DATA MANAGEMENT

How to Choose the Right Cloud Backup Provider for Your Business

September 28, 2023By Ben Bonadies

Cloud backup for business seems simple at a glance. The cloud is a bottomless well of storage. You have files. Send them to the cloud and you’re done, right? Not quite. While cloud backup solutions get you out of the complexities and costs of standing up a physical backup solution, there is a lot more to cloud backup than just copying files to a cloud drive. This article explores the issue, offering some insights and key considerations in selecting the right cloud backup provider for your business. 

Understanding the Cloud Backup Landscape 

Data backup and restoration are too important for snap judgements. Indeed, a modern business may not be able to function, or even survive, if it loses critical data. For this reason, it’s essential to start the process of selecting a cloud backup solution by getting an overview of your overall IT ecosystem, as well as the various types of data your business needs to operate.  

How much of an overview do you need? That will depend on several factors, including the size of your business and its reliance on technology. Some companies can manage without data for a few hours or days before trouble sets in. Others, such as financial firms, may have a problem if their data is unavailable even for a minute.  

One thing to bear in mind at this early stage is that cloud backup solutions comprise a collection of technologies. They may look like a single, intuitive solutions when you use their interfaces, but under the hood there several separate operations taking place. There’s backup management software, which arranges for data to be replicated onto backup hardware. Then, there’s software that manages that backup hardware. All three of these elements must operate coherently in order for you to have an effective backup and restore solution.  

Some cloud backup solutions combine these elements into a single offering. However, these solutions are often not suited to complex modern business use cases. Others use multiple solutions in a “best of breed” approach. A company might use Veeam backup software together with a cloud storage provider, such as Wasabi.  

Key Considerations in Selecting a Provider 

The critical factors affecting the choice of a cloud backup provider should ideally emerge from your backup strategy, backup requirements, and related best practices. There is no single “best cloud backup provider.” There’s only the best one for your specific needs.  

For instance, the choice of cloud backup provider should derive from your business needs, particularly your company’s expectations for recovery and restore time. What is your recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO)? These refer to the speed of data recovery and the point in the stream of activity which your cloud backup solution can deliver. Not all cloud backup solutions can perform equally well when it comes to RTO and RPO. And fastest is not always best. If you don’t have an ultra-fast RTO, then it doesn’t make sense to pay top dollar for such a requirement.  

Best practices for backup and restoration include the 3-2-1 rule, which posits that you should maintain three copies of your data on two different media, with one being offsite. In this discussion, the “1” in 3-2-1 will be a cloud backup solution, but you still have to take care of 3 and 2—and whatever cloud backup solution you select should inter-operate easily with your on-site backup media. 

Success is partly a matter of partner selection. It’s likely that a partner will implement and support your cloud backup and restore solution. The partner you work with needs to align with your priorities, backup strategy, RTO and RPO.
 

Comparing Popular Cloud Backup Solutions 

Feature Analysis 

When you do a provider comparison for cloud backup solutions, your solution analysis should examine the features that matter most to your business. Every solution will have its standout capabilities, but don’t ignore basics like support for your preferred mode of backup? Meaning, do you need a full or incremental backup? A full backup copies all your data. This is great, but time-consuming, so many organizations do it once and then use incremental backups to preserve only data that’s been added since the last incremental backup. You will want to know how, and how well, a prospective cloud backup solution handles such backup features. 

Feature analysis should also encompass a deep look at functionality that may not involve features, per se, but is no less important in guiding you to the right cloud backup solution. Does it integrate with your key applications and databases? Does your system management software support it? Scalability and flexibility also fit into this category. If your business is like most, the amount of data you’re going to be backing up is unlikely to shrink over time. You need to know how easily you can add capacity, and at what cost. 

Security and compliance also matter. Not only is backup essential for data availability, a key component of most cybersecurity programs, the backup solution itself must be able to protect whatever data it’s holding. Indeed, hackers often find that an attack on a backup system is an easy way to steal or damage an organization’s sensitive data. Regarding compliance, certain privacy laws, for example, may specify the controls that affect consumers’ personal data when it’s stored in a cloud backup solution.  

Cost-Benefit Assessment 

It’s tempting to think of backup simply as a cost center. But when it comes to cloud backup assessment, there are costs and then there are costs. A cost-benefit analysis is in order. This process may look at known costs, such as data egress fees, as well as hidden costs, like those that arise in a vendor lock-in situation. In the latter case, there’s a benefit to avoiding high switching costs down the road. Similarly, if you have to pay a fee to test your backup (a practice that is strongly recommended), that should go into your cost-benefit assessment, too. 

You can also determine a return on investment (ROI) for a cloud backup solution. With enterprise solutions, in particular, you can calculate ROI by looking at cost factors like the price of support, the payroll required to operate the system on your end, and so forth. If a prospective solution has the ability to save you money on backup managers, that’s a driver of ROI.  

User Reviews and Testimonials 

User reviews and testimonials describing real experiences with backup providers allow you to differentiate between cloud backup solutions. For example, Rob Martin, Senior Director of Network Infrastructure and Security at Achievement First, described Wasabi as offering “a significant architectural advantage.” He elaborated, saying, “One of the main benefits of Wasabi in our use case is that there is no single site fail point. With backups stored in Wasabi, we won't lose them if my site goes down. But I lose everything if it’s on-premises. Thus, we need cloud storage for backups. It's absolutely essential.”   

Similarly, Kent Chalmers, Group Chief Technology Officer at Home in Place, a community housing provider, praised Wasabi’s no-egress-fee policy. This benefited Home in Place because they do weekly data restores. Working with Wasabi, partnered with Veeam’s backup management solution, enabled Home in Place to have robust data protection while complying with government regulations that mandated seven-year retention of certain types of data. Testimonials like this help you figure out what cloud backup solution is going to be best for your unique business needs. 

Transitioning to Your Chosen Cloud Backup Provider 

Once you’ve made your choice, you will want a seamless transition for your new solution. Cloud backup migration can be a major project, but it will go well if you work with the right partner and keep with best practices. It will be a service shift, for sure, but hopefully for the better. An experienced partner will work closely with you to determine the best migration process. This usually means a step-by-step approach, working incrementally and testing the backup and restore functions at each stage.  

Conclusion 

Choosing a cloud backup solution can feel like a daunting proposition. You have many choices—most of them good—but some are better for your distinctive requirements and backup strategy. It’s worth spending the time to do a feature comparison and cost benefit analysis. Peer comments from user reviews help a great deal, as well. As these factors come together, you’ll be on your way to making the right choice.  

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