Backing Up The Cloud

"The Cloud" has changed the way I do business, but I'm not always sure how I should back up the data I have "up there."  So I thought I'd write a blog post about my research to address this hole in our plan.

Truth in IT, Inc. is run almost entirely in the cloud.  We have a few MacBooks and one iMac & a little bit of storage where we do our video editing of our educational & editorial content, as well as our ridiculous music video parodies.  But that's it.  Everything else is "out there" somewhere.  We use all of the following:

  • Salesforce.com: CRM
  • Liquidweb.com: Managed web hosting
  • Virtualpbx.com: Phone System
  • Sherweb: Hosted Exchange Services
  • Quickbooks Online: Online bookkeeping & payroll
  • Q-Commission: Online commission management (talks to Salesforce & Quickbooks)
  • Act-On: Marketing automation system
  • iCloud: Syncs & stores data from mobile devices
  • File synchronization system with history*
  • A cloud backup service for our laptops*

We have data in salesforce that is nowhere else, and the same is true of our web servers, email servers, & laptops.  Did you know that using salesforce's backups to recover data that you deleted is not included in your contract, and that if you need them to recover your data (due to your error) it will cost at least $10,000?!?!?!

I want my own backups of my data in the cloud.  I don't think we're alone in this regard. I therefore took a look at what our options are.  The process was interesting.  The following is a copy of an actual chat session I had with one of our providers:

curtis preston says:    
one question i've wondered about is how people back up the email that is hosted with you
<support person> says:    
You mean when they lose it?
curtis preston says:    
Let me put it plainly/bluntly: Scenario is you do something wrong and the exchange server i'm hosted on dies and your backups are bad.  What can I do in advance to prepare for that?
<support person> says:    
Well, when using Outlook there is always a copy on the computer that is made that could be used
<support person> says:    
And to be extra-sure you can create backups from time to time
<support person> says:    
but we have a 7 days of backup on a server so the chance both the main server and the backup cannot be backup is pretty low
<support person> says:    
Everything is really well backup here you don't have to worry

And that pretty much sums up the attitude of most of the vendors, "We've got it. Dont worry. That's the whole reason you went to the cloud!" Here's my problem with that.  Maybe they do have it; maybe they don't.  If it turns out they don't know how do IT, there's a good chance they also don't know how to configure a backup system.  I'd like to have my own copy in someone else's system and I don't mind paying for the privilege.  It turned out that all but hosted Exchange had what I would consider a decent answer.  (As far as I can tell, it's not the fault of our provider; Multi-tenant Exchange has some things ripped out of it that create this problem.)

Backups for cloud apps

There are actually a lot of solutions out there to back up cloud applications.  Here's what I found:

  • Salesforce can be automatically and regularly backed up via backupify.com, asigra.com, or ownbackup.com.
  • Gmail & Google Apps can be backed up via backupify.com.
  • Quickbooks Online can be backed up OE Companion
  • Hosted servers or virtual servers can be backed up via any cloud backup service that supports the operating system that you're using. 
  • Laptops and desktops can also easily be backed up by most cloud backup services. 
  • If you're using a file synchronization service, those files will also be backed up via whatever you choose for your backup solution for your laptops & desktops.
  • Offline copes of Outlook data can be used to restore lost Exchange data, but it seems clunky, and you need to make the offline copy manually.

Does the lack of backups for the cloud serve as a barrier to the cloud for you or your company?  Or are you in the cloud and you have the same worries as me?  Is there a particular app that worries you?  Tell me about it in the comment section.

*I don't give the name of either of these for various reasons.


----- Signature and Disclaimer -----

Written by W. Curtis Preston (@wcpreston). For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I've specialized in backup & recovery since 1993. I've written the O'Reilly books on backup and have worked with a number of native and commercial tools. I am now Chief Technical Architect at Druva, the leading provider of cloud-based data protection and data management tools for endpoints, infrastructure, and cloud applications. These posts reflect my own opinion and are not necessarily the opinion of my employer.

3 thoughts on “Backing Up The Cloud

  1. Guest says:

    Nice point curtis.
    But I am now more worried to use third party backup solution as I have already given my data to cloud provider and now backup provider will have my data.
    Would like to know more about how secure these backup services are and how they backup my data ?

  2. Guest says:

    I like that you point out the attitude so many have… a “you/we are safe” statement that is boasted and proclaimed with little humility or even hint that it could be open to flaw or question.

    I am an engineer for a software suite that does backup both locally, and to the cloud (also known for replication and monitoring/management), all of this only for virtualization environments… no physical. (VMware and Hyper-V).

    What I ask every customer is (with example answer):
    QA.) How many VM’s do you backup?
    “350”
    QB.) How often do you back these up?
    “for the most part daily”

    A question I then ask is “that’s 350 systems being backed up everyday… give or take… What percentage of your backups do you boot and test to validate they will actually work and come online?”

    In two years in this company… working with clients daily (we have 60,000 customers) I have yet to meet any that test and validate ALL their backups (without our software that does this automated validation of course)… and extremely rarely do I find anyone who tests even 1 backup a day. Some test once a month or once a quarter… but the majority test rarely if ever… and only during the deployment of a backup solution. That… or they claim “we test on recover”… a statement that is so backwards… yet still makes sense to many managers/people.

    I am leaving my company name in my comment (tempted to, because I don’t know any software suites that do this validation, I will leave that up to “Mr Backup”. lol) because I am not trying to spin or market anything outside this issue/point… that there is an ignorance and blatant misplaced-pride in environment backups out there and it is not a good thing.

  3. ajdeange88 says:

    Hosted some data on the cloud is not a bad thing. The issues we have not seen yet is a regional situation and the networks are down / overloaded ( 911 ) and the service doesn’t perform as advertised in a critical moment of need. Caching local copies / HA configurations should be considered if we throw an app over the wall for backup or replication.

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