Cloud applications have become more reliable, but outages still occur. Do you have a plan for when your favorite cloud service goes down?
Although enterprise confidence in the cloud is increasing, that doesn’t mean that cloud services are 100% secure. While you might not have heard about them, stories of “cloud outages” are a common topic in the technology media.
Here’s an example, did you know that just last month Google experienced a major cloud service outage that crippled applications including YouTube, SnapChat, and Shopify? A simple misconfiguration in the firewall systems at a data center brought those services down, damaging the business of hundreds of small online retailers.
Cloud problems can even strike IT services firms, like Complete Network. Just a few weeks ago, our customer relations management (CRM) provider experienced a sudden outage, threatening to hobble our sales staff. Fortunately, we were prepared with several forms of back-up data that enabled us to restore operations soon after the outage with little loss.
It’s not just data center outages that you must protect against, though there was a 25% increase in them between 2017 and 2018. Cloud technology develops quickly. What if your favorite cloud vendor simply goes out of business? Even a merger or acquisition can thrust your cloud data into limbo, as systems are upgraded, combined, broken down, or relocated.
Our point here is that you should handle cloud data with the same caution you would handle on-premise data, and that includes preparing back-ups and redundancies to avoid unplanned downtime and outages.
Best Practices for Protecting Cloud Data
Start by inspecting the service level agreements (SLAs) for each of your cloud services. Some vendors will provide automatic back-ups of cloud data, but many others don’t. Don’t be surprised if you find that compensation for data loss is just a few months of refunded service fees, that’s standard practice.
Next, it’s time to be proactive. An important guideline that you can use is the 3-2-1 rule, which originates from famous technology journalist Jack Schofield’s Three Laws of Computing. The law says that you should use three backups stored on two different kinds of media, with at least one copy stored off site, with “off-site” in the context of cloud computing meaning on-premise at your office.
As for specifics, there are two main cloud backup strategies you can employ to ensure that cloud data is ready for business no matter what happens.
Cloud to On-Premise Backups
Manually moving files from cloud systems to on-premise ones is the most straightforward method of ensuring cloud data will be available in the event of an outage. At the same time, it’s also the most time consuming, least likely to scale as your organization’s commitment to cloud continues to grow, and makes authenticating the integrity of data very difficult.
While this method might not be ideal for production data in a large organizations — and not at all practical for databases that are updated frequently — it can be an easy, low-cost method of ensuring that important information is protected, and is often sufficient for archiving data that won’t be used much in the future.
Cloud to Cloud Backups
Backing up cloud data to a second cloud is another way of ensuring its availability in the face of disaster. There are many commercial services that will help you automatically move data from one cloud application to a secondary site, including Spanning, Backupify (now part of Datto), CloudAlly, and others.
Although a second cloud service does fulfill the “second medium” requirements in the 3-2-1 rule, a backup strategy that uses multiple clouds isn’t right for every scenario either. One downside of cloud to cloud backup is the added complexity that it injects into the back-up and recovery processes, complexity that gets compounded when moving data between storage environments that have different technical characteristics or configurations.
Another factor to consider is regulatory compliance. Having two cloud services in different jurisdictions often means contending with unique compliance requirements in both places, further complicating an already complex and technical process.
Tips for Backing-Up Individual Cloud Applications
The simplest method for backing up emails to either manually forward them to a second account, or else create an automation for doing so. For more robust protection, use the IMAP protocol in your email client to create regular backups of your emails and contacts.
Start by deciding which data fields need backing-up and removing duplicate or unneeded information. Analyze the exported information, and make sure it meets your business continuity requirements. Leading CRM software suites like SalesForce have APIs or scripts to help you with the process, while smaller CRM’s may require more hands-on effort.
The data within ERP systems is both mission critical and highly changeable. That means you should create a rolling back-up schedule to archive information every day or week. We also recommend testing those back-ups once every 30 days to ensure that all the right information is fully restorable.
Cloud Monitoring Tools
Another aspect of ensuring the availability of cloud data is knowing when your cloud application goes down. Don’t just rely on your cloud provider to notify you of outages, the notifications often come too late to provide any time to react. Cloud monitoring tools combine data from both the provider and their own services to keep you abreast of any status changes, giving you the most amount of time possible to switch to your back-up data.
Business Continuity for the Cloud and Beyond
Backing up the data in your cloud applications can help your business achieve a higher level of confidence and stability. But, to truly maximize the impact of your back-ups, you should make them part of an overall disaster recovery and business continuity plan that protects both on-premise and off-premise data.
The Complete Network team is always here to help. If you’d like to ask us more about increasing the reliability of cloud applications, or about improving other aspects of the business continuity planning process, feel free to contact us any time! You can reach us by email at [email protected], or by phone at 877.877.1840.
We look forward to speaking with you!