Data Protection Questions Answered: Cloud Technology Terms in Plain English

As more organizations migrate to the cloud and new technologies emerge to meet and anticipate their demands, so too emerges concomitant terminology to define new concepts.  These terms are often as complex, overlapping, and difficult to conceptualize as they are important to moving business forward.

We frequently field questions from our customers regarding how our services fit into the latest possibilities (and jargon) introduced to the tech industry.  So in service of clarifying these terms and demonstrating how Spanning Backup relates to them, we’ve provided the following guide that explains some of the most confusing new concepts in plain English; and we recruited Vice President of Engineering at Spanning, Mike Pav, to help with the explaining.

RPO (recovery point objective):  is defined by business continuity planning and is the maximum tolerable period for which data can be lost from an IT service.

Translation: Managers and IT staff examine several calculations sought through business impact analysis to develop a timeline and plan for recovery in case of emergency.  They determine the maximum amount of data loss that the business can sustain without significantly impeding business.  If this amounts to one day’s worth of data, the RPO is set to 24 hours, and when a data loss event occurs, the recovery process must result in drives being restored to their exact state one day before the loss.  In other words, the recovery point objective refers to the previous version of a data set that is desired to result from restoration.  Mike Pav illustrates in terms easier to understand: “How can I get my drive to look like it did two days ago, because that’s the last time I trusted it?  That’s the recovery point objective.”

Where does backup fit in?:  Countless business processes influence RPO.  Backup and recovery are a necessary part of reaching the recovery point objective, but they do not determine RPO, which is independently set by businesses through the internal processes mentioned above.  However, choosing the right backup and recovery solution can certainly help to reliably hit the recovery point objective in the event of disaster.  Spanning Backup allows users to restore any desired version of their vital information to its original form and location.  Thus, if a company’s RPO dictates that drives return to how they looked four days before a loss, our software allows users to restore data to this exact point in time.

RTO (recovery time objective): is the duration of time and a service level within which a business process must be restored after a disaster (or disruption) in order to avoid unacceptable consequences associated with a break in business continuity.  It can include the time for trying to fix the problem without a recovery, the recovery itself, testing, and communication to the users.

Translation: Another result of business impact analysis, the RTO is the agreed amount of time that is acceptable to restore data to its desired state.  For example, a business may determine that in order to maintain continuity, they need their data back within 15 hours.  That’s the recovery time objective.

Where does backup fit in?:  Spanning is particularly helpful in allowing companies to achieve their ideal RTO due to the rapid, streamlined restore process built into the software.  According to Mike Pav, “Spanning Backup also gives users a realistic estimate of how long it will take to get data back, which allows decision makers to plan how best to use their time and resources in the interim.”

Mike Pav explains that neither RPO or RTO apply at the individual file level or even the user perspective, but are organizational constraints.  Thus, while a backup and recovery solution like Spanning is a small part of reaching RPO and RTO, these concepts comprise several factors beyond restoring lost data to its original form.  Still, choosing a backup and recovery solution that not only restores data rapidly but also allows for custom control over which version is restored is a must for realizing these objectives when disaster strikes.

Data protection: relates to your fundamental rights to privacy and control over your data.  It is often defined by a set of laws or principles that govern collection and dissemination of data, technology, the public expectation of privacy, and the legal and political issues surrounding them.

Translation: Anyone who uses the cloud has reasonable expectations of privacy, access, and control regarding their crucial data.  Most organizations have policy codes governing behaviors around these concerns; several laws enacted across the world endeavor to address them.  Many stem from the  EU data protection directive of 1995, which requires Member States to protect fundamental human rights and freedoms in the processing of personal data and provides a way for individuals to control information about themselves.

Where does backup fit in?: Mike Pav explains, “What we do is central to data protection.  Though the standard argument is ‘I don’t have to worry because Google is backing up my content,’ you absolutely have to protect yourself.  While Google or Amazon provides a place to store your data safely, it doesn’t mean that it will always be available for your use cases and under your control.  Having backup allows you to mitigate some of that.”  Google can’t protect you from accidentally deleting an important document or being hacked, among other things, so trusting another copy of your important information to a backup and recovery service adds a level of protection and control that can give you the peace of mind to do business without worry over data loss.

Data security: means protecting data from destructive forces and the unwanted actions of unauthorized users.

Translation: Data security is an umbrella concept for methods, guidelines, and laws intended to protect data from hackers, viruses, and other malicious cyber-threats.  It is achieved through encryption, security tokens and two-factor authentication, backups, data masking, data erasure, maintaining industry or governmental standards, and more.

Where does backup fit in?: A cloud-to-cloud backup and recovery solution like Spanning makes sure that data backed up to the cloud is encrypted and transferred via secure SSL practices, minimizing access to unauthorized viewers.  Spanning is proud to boast industry-leading security standards and is the only solution on the market to achieve SSAE 16 Type II compliance.  To read more about how Spanning protects and secures your information, visit our security page.

Business continuity: is the activity performed by an organization to ensure that critical business functions will be available to customers, suppliers, regulators, and other entities that must have access to those functions. These activities include many daily chores such as project management, system backups, change control, and help desk.

Business continuity is not something implemented at the time of a disaster, but refers to those activities performed daily to maintain service, consistency, and recoverability.

Translation: If business comes to a screeching halt due to a disaster or data loss, companies can lose an unimaginable amount of money, disappoint their clients, and even be forced to close their doors if unable to recovery in a timely manner.  That’s why a plan should be put in place to ensure the business stays on track on a day-to-day basis, even in the event of an emergency.

Where does backup fit in?:  Backup and recovery solutions play a major role in business continuity because they turn potentially business-debilitating data loss events into small problems that can be solved in a matter of clicks.  Though there are several other factors beyond backup and recovery that influence business continuity, having a reliable backup solution is a vital contributor to maintaining the flow of business processes and services.  How can you keep business running without calendars, contacts, payroll information, customer manifests, reports, and other essential information?  Spanning ensures that in the event of data loss you are able to get back to business as usual as quickly and painlessly as possible.