How do you backup the cloud?

As more and more applications change from sitting on servers within your building, to being delivered by the cloud, your organisation places an ever increasing reliance on your software providers. The relationship is changing from the provider just supplying software and support to the provider, becoming a critical component of your business holding your intellectual property, customer data, backups and disaster recovery on servers they control.

Most cloud-based software providers do a good job of managing this change, but there is a limit to how much data the providers can practically and cost effectively store for each of their customers. The question is, does this limit imposed by the software provider match what your organisation requires?

There is an important distinction between backup and disaster recovery, disaster recovery is the ability to bring an application back online after a major incident. For the most part, this is one of cloud software’s major advantages.

Cloud software providers generally have their data setup to replicate to multiple locations around the country and/or world continuously and they are able to operate from any of those locations if there is a major incident. It is always worth confirming this with your software provider and as part of a due diligence process before moving to new cloud software. Generally, most providers will be happy to share their disaster recovery documentation with customers.

Backups are copies of data at a point in time generally kept longer term, often in traditional backups this would have meant daily, weekly, monthly and yearly backups, however due to the cost and scale of cloud systems, for software providers to keep that many backups for all customers would be extremely expensive.

Looking at a practical example, Microsoft in their Office 365 suite have data centres all over the world and measure their downtime annually in minutes, so are very well setup for disaster recovery but will only maintain deleted emails (emails which have been deleted from the deleted items folder) for 30 days. Past that point the emails are gone forever. If your organisation needed to retrieve an email that an ex-employee removed or refer to a completed job which had been accidentally (or deliberately) deleted, there is no way to restore those emails from Microsoft.

There are a number of third-party providers on the market who seek to address this longer term backup issue, either by bringing the data back to servers on premise, or to an alternate cloud provider. Before signing up, it is key is understand your organisations requirements around backups and where they do not align with the providers. There might not be any need to keep months and months’ worth of backups for data which does not change, but it might be critical to maintain financial records which are updated every month or transactional data which may need to be audited in the future. As mentioned, items like emails can also be critical to an organisation due to their role in the business.

If you would like assistance on understanding what your organisation needs to backup, for how long, as well as, what your cloud software providers currently have in place and what third party options exist for your cloud provider, contact the team at PKF today.

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