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Tips for planning your backup to the cloud strategy

Backup to cloud

Backup to the cloud is a rapidly emerging data protection strategy and can remove management overheads, whilst also improving performance and efficiency. It is a big shift for many organisations however and there are a number of considerations that it is wise to address beforehand.

Firstly, it is crucial that you clearly understand your data retention requirements, whether they are required by regulation, for compliance purposes, or set by the business. It is a recommendation that you retain data backups onsite long enough to cover around 85% of the typical file restore requests that come in.

On the topic of compliance, it is also wise to look at regulatory requirements as a whole to make sure that your new backup strategy adequately addresses those. This could mean making sure that your data will be kept in a geographical location that is accepted, and not moved to a cloud location in a country that doesn’t comply with your local regulations. It could also mean that you need to look at the protection your data has whilst in transit, not just while it is at rest in storage. You should look at encryption to protect the data while it moves from location to location and in between.

Before starting your backup to cloud planning, it’s useful to update your DR plans, as this can help you identify any areas that your current backup strategy isn’t addressing, where your backup to cloud strategy could help. At the same time, run a gap analysis on your current backup strategy to see where improvements can be made with the new solution. For sustainability and budget purposes, it is a worthwhile exercise to identify any reusable elements of your current backup solution, that will work in your new backup infrastructure.

The next step is to consult with the key stakeholders within the business. They can help you understand what the business requirements of your backup strategy need to be and could include performance requirements, scalability and security. The IT Department might think that some performance degradation is acceptable, or even unnoticeable, or that it a recovery window of 24 hours would work for the business, while another business function, such as finance or sales, might believe that performance cannot be undermined at any cost, and that data must be instantly recoverable for a set period. It is only through consultation with each head of department, that you will understand the expectations and requirements and be able to build these into the solution’s scope (or not, if you deem it unattainable or unnecessary).

Whilst reviewing the expectations of the business, review your formal Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to make sure they are still appropriate and to ensure that your new backup strategy can meet the most up to date SLAs.

The stakeholder consultation may also uncover different requirements for different data sets, or applications, which is not uncommon. Finance data is likely to be governed by more regulations and could have longer retention periods than marketing or sales data for example. Most current backup strategies treat all data the same but a backup to cloud strategy could incorporate granular policies for different data sets, applications or departments.

The benefits of a disk-to-disk-to-cloud strategy are clear; rapid restores, almost instantaneous offsite vaulting, lower cost backup storage options and greater levels of security, but as with any major project, planning is essential if you are going to realise all the benefits and meet the needs and expectations of the business.

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