In the modern workplace, where we rely on virtual data centers, communication tools, collaboration apps and file storage, data loss is inevitable and happens easily. The scale of that data loss can vary massively: an employee could accidentally delete a critical file with the slip of a finger; a flood could wipe out the servers of one of your company’s offices; a ransomware attack could encrypt or lock all data stored across your network. So, the question isn’t whether your business will experience data loss—it’s how will you recover when it happens?
And the answer (as you may have guessed) is cloud backup and recovery.
Having a solid backup strategy is critical to helping you recover data that’s deleted, encrypted or locked, as well as minimize downtime during such an event. It can also play an important part in ensuring compliance with data protection standards such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), which require businesses to back up and securely archive sensitive data for a given period of time.
Creating and managing these backups manually is time-consuming and logistically challenging. Storing backups can also be expensive, particularly if your business handles large amounts of data or your security team doesn’t have the resource to manually remove duplicates.
But your security and IT teams don’t have to undertake this mammoth task alone—a cloud backup and recovery solution could do it for them.
So, how exactly do cloud backup services work, how can they reduce the strain of managing your backups, and how can they help your business recover from a data loss disaster?
That’s what we’re here to talk about.
How Does Cloud Backup And Recovery Work?
Cloud backup and recovery solutions create point-in-time copies of all your data that need to be securely backed up. That could include individual file backup, operating systems, databases, or entire servers.
The backup software then writes these copies out to a secondary cloud storage platform—this is usually the vendor’s own private cloud or a public cloud such as AWS, but some cloud vendors also offer hybrid or on-prem storage options. The most important thing is that the secondary storage facility is completely separate to your local servers and network, so that there’s an airgap protecting your backups should your original copies be compromised.
Having these cloud backups in place means that your cloud backup provider can quickly restore your organization’s critical data in the event that the local copy is lost or destroyed.
The strongest cloud backup services create incremental backups (also known as “continuous backups”), so that your secondary database is always storing the latest versions of your data. This means that you’ll always be able to restore your systems to the exact condition they were in right before the disaster struck. If you choose a backup software that creates backups once a day, for example, you may lose all the data that was created in the 24 hours prior to the data loss incident.
Solutions that offer continuous backup also often feature deduplication technology, which automatically removes duplicate files to help save storage space—which, in turn, saves you money.
But why choose a cloud native solution, over an on-premises backup solution?
Cloud Vs On-Premises Backup Solutions
On-prem backups involve storing data locally on hard drives, disks or physical servers. They often provide low-latency data recovery, and are generally pretty secure because they’re protected by your company’s firewall. They also don’t require an internet connection for you to be able to recover data.
However, on-premises backups are vulnerable to natural disaster and accidents that could damage the hardware or system that they’re stored on. They also require you to hire staff to manage and maintain your backup servers. This is easier said than done, at a time when the industry is facing a skills gap causing 39% of organizations to report a shortage in staff capable of operating and maintaining their security infrastructure. Alternatively, you could outsource this maintenance to a third party—which can be expensive. Finally, creating an on-prem backup server requires considerable up-front costs, which many small businesses and start-ups simply can’t afford.
Cloud-native backup services, on the other hand, require minimal up-front investment as you don’t have to build the infrastructure to store your backups. They also don’t require you to hire specialist staff to maintain the online backups, as the service provider takes care of this for you. This makes them much cheaper than on-prem solutions, and you only pay for the storage space and bandwidth your company is using. And while you need a strong internet connection to access and recover data in the cloud backup environment, your service provider will help you recover that data when needed, and you can rest knowing that your backups are encrypted and stored completely separately to your original versions, keeping them safe from harm or theft.
This also helps you to follow the rule of “3-2-1”: you should keep at least three copies of your data and store them in at least two different formats, and at least one copy should be kept off-site. Following this rule will mean that no single data loss incident will be able to destroy every copy of your data, which means that you’ll always be able to restore your systems in the event of a data breach.
The Benefits Of Cloud Backup And Recovery
There are a few good reasons why you should implement a backup and recovery solution. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Unfortunately, endpoint attacks are on the rise, and one of the most notorious—and prevalent—methods of endpoint attack we’re seeing today directly targets an organization’s data. That attack method is ransomware.
Last year, 53% of all organizations were hit by a successful ransomware attack and 23% of those were targeted more than once. Cybercriminals use ransomware to hold their victims’ data hostage, either by encrypting it or locking them out of it, until that victim pays a ransom. The criminal promises the safe return of their victim’s data once the ransom is paid—but unfortunately that isn’t always the case. Paying the ransom doesn’t always mean you’ll get your data back, and it also doesn’t ensure that all traces of ransomware are removed from your systems—leaving your business vulnerable to a repeat attack.
The best way to recover from a ransomware attack is to completely cleanse your systems to remove all traces of malware, and restore your data using backups. A cloud backup solution can help you tackle your ransomware recovery by ensuring that you have secure copies of all your data, which cannot be tampered with by a cybercriminal.
But not all data loss disasters are quite as nefarious as a ransomware attack. Depending on where you’re operating from, your business could also lose data due to a natural disaster. Floods and earthquakes can destroy physical servers, causing you to lose all the data that was stored on them. This is one of the reasons why we recommend investing in a cloud backup provider, rather than on-prem backups—your on-prem backups will be just as vulnerable to natural disaster as your original data. But a cloud backup solution stores your data in a different location, ensuring your backups are protected against this type of event.
Finally, a cloud backup solution can help you recover in the event of data loss caused by human error. We all make mistakes, and it can be easy for a file to be accidentally deleted or for a spilled drink to cause an employee’s laptop to go haywire. A strong backup solution should offer granular eDiscovery tools that allow you to easily search for—and restore—individual files, emails and messages.
Most backup and recovery solutions will enable to you configure how often you want your backups to occur, and the best solutions will offer backups multiple times a day. This means that, should you experience large-scale data loss, your employees won’t have to spend a lot of time re-doing work that they completed in the hours or even days before the incident occurred. If you schedule your backups to take place every four hours, for example, the maximum amount of work that will need to be re-done is four hours’ worth.
The strongest backup solutions promise to restore your data quickly and effectively, with the cloud backup provider guiding you throughout this process to make sure everything goes smoothly, and all files are successfully restored. Some vendors also enable businesses to access their data via backups if their main system is experiencing downtime.
Most cloud-native backup services protect your data—no matter which virtual environment it’s stored in—with a layer of encryption. Encryption is the process of scrambling your data so that it becomes unreadable. The data can be decrypted (or unscrambled) using a decryption key, which only the data owner has access to. This means that, should a cybercriminal manage to gain access to your backups, they won’t be able to read, use or steal any of your data.
Some backup and recovery solutions also verify the authenticity of backups before restoring them to ensure that the files haven’t been tampered with. This means that, if a backup file is compromised, that compromise will be isolated, and won’t be able to spread throughout your network.
In recent years, organizations around the world and across all industries have faced increasing pressure from compliance bodies to make sure that they’re properly managing and securing their data, and the data of their investors, partners, customers, and other stakeholders. These federal and industry compliance standards often require businesses to back up their most critical and/or sensitive data as part of a formal incident recovery and response plan. Some examples of these include:
- The Administrative Safeguard 45 CFR § 164.308(a)(7)(ii)(A) of HIPAA requires all covered entities (including health plans, healthcare clearinghouses and healthcare providers) and business associates to implement a data backup plan that ensures protected health information (PHI) isn’t lost or destroyed in the event of a disaster. To comply with this, businesses must “establish and implement procedures to create and maintain retrievable exact copies of electronic protected health information.”
- The Safeguards Rule of GBLA requires that financial institutions provide a written information security plan that describes the processes they’re taking to protect customer information. To achieve this, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends maintaining secure backup records, and backup up client data to a secure, encrypted server.
- Section 103 of SOX requires public accounting firms to maintain all documents related to their audits for a minimum of seven years, while section 105 requires that all documents presented for inspection by the Board are kept confidential. A cloud backup and recovery solution can ensure that all necessary files are encrypted and securely stored—without risk of tampering—for as long as your business needs.
A backup and recovery solution can not only help you comply with standards such as these, but also prove that compliance by offering you robust reporting and auditing functionality.
It’s important to note that those above aren’t the only compliance standards that require organizations to back up their data, and some have specific requirements regarding the length of time backups and archives should be stored for. Because of this, it’s important that you check in with your federal and industry regulatory bodies to find out what their specific requirements are.
Data breaches can damage your reputation. If you lose your customers’ data, it’s highly likely that they’ll decide to use the services of one of your competitors, who can assure them that they won’t lose their data in the event of a breach.
As well as enabling you to provide this assurance, a cloud backup and recovery solution can help you recovery from a data loss incident with as little downtime as possible. This is important because downtime can be another reason for customers to switch to a competitor whose services are running more efficiently and reliably.
Creating backups is a fundamental IT practice, and increasingly being considered a critical security practice, too, as the number of cyberattacks targeting business data increases year-on-year. Undertaken alone, it can be a time-consuming, tedious task that drains your IT and security resources, preventing them from focusing on active threat prevention and remediation.
But as we’ve discovered, you don’t have to do it alone.
A cloud backup and recovery solution can make it much easier for your business to recover from a data loss incident, be it at the hands of a cybercriminal, Mother Nature, or an unfortunate employee.
By enabling you not only to create but also securely store your backups by encrypting them and writing them out to a secondary storage facility, a cloud backup solution can also help you prove compliance with data protection standards such as HIPAA, GLBA and SOX.
There are a lot of backup and recovery solutions on the market, so to help you find the right one, we’ve put together two guides. The first is a guide to the top cloud backup and recovery solutions that are compatible with Microsoft 365 environments. The second is a list of the best backup and file archiving solutions for small- to medium-sized businesses, who may have limitations in terms of technical resource and budget. You can find these guides via the links below: