happens if it’s part of a full recovery that spans multiple tapes, or making sure that the tape eventually gets back into storage. Find what you need, recover it, and get on with your day. Can you imagine taking days to find, recover and restore a folder from six months ago?

Security and compliance: Security and compliance are top of mind when your data is leaving your realm of control. Is the backup encrypted? Does the facility have adequate security and surveillance? Is the truck that drives it to the facility protected? What about geographical limitations and data sovereignty? It can drive a CISO crazy to think about all of the things that are outside of their control when data is moved off-site. Luckily, with options like iland’s secure cloud it’s easy. With end-to-end encryption of the backups to any of the global secure data centres, you can rest assured that your data is as secure, if not more secure, than if you had it on-site.

Come on in, the cloud is fine

When choosing a cloud service provider, ensure that they offer a scalable, affordable, cloud-based backup. This should not only solve multiple problems but also satisfy the 3-2-1 rule of having something off-site and protected in the case of malicious software or physical disruption. Additionally, make sure that their backups are encrypted end to end, space efficient, and always incremental so you receive secure, efficient backups and archives. This will enable you to easily recover individual files or entire virtual machines without having to worry about finding a tape and a tape drive.

Find a CSP whose cloud is scalable, and with various retention policies and storage options to choose from. Also, in order to optimise your budget, your provider offer you the facility to keep the data you need for as long as you need and know that you are only paying for what you use. And in some cases, like in the event of a data centre level disaster, your cloud service provider can even recover data from a backup into the cloud, so you can continue business as normal.

Once you find the right cloud service provider that can help you plan which backups to move, what retention policies to leverage that meet your data protection goals and initiatives you can finally go ahead, ditch that dusty warehouse full of old stuff and embrace the cloud.


originally published on cloudcomputing-news