What is Cloud Backup? How It Works, Benefits and Best Practices

The contemporary business landscape is grappling with an unprecedented rise in data volume. According to Statista, 328.77 million terabytes of data are created each day. The exponential growth of data has rendered traditional and protectional mechanisms inadequate, introducing data storage and protection challenges for businesses. As a result, organizations like yours face formidable challenges in managing and safeguarding such huge volumes of critical information.

Since no data is safe, the imperative is to have a robust data backup strategy that will protect your mission-critical data from being lost or compromised. One such effective way to back up data is to use cloud backup services.

A solid backup and recovery solution, like Spanning Backup, can be instrumental in protecting data from malware attacks, device failures, simple human errors, malicious insiders, natural catastrophes and so on. Its products offer industry-leading layers of technical, operational and physical security of your data so that you can bounce back from any data loss event. Learn more about Spanning’s comprehensive SaaS data backup by requesting a demo.

Now, let’s dive into the concept of cloud backup, discuss methods on how to deploy it, and its benefits, drawbacks and best practices.

What is cloud backup?

Cloud backup is the process of transferring a copy of your files, applications or database to a secondary, off-site 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.

Also known as online backup or remote backup, cloud backup acts like an insurance policy against the loss of important information. It enables your business to resume operations in no time after a data disaster occurs. This helps mitigate the impact of data loss and downtime on your business.

Cloud backup vs. cloud storage

Cloud backup and cloud storage, although often used interchangeably, serve distinct purposes. Cloud backup protects your data against loss or damage, creating remote copies for emergency recovery. On the other hand, cloud storage functions like an off-site external hard drive and allows file sharing and accessibility from anywhere. Popular examples include Amazon Cloud Drive, Apple iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.

Cloud storage also provides easy access to information without device constraints, eliminating the need for additional hardware. You can seamlessly upgrade your subscription plan at any time to extend storage capacity as per your company’s requirements. However, one major drawback here is the manual selection of files and folders that you want to store.

In contrast, cloud backup prioritizes disaster recovery by creating and maintaining separate copies on remote servers. It ensures continuous, automatic backup of files and folders with features like deduplication for cost-saving and file versioning for restoring clean versions post-virus or malware attacks. Business continuity is maintained via quick recovery, allowing your business to store data as needed for compliance.

Cloud backup vs. local backup

Local backup is the backing up of data that you can keep close to you, mainly at your organization’s primary site. This type of backup uses disk-based hardware and tends to get expensive since the disk needs to be frequently replaced as well. Cloud backup is cheaper in comparison, with the help of features like deduplication.

Although top local backup products have security features, they’re still susceptible to cyberattacks or disasters at the primary site. In the case of cloud backup, security is less of a concern due to the presence of end-to-end security. Moreover, the cloud provider takes care of management, which is ideal for businesses without proper resources, whereas IT staff need to manage local backup.

Cloud backup vs. off-site backup

The term off-site backup involves storing your backed-up data in an alternate location as a part of your disaster recovery plan. The primary objective is to ensure swift data recovery in the event of a loss at the primary location. On the other hand, cloud backup is mainly an addition of services to the basic data backup model. These services can simplify the purchase, selection, storage, data security and even the actual backup and recovery. So, in essence, cloud backup can be perceived as service-oriented, whereas off-site backup can be seen as being purely storage-oriented.

Cloud backup icon.

Why cloud backup is important

The significance of cloud backup extends beyond mere data security. It impacts organizational reputation, profitability and overall efficiency. At a time when businesses are increasingly relying on cloud computing and facing growing workforce dispersion, the vulnerability of data to cyberthreats is higher than ever.

Cloud backup not only protects your business from potential financial losses resulting from data breaches or disasters but is also vital to maintaining customer satisfaction. An organization with a solid cloud backup strategy would ensure the safety and rapid restoration of sensitive data, gaining the trust of clients and stakeholders. This will help in preserving a positive organizational image. As the digital landscape evolves, investing in robust cloud backup solutions is becoming a strategic imperative. Other than protecting sensitive data, it bolsters profitability, operational efficiency and the longevity of the business.

How does cloud backup work?

The process of cloud backup involves 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.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to back up your data to the cloud:

  1. Selection of data – Choose specific files, folders, applications or entire systems for backup, giving users and administrators the flexibility to tailor their selections based on the importance and relevance of different data.
  2. Compression and encryption – Optimize bandwidth usage and reduce transfer times by compressing data before transmission. This is critical, especially when dealing with large datasets. Data encryption safeguards against unauthorized access. In-transit encryption secures data during transmission, while at-rest encryption protects data stored on cloud servers.
  3. Data transfer to the cloud – Transmit data over the internet to remote servers, ensuring confidentiality and integrity during transit. This is carried out by simply employing secure protocols, such as HTTPS or FTPS.
  4. Storage in the cloud – Cloud service providers maintain redundant and geographically distributed data centers. This confirms data availability even in the event of a hardware failure. The distributed nature of cloud storage enhances both data durability and availability.
  5. Regular updates and incremental backups – The backups that follow the initial full backup are typically incremental. Only changes made since the last backup are transmitted and stored, minimizing the amount of data transferred and expediting the backup process.
  6. Data restoration – Initiate the restoration process through the cloud service’s interface. It involves the download of required files or data from the cloud to the user’s device. Some services offer versioning, enabling users to restore to a specific point in time. This is useful to recover data from accidental changes or deletions.

What are the types of cloud backup services?

There are many kinds of cloud backup services. You can back up data directly in the public cloud, use a dedicated cloud backup provider, back up from one cloud to another or set up on-premises backup to save data to the cloud. Let’s look at the four common methods of cloud backup:

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 in a managed data center. You need to use backup software provided by the vendor. You may also use generic backup software that can seamlessly integrate with the service provider.

Cloud backup systems and appliances

Several hardware solutions enable backing up data to a cloud service. These backup appliances offer several 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

A C2C backup service backs up copies of your data from one cloud environment to another, for example, Microsoft 365 to Salesforce. It enables you to copy data already existing in your Information as-a-Service (IaaS) and Software as-a-Service (SaaS) applications. In C2C backup, the vendors provide the software that executes the backup processes.

As a robust cloud backup and recovery solution, Spanning provides best-in-class cloud-to-cloud backup for Microsoft 365, Google Workspace and Salesforce environments. Schedule a demo today to see Spanning in action!

What are the benefits of cloud backup?

Cloud backup offers numerous advantages, enhancing data security and resilience. With it, you can ensure data integrity and business continuity. Moreover, features like scalability, cost-effectiveness and automation provide impetus to businesses to embrace cloud backup and, ultimately, opt for a comprehensive and reliable data backup solution. This fosters a secure and agile foundation for sustained growth.

The advantages of cloud backup include:

  • Accessibility – Backed-up data can be accessed from anywhere. All that the users need is an internet connection. Cloud backup allows users to view and restore files from a laptop, tablet or smartphone. This is especially useful during disaster recovery scenarios when local access might be unavailable. It is also ideal for businesses that need to access data from multiple locations.
  • Automatic backup – To minimize the risk of data loss arising due to human error or negligence, scheduled backups can be automated at specific times. Consistent backup of the most recent file versions is guaranteed via automated processes provided by cloud backup. This encourages data integrity and takes care of data availability.
  • Scalability – Instead of purchasing new equipment to increase storage capacity, with cloud backup, you can easily scale up to accommodate the growing volumes of your company’s data. Thus, your data backup solution will evolve alongside your growing requirements. You can have the flexibility to adjust storage plans based on charging needs, eliminating the requirement for significant hardware upgrades.
  • Security – Since cloud backups are performed off-site on a separate network away from your company’s network, the backed-up data is better protected against viruses, ransomware attacks and so on. Implementation of security measures, such as encryption (in-transit and at-rest), access controls and robust authentication mechanisms, is standard practice for cloud backup services. Adherence to industry standards and compliance regulations by reputable providers guarantees the highest levels of data security.
  • Cost efficiency – Cloud backup services come with a pay-as-you-go or subscription model. This eliminates the need for upfront investments in hardware and infrastructure. Moreover, the approach ensures that users only pay for the storage capacity they’re utilizing. Thus, it’s economically viable for both businesses and individuals.
  • Reliability – Cloud service providers enhance data reliability by employing redundant systems and rigorous backup procedures. Thanks to the distributed nature of cloud infrastructure, the risk of data loss due to hardware failures or other disruptions can be reduced.

What are the disadvantages of cloud backup?

On the flip side, there are some drawbacks to cloud backup that must be considered before migrating your data to a cloud environment.

  • Data control – Using cloud backup means you have less control over your data. This is because data is moved outside of your network and placed in the control of an outside provider. Hence, it’s necessary to learn about the cloud backup provider’s equipment, physical security procedures, data protection process and fiscal viability. Moreover, if you have to restore data from the cloud, you may have to go through the provider’s process, which could take a long time.
  • Connectivity, bandwidth and latency – As a global platform, the cloud may encounter latency issues in certain regions. This can cause disruptions for your business if you rely on real-time data access. To function optimally, the cloud requires a high-speed internet connection, making it less suitable for companies lacking such connectivity. The speed of backup depends on bandwidth and latency, presenting potential delays, especially when multiple organizations share internet connections. This can become particularly problematic during data recovery, as any slowdown in the process jeopardizes established Recovery Time Objectives (RTO).
  • Escalating costs – Cloud backup is expensive since it often incurs expenses for storage space on the cloud server. The costs may further escalate when downloading substantial amounts of data, as bandwidth usage may also result in additional charges. The expense can escalate due to the recurring nature of storage costs over time and the spiraling storage volumes required for hosting an increasing number of backups.
  • Compliance and regulatory concerns – Storing data in the cloud involves a significant level of trust in the cloud provider, which can pose challenges for companies subject to data sovereignty laws. Entrusting business-critical data to a third-party provider for cloud backup introduces security concerns, particularly in the context of data privacy regulations.

Cloud backup best practices

Knowing about cloud backup and choosing a provider isn’t enough to keep your data safe. Once a cloud backup solution is chosen, make sure to follow these steps to protect your company data from malicious users:

  • Understand the cloud provider’s service level agreement (SLA) – Gain a comprehensive understanding of the cloud backup provider’s SLA. This involves delving into details, like the methods employed for data backup and protection, the geographical locations of vendor offices and the accumulation of costs over time. Familiarize yourself with the limits of a provider’s responsibilities and know the procedures for seeking support and remediation when needed.
  • Ensure provider compliance – Verify that your cloud backup strategy adheres to industry regulations and data protection laws applicable to your organization. Complying with regulations like GDPR ensures the prevention of unauthorized access to personal data. It allows your company to know where its data is, how to access it and when the data is used. There will be fines for data breaches and non-compliance with GDPR. Providers must encrypt all data, and vendors must provide evidence of GDPR compliance.
  • Evaluate data criticality – Data must be prioritized based on its significance, while the backup efforts must be focused on critical data and systems. Assess the criticality of the information to business operations and make informed decisions regarding specific data or files to back up. Since all data holds different importance, your backup strategy must align with the varying values of different business data types.
  • Establish a backup schedule – Regularly back up your data to ensure up-to-date copies in case of a disaster. Set up backup schedules that align with the rates of data changes. Critical data might need frequent backups, while less critical data can be backed up less frequently.
  • Monitor backups continuously – Have administrators regularly check cloud backups to ensure successful and uncorrupted processes. Continuously monitor backup processes, implementing alerts for any failures or anomalies.
  • Test and validate backups – Test backup strategies and data recovery checklists to ensure their adequacy in case of a disaster. Conduct periodic disaster recovery drills and backup tests to validate the ability to restore data and systems. Document test results and make necessary improvements. Perform test restores to validate backups regularly and ensure successful data recovery. The entire validation process must be documented.
  • Follow the 3-2-1 backup rule – Don’t rely solely on one method or data storage medium for backup. Adhere to the 3-2-1 backup rule, a central policy for enterprise backups. As per the rule, you must have at least three copies of your data, with two on different media and one stored offsite.

When it comes to selecting the right cloud backup and recovery solution for your organization, following these tips would prove instrumental. We have put together an eBook that touches upon these best practices in detail and what to search for when buying a SaaS backup solution. Check out the eBook here.

How Spanning can help you with cloud backup

With Spanning, you can be assured of a proper backup and restore of your Microsoft 365, Google Workspace and Salesforce data. Purpose-built for IT professionals like you, Spanning makes cloud backup seamless with its robust backup and restore functionalities that ensure foolproof security to your SaaS data and quickly get you back to work with minimal or no disruption. It is a solid cloud-to-cloud backup solution that ensures the integrity and safety of your organization’s data and empowers you to work in the cloud with confidence.

Find out what are the essentials to look out for in a complete cloud-to-cloud backup solution. Read our whitepaper here.

Discover how Spanning is the ideal solution to provide your organization with comprehensive SaaS data protection. Request a demo now.

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