A twist on cloud backup: Protecting your data from you

Although most cloud services offer some form of disaster recovery, few provide critically necessary archival backup

Recently, a colleague pointed me toward cloud backup provider Backupify. At first, I yawned and almost didn't read further. However, something caught my eye: Backupify isn't your run-of-the-mill cloud backup service. Instead of protecting your on-premises data with a backup in the cloud as so many providers do, it backs up data hosted in other cloud services such as Google Apps, Facebook, Twitter, and Salesforce.com, then stores those point-in-time backups in Amazon.com's cloud. It's still cloud backup, but with an important twist.

Although I haven't tried Backupify's services myself and can't pass judgment on whether it's any good, I can say that this take on cloud backups is unique. Backupify doesn't make the usual claim that you should back up these services because they might lose your data. Instead, Backupify pitches its service based on the fact that you might lose your data (say, through accidental deletion) or a hacker might do it for you.

In other words, Backupify assumes that cloud services are reliable enough that you don't need to worry about whether your data is safe with them. Instead, it assumes that you need to worry about whether you or a malicious third party might damage your data. I find that argument compelling.

Of course, perhaps not everyone would agree with that conclusion, but it helps illustrate an interesting point missed by many cloud users: Though you may be in the cloud, making sure your data is protected is still your responsibility. Take this MSDN blog post that describes how to back up a Windows Azure SQL database as a great example. It's right there in bold letters: "Please be aware that Windows Azure SQL databases are replicated to different servers/data centers for disaster recovery but are not backed up for the purpose of recovering accidental data loss or changes."

While we all hope that Microsoft is doing its best to recover your data should it encounter an infrastructure disaster, it isn't trying to protect you from yourself. This challenge of determining where the edges between your responsibility and that of your cloud provider is one I've explored in the past, and it's especially critical to solve when it comes to data protection.

Most well-known cloud service providers have built their offerings with redundancy and reliability in mind, but very few provide archival backup as a core, included service. In most cases, they provide the capability to perform backups that protect your data from corruption, but that capability may not be configured. In other cases, there might not even be a capability to perform these backups -- which is what provide the opportunity for a company like Backupify to offer its service.

There are a couple major reasons why cloud backup is not commonly offered or enabled. First, performing backups (especially in IaaS) chews up storage capacity, and that capacity costs money. That's a disincentive for a cloud provider. Second, every customer will have slightly different needs when it comes to maintaining archival copies of their data, making it hard to offer a standardized service, which is what cloud providers do.

As a cloud user, the responsibility is squarely on your shoulders to make sure your data can be restored if something goes wrong. You might do so by using a tool like Backupify. You might learn more about what capabilities the services you use already have built into them, such as the scriptable S3 snapshots in Amazon Web Services. Regardless of the approach you choose, Backupify is spot-on in saying you can't ignore the need to back up your data. Simply having disaster-recovery capability won't keep your data safe.

This article, "A twist on cloud backup: Protecting your data from you," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Matt Prigge's Information Overload blog and follow the latest developments in storage at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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