Cloud Backup: How It Works, Techniques, Pros and Cons

Data is exploding at an unprecedented rate. Today, collective global data is more than 40 zettabytes or 40 trillion gigabytes. According to International Data Corporation’s (IDC) Data Age 2025 report, sponsored by Seagate, the global datasphere is expected to grow to 175 zettabytes by 2025. The staggering volumes of data are not only hard to manage, but they also introduce new data storage and protection challenges for businesses.

The harsh reality is that no data is safe. Organizations lose four million files daily, which is equivalent to 44 files every second. Hardware or software failure, cyberattacks, malicious insiders, human mistakes and natural disasters are some common causes of data loss that organizations must deal with every day. A robust data backup strategy is critical to protect your mission-critical data from being lost or compromised. This is where cloud backup comes in. Cloud backup solves a number of challenges that businesses face today. Read on to learn more.

Cloud backup icon.

What is cloud backup?

Cloud backup is the process of transferring a copy of your files, applications or database to a secondary, offsite location so that your data and apps can be quickly restored in the event of a security breach, system failure, outage or natural disaster. This helps ensure your business runs as usual even when crises do occur.

Cloud backup is also known as online backup or remote backup. It acts as a safety net for your business and enables you to resume operations in no time after a catastrophic event occurs. Cloud backup helps mitigate the impact of data loss and downtime on your business.

Cloud backup vs. cloud storage

Cloud backup and cloud storage are often used interchangeably since both keep copies of your files and folders. However, these are two different technologies. Cloud backup protects your data against loss or damage, whereas with cloud storage, you can store your files and folders on remote servers, share them with colleagues for collaboration or access information from anywhere via the internet.

To put it in simple terms, think of cloud storage as your external hard drive. However, unlike the typical scenario where your hard drive is located on-premises, with cloud storage, you send your data to servers at an offsite location. This helps free up space on your local devices. Some of the examples of cloud storage include Amazon Cloud Drive, Apple iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and so on.

Another advantage of cloud storage is easy accessibility to information, regardless of your location or time. With on-premises storage solutions, to increase storage capacity, you must add an entire new device. Cloud storage does not require purchasing a new device or undergoing complex setup processes. You can seamlessly upgrade your subscription plan at any time to extend storage capacity as per your company’s requirements. One major drawback of cloud storage is the manual selection of files and folders that you want to store.

Cloud backup maintains a separate copy of your data on a remote network of servers for emergency recoveries. This helps in quick recovery when original files are lost or become irretrievable. For example, if your computer is infected by a virus or it crashes due to software/hardware failure, you can still restore a copy of your files from your cloud backup.

Cloud backup protects your data stored in your cloud environment from loss, corruption, deletion or modification. The main purpose of a cloud backup solution is disaster recovery rather than storing data. Cloud backup solutions ensure continuous, automatic backup of your files and folders, and provide clear reporting on the status of your backups. Features like deduplication allow you to save on storage costs, while file versioning allows you to restore earlier (cleaner) versions of your files in the event your computer gets infected by a virus or malware. Cloud backup allows you to maintain business continuity by enabling quick recovery of lost or corrupted files. With cloud backup solutions, your business can store as much data and for as long as you need to meet compliance requirements.

How does cloud backup work?

Cloud backup works via structured copying of data into a separate or third-party hosted cloud-based server. Generally, this is accomplished by first installing cloud backup software into an IT environment and then establishing a cadence whereby an updated copy of your data is created and stored on behalf of the cloud backup provider. In most cases, these backups occur autonomously and frequently so that maximum data protection is ensured.

To start backing up your data to the cloud, you must perform the following steps:

  • Select a reliable cloud backup solution provider.
  • Subscribe to a plan that fits your organizational needs.
  • Install the application and configure it as per your need. For example, the frequency of your backups, setting RTOs and RPOs and so on.
  • Choose the servers, applications, files and folders you want to back up.
  • Schedule backups.
  • Once the setup is complete, the selected files and applications will be automatically and continuously backed up offsite, requiring minimal or no input on your end.
  • The backed-up files and folders are easily accessible and readily available for quick recovery in the event of a disaster.

Types of cloud backup

There are several options for backing up your data to the cloud. Here are the four main methods:

  • Back up to the public cloud: One of the simplest and easiest ways to back up data to the cloud is by leveraging public cloud services like Alibaba Cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure. Public cloud providers allow businesses to use their own backup software to replicate data and send it to the cloud. Public cloud services offer a cost-effective way to store and access data. However, since they are designed to be used by multiple tenants, these environments are more vulnerable to security threats compared to private clouds.
  • Back up to a service provider: Another method of cloud backup is to opt for a cloud service provider that allows you to save data into a managed data center. In this method, the vendor provides the backup software as part of the service.
  • Cloud backup systems and appliances: There are several hardware solutions that enable backing up data to a cloud service. These appliances offer several backup functions in a single unit, including a backup application, disk capacity and a backup server. Most of these solutions also allow you to integrate with one or more cloud backup services.
  • Cloud-to-Cloud (C2C) backup: C2C backup method is designed to protect data already stored in another cloud environment, for example, Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. As such, this method involves replicating data from one cloud to another. In C2C backup, the vendors provide the software that executes the backup processes.   

What are the pros and cons of cloud backup?

If you are looking at a cloud backup solution for your organization, it is important to have a good understanding of its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of cloud backup

Cloud backup offers multiple benefits. Here are a few of them.

  • Cost-efficient: Cloud backups are highly cost-efficient compared to onsite data centers since there is no need to invest in backup hardware, disks, servers, infrastructure and so on. Additionally, most cloud backup providers operate on a pay-as-you-go model, which means you only pay for what you need.
  • Scalable: Unlike an in-house backup solution where you must purchase new equipment to increase storage capacity, with cloud backup, you can easily scale up to accommodate the growing volumes of your company’s data.
  • Secure: Since cloud backups are performed offsite on a separate network away from your company’s network, the backed-up data is better protected against viruses, ransomware attacks and so on.
  • Accessible: Cloud backup offers 24/7 accessibility to your data from anywhere and on a wide range of devices, as long as you are connected to the internet. No physical location required.
  • Manageable: When you opt for a cloud backup solution, most of the management responsibilities fall on the shoulders of the service provider. Since cloud providers are experts and equipped with all the necessary systems to support the backup processes, it requires limited or no management on your part.
  • Low/easy maintenance: Cloud backup offers a “set it and forget it” solution for backing up your company’s data since service providers take the responsibility of creating backups, upgrading hardware/software and maintaining the overall IT infrastructure. Additionally, backups can be automated and initiated from anywhere via the internet. This helps eliminate manual intervention while reducing your burden. 

Disadvantages of cloud backup

Here are some disadvantages of cloud backup that you must consider before migrating your data to a cloud environment.

  • Connectivity: In the event you or your service provider faces internet connectivity issues, you will not be able to access your data or perform backups. Cloud backups require good internet connection to complete the backup processes smoothly, without any interruptions. Backing up large amounts of data might also cause a lag or slow down the network.
  • Control: While cloud backup services reduce the hassles and burden on your IT team, it is important to remember that your valuable data is being stored on an external, third-party server. Therefore, you must make sure your service provider is reliable. Evaluate their storage and restore capabilities and whether they help meet compliance requirements.
  • Data Volume: Cloud backups can be cost-efficient in many ways. However, the costs can rise significantly if you need to back up large amounts of data. Similarly, most cloud service providers offer unlimited bandwidth, but there are several vendors that provide limited bandwidth allowances. As such, exceeding the bandwidth allotment can incur additional costs.

Why is cloud backup important for business?

Your business holds large amounts of sensitive data, including client information, intellectual assets and more. Without secure and recent backups, your business runs the risk of losing important data and falling victim to business disruption. This can have a negative impact on your business and brand reputation.

A solid backup and recovery solution is key to ensuring the safety of your sensitive data from a variety of incidents such as malware attacks, programmatic errors, malicious insiders, simple human error and so on. Having clean and reliable backed-up data will enable you to quickly restore your organization’s mission-critical data in the face of a disaster or a data loss incident.

Cloud-to-Cloud backup with Spanning

Spanning helps protect your Microsoft 365, Google Workspace and Salesforce data with cloud-to-cloud backup and restore. Our SaaS backup solutions store every facet of your data, so you are ready to bounce back from any data loss event. We provide unlimited retention that remains as long as you protect your data with us.

Spanning ensures the integrity and safety of your data with industry-leading layers of technical, operational and physical security that empowers you to work in the cloud with confidence.

Let us show you how Spanning provides comprehensive SaaS data protection and enables quick and easy recovery.

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