Online backup – Doing it right

Megaupload closedStoring your backup information with an online storage provider is much easier than it sounds, but it’s not the only thing you need to do in order to keep your disk images, files and data safe. Just ask the businesses that got caught out when the U.S. Justice Department shut down Megaupload on the basis of copyright infringement in January 2012.

Megaupload cloud storage service shutdown implications

While Megaupload was originally conceived as a file sharing service, quite a few small and medium sized businesses realised that they could use the Megaupload servers as a very cheap online storage facility for their backups. While none of our customers were using Megaupload to store their backups, there were a number of SMBs who were. And then the U.S. shut down the Megaupload service.

Oops! Suddenly all of those using Megaupload as an online backup storage repository had lost their online backups. Plus all of their backed up data was now in the hands of a U.S. law enforcement agency, which for many is in a foreign country, under a different legal regime. We hope these people encrypted their information.

If the SMBs using Megaupload only had an online backup regime in place, then they had no backups. So now it’s time for these SMBs to get busy and put a new online backup regime in place. Maybe this time they’ll also put in place a more comprehensive backup regime that includes local backups as well.

It could happen to you

It’s no use thinking it won’t happen to you because you’ll choose a trusted and reliable service provider instead of a dodgy one. With its 180 million registered users and 50 million daily visits, those who chose to go with Megaupload found out its size and popularity were no guarantee of service continuity.

We’ve all heard warnings about how cloud service providers may arbitrarily change their terms of service, look through confidential data, or shut down and go out of business without warning. Well, all of these “worst case” scenarios have already occurred.

But it’s not just “worst case” scenarios that can impact your business. One prominent and reputable online storage provider went off-line recently. They forgot to renew their domain name. So for a day or so, their customers were without access to their online storage and their backed up data. All it takes is a simple stuff-up like this by your online service provider, and your business continuity strategy is vulnerable if your online backup is your only backup.

Cloud backup is a valuable offline backup tool

Yes, you certainly can find plenty of reliable and reputable services offering online storage for a reasonable annual cost. Plus, online backups can certainly be a valuable part of your total backup regime.

Using an online storage provider, together with the Rsync and/or FTP features supported by BackupAssist, makes it simple and efficient to back up your data online “in the cloud” and off-site. This makes off-site backup convenient and painless, as long as you have a reasonably fast Internet connection.

However, data recovery from online sites can sometimes be very slow, as you have to re-download your files. But data recovery becomes impossible should the online service shut down, as happened to those using Megaupload. So, your cloud backup should only be that – a backup.

Cloud backup should never be your only backup

With backups, it’s not prudent to put all of your eggs in the one basket. While an online storage service can be a very useful and cheap off-site backup resource, you have to make sure you’re covered should the provider go off-line.

Therefore, your cloud backup regime shouldn’t be your primary backup regime. You need to have alternate local and off-site backup strategies in place, with cloud backup being a secondary or tertiary part of the overall backup regime.

A simple alternative strategy may be to have a local backup regime in place as your primary backup, plus your own backup system sited at another physical location as your secondary backup. This could be as simple as a NAS device in your office for the local backup, plus another NAS you own at a different off-site location as your off-site backup. Then add ‘cloud backup’ using the service of an online storage provider as your tertiary backup.

Thankfully, BackupAssist can help you to implement and manage multiple forms of backup regimes to multiple types of backup resources, easily.

Encrypt your cloud backup

It is good business practice to encrypt your cloud backup. This makes sure your confidential data stays that way, regardless of a cloud service provider’s privacy policies, and even if their online storage service is breached by hackers, or taken offline by a law enforcement agency.

Some of the online backup naysayers point out that if you provide your data to another company (i.e. your online service provider), quite possibly in another country and legal jurisdiction, that you really no longer have control or even ownership of your data regardless of what your service level agreement may say. The easy way to circumvent these issues is to ensure that your information is properly encrypted and thus totally useless in the hands of anyone else.

The ready availability of open-source and freely available encryption utilities, and the ability of BackupAssist to easily manage the process for you, makes the uploading of unencrypted data by SMBs akin to negligence.

Can you recover?

Finally, every experienced information practitioner will tell you that you don’t have a backup until you’ve tested that you can recover the information. This is just as true for online backups as for any other backup resource.

Have you tested the recover process and integrity of your online backup? We constantly find that many SMBs haven’t taken this vital step. We recommend you do so, sooner rather than later.

If you properly think through how your online backup regime is implemented, encrypt your data, plus test that you can recover your data successfully, then online backup can be a very cost effective and valuable part of your overall backup regime. We’d encourage you to do a thorough review, plus make sure that your online backup is just one pillar of the many pillars of your data backup and recovery regime.

If you’d like help with any of the issues we’ve raised here, please give your BackupAssist reseller, or the BackupAssist support team a call.

4 thoughts on “Online backup – Doing it right”

  1. Love the article. We have chose BackupAssist as our primary. We make sure our servers are redundant data (RAID). We then goto the cloud through a cost effecient service that charges per gb. We consider this a very budget friendly 3 layer backup system!

    Great article!

  2. Very concise and focussed article Linus. You have covered all of those uncomfortable issues so many “pundits” conveniently gloss over when discussing the Cloud. You did forget our own home grown disaster when a large (Brisbane?) based hosting company (and online backup provider,) went belly up last year; with 4,000 businesses at risk – some of whom lamented that it was their only backup!
    The whole point of DR and BC principles is “Eliminate the single point of failure”!

  3. I agree to you is not really easy to put your back up in any online backup.Sometime you will always ask your safe it is really safe??Thanks for understanding it in here . .

  4. I thought this article was great. I agree that it’s cost efficient and easy to back up using the cloud – we’ve found the same. I also like the fact that its easy and compatible to back up a system with a NAS device.

    A great read!


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