The cloud backup quandary

There have been a few instances recently that have led me to consider the challenges that come when we discuss the backup of cloud data. But isn’t backing up in the cloud just like backing up in the data centre? The reality is no, it is very different and that presents an interesting quandary for the enterprise. How do you build a practical strategy for cloud data protection?

Why isn’t it the same?

This is the sensible first question. Let’s start by looking at what we do with datacentre data protection. We are protecting applications and data just as we are in the cloud. However, there is a major difference in how these solutions are architected. On-premises we see virtual application servers, data stores on a SAN or NAS and multi-tiered applications made up of front and back-end servers. When it comes to protection, we normally choose to protect the application servers, the application and the data separately depending on how it is held. But in our datacentre, each of these elements we understand, control and can integrate with.

However, our cloud environment is different. It is likely to be made up of a range of different architectures and technologies, SaaS platforms, native virtual machines, serverless, Kubernetes. With these infrastructures, it’s very unlikely that you have low-level integration and control of the component parts. It is this abstraction that complicates our cloud backup strategy because each of these technologies needs a different approach to backup. Which in turn probably means different products and services to meet your data protection needs.

The problem

And there is the cloud backup quandary for the enterprise, how do you build a workable enterprise data protection strategy that deals effectively with different infrastructures and multiple protection products?

What does the problem look like in reality? Let me give you an example, if we look at Veeam’s cloud backup portfolio what do we see?

  • For SaaS platforms: Veeam Backup for Microsoft 365 and Backup for Salesforce
  • For native cloud VM’s: Veeam backup for AWS, Azure and Google
  • For modern applications: Kasten K10, with Kasten being a separate Veeam company
  • For the datacentre: Veeam Backup and Replication

This perfectly highlights the issue; these differing technologies require different approaches and before we know it, we have data protection “sprawl”. Multiple tools, falling under the control of different teams, with different ideas on data protection. And at an enterprise level, a loss of overall visibility and the very real risk of some data “falling through the gaps” between our multiple product approach.

We could argue that this is the cost of modernisation, and it is for the enterprise to ensure they understand this and have the processes in place. But the reality is the enterprise has enough to deal with when it comes to data management, the last thing they need is more tools for ops teams to manage.

Don’t worry the solution is coming!

What the enterprise needs are a consolidation of these tools. While initially, that may not mean one tool to protect the cloud, modern apps, and our more traditional datacentre, we do at least need to see these tools come together to provide us with full visibility of our data and our protection operations. I used Veeam to highlight the challenge, so now let me also use them to highlight how they are also providing a template for solving it.

The starting point for dealing with the issue is to look at where there is commonality. In Veeam’s case, this is with their Backup and Replication server, which provides a data repository common to each application alongside a single management and reporting console. This common repository has allowed Veeam to integrate these disparate applications to deliver what the enterprise needs and greatly simplify the process. While today you may not be able to build every workflow or manage every element through a single console, what it crucially does is provide visibility and a level of centralisation across datacentre, cloud, SaaS and modern applications and that is of significant value to the enterprise. Increasing visibility, control and crucially reducing the risk of data loss.

This article isn’t meant to be about vendors specifically and more about highlighting the cloud backup challenge as I see it. But Veeam does provide a good example of both the challenge and the approach to solving it. If we put vendors aside what I hope you take from this article is that this is an issue that enterprises must consider as we adopt more cloud services and technology. Because each one we adopt will demand robust data protection, enterprise controls, process, and security.

No doubt there is an argument that specialist cloud infrastructure needs specialist tools. However, I would counter that in the enterprises I work with, simplification is the watchword and when it comes to data, there can be no risks taken and any added complexity increases that risk.

Backing up cloud data is a complex business, but one that needs doing and picking the right tools for the job will be critical in doing that successfully to meet your enterprise data protection demands.

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