Should you trust Backup as a Service?

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Published 02-Jun-2017 15:58:40
Should you trust Backup as a Service?

Backup and recovery is a hot topic at the moment. And two recent widely-reported incidents have highlighted the importance of having a robust backup strategy.

Poor backups can trash reputations

The infamous outage at British Airways in May 2017 grounded thousands of flights over a period of days. Its chief executive Alex Cruz was quoted by Forbes as saying: “There was a backup system, which did not work at that particular point in time. It was restored after a few hours in terms of some hardware changes... we will make sure that it doesn't happen again.”

This episode happened just days after the global WannaCry ransomware attack. On the face of it that looks like nothing more than a security story – albeit a very serious one – but think again and you’ll see that simplest way of circumventing a ransomware attack is to restore from reliable backups.

In the UK, the most prominent organisation to be affected by the cyber-attack was the NHS – or, more accurately, dozens of individual NHS Trusts. According to The Register, Dan Taylor, head of security at NHS Digital, told thousands of NHS organisations everything about the cyber-attack – except explicitly not to pay the ransom. “If I am being honest there may be some organisations that have corrupted backups... or don't have backups. If you are an organisation with no way of backing up and are on your knees, you will need to make a risk-based decision of whether to pay or not.”

The Register drew the conclusion that because these Trusts may have had corrupted backups ‘or none at all’ they not only suffered loss of service but there was also an implication that they were left vulnerable to paying ransoms.

Using cloud for backup

One of the main advantages of using a cloud backup strategy is that those organisations with traditional on-premises data centres can theoretically do away with having to maintain a second site for disaster recovery. That removes a huge number of variables – like having available resource and expertise, as well as having the risk of the backup system becoming obsolete.

There is a downside, however. Depending on the amount of data, it could be too time-consuming to back up or restore a complete system using cloud. That’s why it’s not as simple as merely deciding to use a cloud backup approach. Your overall strategy needs to be governed by the time-honoured principles of recovery point objectives (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO). These are likely to vary between different classes of data, meaning you need to be clear on data classification too.

If these fundamentals give you the opportunity to use cloud for your backup strategy, then go for it. Cloud providers use state-of-the-art encryption, compression, de-duplication and security that is, generally speaking, far superior to that in most on-premises data centres.

Of course, if you are primarily running your business on a hosted or public cloud service – rather than managing your own data centre – then the option to use cloud backup makes its own case.

Backup as a Service (BaaS): The Vohkus approach

We’ve worked with partners like Microsoft and Commvault to create a set of robust BaaS solutions suitable for all types of enterprise. BaaS is ideal for customers who don’t have the resources to manage backups in house, and we support multiple platforms and operating models.

If you’re using one of our private or shared hosting services we back up to disk and replicate it to a secondary data centre. This means recovery can be very rapid from the local backup, while knowing there is a secure secondary site provides assurance in the event of a major incident.

If you’re using a public cloud service, such as Azure, we can make sure everything remains safely accessible from an alternative recovery zone.

And if your data centre is on site, we back up low volumes directly to the Vohkus data centre while backing up high volumes locally before replicating them to our centre or your chosen public cloud.

These approaches provide massive flexibility and are exceptionally cost-efficient, as you only pay for actual data secured, on a per-GB per month basis. As you would expect, our data centres meet Tier III standards and have full ISO27001 accreditation. Our BaaS is monitored and managed around the clock, with a 24x7 service desk.

Where recovery of data is required this is requested via the Vohkus service desk for individual files, folders or complete storage partitions. Whenever disaster strikes, we’re ready to spring into action to help get your data restored as quickly and smoothly as possible; we pride ourselves on quality of service and we create cast-iron service level agreements built around your requirements.

Backup is only as good as you want it to be

For both BA and the NHS, the PR effect of the outages described above was disastrous. Both episodes were financially costly, and had a direct effect on the organisations’ abilities to deliver customer service.

BaaS using cloud technologies is not inherently inferior to traditional backup methods, and can have many cost, speed, security and reliability advantages. But what really matters is that you have thought your needs and requirements through at the outset. No amount of clever technology or specialist resource can help you restore what you neglected to back up within appropriate criteria.

BaaS doesn’t take care of your overall backup strategy – that’s ultimately down to you – but with Vohkus BaaS you can be confident that inability to restore your data won’t be hampered by failed systems or poor response from your service provider.


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