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The Myth About Data Backup In The Cloud

Today, I want to explode a myth. A myth about moving your data to the cloud: unfortunately, many cloud providers, including Microsoft and Google, offer you the opportunity to move your data to their cloud environment. For Google, this is Google Drive, and for Microsoft, this is OneDrive for Business and SharePoint. Both software companies have utilities that you install on your computers that upload the files to the cloud. My big problem with these utilities is that both companies use the word “backup” in them, which is not valid.

The thing about both of these utilities is that they are synchronization utilities. That is, they synchronize files between your computer and the cloud. Now, if you had, for example, three computers that you owned and you had Microsoft OneDrive sync utility on your computer, it would synchronize any files between all three computers and up to Microsoft’s Cloud.

At first glance, this appears to be a backup, but the vital thing to know here is that any change made on any of the devices will synchronize that change across all devices into Microsoft’s cloud. The problem is that file deletion or an unwanted modification now gets synchronized across all the devices. That includes infection by ransomware or some other virus. When we look at a traditional backup, the goal is to make copies of essential files in various locations. That way, if a file is deleted, corrupted, or infected, we can go back to a previous version and restore it. Yes, Microsoft and Google both have certain things to help mitigate these types of issues, such as revision policies and retention policies. However, they still do not qualify as true backups.

Microsoft’s Trust center explicitly states that you continue to be the owner and responsible party for the data itself when you move your data to their cloud. Microsoft does not claim to be backing up that data or doing anything else to protect it from redundancy. It’s all on your shoulders.

When we move data to the cloud, it’s crucial that we consider backup as part of the disaster recovery strategy. In the days of onsite servers, this usually meant that we were backing up to some external hard drive or even an old tape drive solution which generally happened once a night.

In today’s fast-moving world with lots of security concerns, that type of backup isn’t good enough, and when we move your data to the cloud, we have to look at a different strategy. Here’s what we want in a cloud backup solution.

First, it needs to be provided by a third-party. Not by the same provider where you are storing the data.

Next, the process needs to be completely automated. As with standard old-school backups, people are human and make mistakes. They often forget to run backups and forget to check them.

Finally, we want those backups to happen multiple times throughout the day, not merely once a night. Years ago, one backup per day was enough, but with the increase in ransomware, we need to increase the frequency we are backing up your data so we can recover from a disaster very quickly.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say that you had a backup that ran at 11:00 pm the night before, and your account gets infected with ransomware sometime during the next business day. Ransomware gets in and quietly scrambles your data. Then about 4:30 in the afternoon, you get surprised with the notification that your data is being held for ransom. With just one single backup to fall back on, you’ve potentially lost a whole day’s worth of work.

However, suppose we have a backup strategy in place that takes multiple snapshots throughout the day, maybe two to three hours apart at most. In that case, we have numerous opportunities to restore the data, and we have a higher probability of not having to recreate data that is 24 hours old or more. In other words, we’ve put in a strategy that allows us to get back up and running quicker with the least amount of data loss.

Further, if there is a backup issue in the old school strategy, any failure would mean that our recovery ability was now possibly two days old. With multiple snapshots per day, we have numerous opportunities to resolve a backup issue if one exists.

So, to recap. Now that you’ve moved your data to the cloud, you still need a backup strategy that regularly takes copies of the data, preferably multiple times throughout the day, and sends them to a third-party location so that they can be restored quickly with minimal loss and downtime.

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