Why isn’t everyone using cloud backup?

For years the standard procedure for businesses that bothered to backup their data was to use a tape system. In the last decade, a number of factors, such as improving internet speeds, ever growing data sizes and improved security have inspired large numbers of business to implement a cloud backup solution.

These improvements are on top of the inherent drawbacks to a tape, disk or a locally based backup method. All three methods requires a lot of management and there are plenty of points where problems can (and do) occur. Here are just a few;

  • Tapes or disks can be corrupted
  • Someone has to physically set up the storage vehicle
  • Tapes and disks have to be ordered carefully in chronological order
  • Providers have  been known to lose storage tapes from time to time, in sometimes high profile cases
  • 77% of companies that do test their tape backups experience failures
Local backup is the epitome of putting all your eggs in one basket. If your office floods because of a burst pipe, or a fire blazes through your building because of a faulty fuse, everything will be lost. Even failure of the hardware at the backup point can leave you devoid of data. 60% of companies that lose their data will shut down within 6 months of the disaster.

Despite the drawbacks to tape, disk and local backup options, many businesses still don’t currently or even plan to use online or cloud backup solutions. Many feel that they aren’t secure enough; that it would be too easy for someone to hack in and steal their data. This is entirely dependent on the provider, and a good provider should use the highest of encryption standards, such as FIPS 140-2. Encryption of data is something that comes as standard with most cloud backup providers. Even the biggest tape provider, Iron Mountain, only began to encrypt data in 2005, after it had lost track of several customers’ data, which just happened to be unencrypted. Too little, too late, for those customers.

For any IT provider, being able to quickly restore a customers’ working environment in the event of a disaster, should be one of their primary concerns. This simply isn’t possible with an off-site tape solution, which requires couriering of the tapes back to the customer’s site (or sites). This is a costly exercise, both in time and money, and can significantly damage a SMBs long term functioning.

It begs the question, why a company would chose an unreliable, cumbersome and potentially insecure method of backup over a modern, highly secure and dependable one.

9 thoughts on “Why isn’t everyone using cloud backup?”

  1. While cloud backup has been around for years for most of our customer’s in the SMB market there are two basic problems (one of which is almost solved).
    1. Backup bandwidth, usually it’s a problem of lack of upstream speed and/or pricing of bandwidth. Many of our customer’s are limited to 600Kbps upstream which is way too slow for doing nightly backups. Many of the ISPs that offer faster upstream connections limit the monthly bandwidth that comes with the connection to significantly less than what is required for cloud backup. This is starting to change though.

    2. Who has jurisdiction over the backups. For those of you in the US you know the DHS can get access to your backups, for those of us not in the US knowing that our backups might fall under the perview of the DHS causes us concern. Recently we discovered that Canadian storage companies that have expanded into the US now may come under the influence of the DHS. All this makes us nervous.

    Cloud storage seems like a great idea but the devil is in the details.

  2. The author sounds like a salesman for a cloud backup company. I find it interesting that almost no writers ever seem to acknowledge the 800 lb gorilla regarding cloud or internet based backup: loss of possession and control of your data. As evidenced by Amazon’s recent cloud issues, cloud based b/u has it’s risks and limitations also. I would go so far as predicting the current ferver over cloud based data management will eventually relegate to another arrow in the data management quiver, but not the standard or exclusive tool the cloud vendors want us to buy into believing. It’s almost a fad status now and I believe that will fade dramatically after a few more high profile problems. For me, I don’t back up to the cloud because I really don’t need to. With DR solutions that exist today, and low-cost disc based solutions, why should I hope that a cloud vendor won’t have an issue, or that the data lines between us will be usable 100% of the time? That’s called a “hope and a prayer” solution. Yes, I know that there have been strides made in reliability but failures still do occur. To manage my data, I want control and access. If I can’t get access to my tools and they reside within reach, I can attend to the issue rather than sitting and waiting for the vendor to do so. Cloud b/u has it’s benefits for sure, but it is far from being the Holy Grail that you and so many profess it to be. Marketing hype is created to make sales. Perhaps users are more savvy to this than the vendors or trade rag writers imagined.

  3. Given the many failures of cloud services (even large providers like Amazon) a cloud based backup is in no way more dependable than properly maintained local backups. And with that I mean having two sets of backups of which one is stored off site. The argument that a fire or flood destroys local backups applies only to those companies who don’t do it right.
    What is especially of concern with cloud based backups is that the companies have no control over where the data is stored (could be China, Russia, Iran, or who knows where) and who has access to it (both, reading or deleting). I also find it utterly naive to think that some other company offering cloud services does a fantastic job by default. They are exposed to the same flaws as the companies that lost the tapes.
    Cloud based backup is surely an option, but it replaces only a few problems with much more new ones while still leaving a lot of problems unsolved. On top of that, cloud based backups require large pipes to the outside and secured connections both ways. Those connections are metered and that adds a substantial expense to cloud based backups. Also, the time it takes to restore is likely much longer than with a local solution and at the same time the connection to the outside is busy with restoring rather than be available for keeping a business in distress afloat.
    Cloud based backup is just another option and may make sense to be part of a comprehensive backup strategy. It probably is a better solution for small field offices where running local backups properly would be more expensive. In the end cloud based backup remains a niche product and anyone who throws out their local backup solutions and goes entirely cloud based is just dumb and naive, if not reckless.

  4. @Peter Mac

    As you say, cloud backup has been around for many years, indeed our software provider, Asigra, was founded in 1986. Back when the term cloud only referred to the fluffy things in the sky.

    As you have pointed out that users upload bandwidth is an issue for most customers with software that is not WAN optimised, i.e. doesn’t take advantage of incremental forever backups, de-duplication and compression algorithms.

    I agree that this mis-conception is changing, however this is due to the increase in the availability of high speed internet due the increased roll out of from main stream providers like BT and Virgin Media.

    With regards to the jurisdiction over the backups at the DHS in the US, this will completely depend on the location of your data, in regards to Backup Technology, our data resides in the location of our customers choosing (we have locations around the globe). However all of the data protected by ourselves is fully encrypted and decrypted at source therefore even in the DHS did intercept the data, it would be in an AES-256bit encrypted format, which is certified to the FIPS-140-2 standard. Therefore it would be more prudent for DHS to simply request the data directly from the customer themselves.

    However, please remember that this would only be a concern to our customers that choose to store their data within our US data centers.

    I would certainly agree that cloud backup / storage does pose threats when used with companies that do not disclose their data location, or indeed don’t know themselves where the data is being stored. However any company who is serious about the security of their customers data, it should be argued that the investment into their own hardware and infrastructure has to be made.


  5. @Rick

    I can confirm that Sam is indeed a salesman for a ‘Cloud’ backup company. However I feel you are generalising all Cloud backup software under one hat, namely the low grade consumer level backup software that are available at low cost or even free within the market space.

    At BTL, we offer an Enterprise level Online Backup solution giving our end customers the options of Public, Private and Hybrid cloud solutions. Indeed the ‘public’ cloud solutions sit within our own Data Centre suites, and our own disks, which makes your comment about Amazon’s recent cloud issues redundant. As our disk and indeed network is often far superior to our clients production systems.

    I agree that the IT industry has become gripped by the ‘cloud’ phenomenon, not just in terms of storage and backup. This, however, is not a new concept and indeed Asigra has been implement these backup solutions since 1986.

    With respect to your argument about losing control of your data, I would say that all of our customers are fully aware of exactly where their data is and are welcomed to come and see and touch the NetApp disk that their encrypted data resides on. they also have are able to restore this data at any time of the day, with out our need to interveen.

    You say that Marketing hype is created make sales, but I would invite you to take a look at the small selection of customers on our website who use our services, and ask yourself if all of these companies have been drawn into the hype, or simply been attracted to a tested and money saving solution?


  6. @Jim

    I agree with your point about properly maintained onsite backup solutions. However we find that with most of customers having multiple of TB of data, it becomes a drain on their internal resource to ensure that local backups have been taken correctly. A fully managed service removes those requirements, allowing staff to allocate their time on other areas.

    Yes, with some cloud backup providers there is no control over where your data resides, however this is not the case for all companies. Indeed most our UK customers data resides in Manchester and London. Our ISO standards and encryption levels ensure that only authorised members of our staff are able to access data, and even then this is only the encrypted data. I don’t think your comparison to companies loosing is relevant, as software is often automated with no need for human intervention which is often where mistakes can occur.

    The Backup Technology solution provides users with a local copy of their data as well as two offsite locations. The onsite copy is provided for LAN speed restores, that often take seconds for single file restores.

    Your point about being dumb, naive and reckless to throw out local backup solutions can be countered by simply looking our client list which consists of household names, many of which we are unable to publish. All of these clients have used our solution to completely replace both tape and onsite backup solutions. Such companies now have to pass far too many compliance and ISO tests to call any of their IT system (including backup) dumb, naive or indeed reckless.


  7. I guess the article was nothing more than advertisement then lacking credibility. And anyone can claim to have thousands of happy customers when not publishing a list.
    And keeping an onsite backup for speedy recovery isn’t entirely a cloud solution. The cloud copy is really only a backup of the backup, which I agree can live in the cloud, but it still comes with all the baggage that cloud solutions bring. Even global power houses like Amazon are unable to keep cloud services running reliably. Every other day another story breaks about a major failure of a well-known cloud provider. The cloud industry as a whole has a massive image problem that gets fed on a continuing basis. And you wonder why so many do not trust cloud services, especially for backup? That’s why! The cloud is just not reliable enough.

  8. Hi Jim,

    This Article is not an advertisement, as write daily blogs about the industry, cloud adoption and also data losses from traditional backup methods and also cloud providers.

    All of the articles are written by our staff based on their experience within the industry and their discussions with new and existing customers.

    We are happy to publish a selection of some of our best known household name customers in our Case Studies section, however as Stewart said their are many who we are not allowed to publicise and displaying a list of thousands would not add value.

    The reason we display these customers on our site is to show new customers the type and scale of organisations that have been using our services for the 7 years that we have been in business. The fact that we have retained these customers for this length of time also demonstrates that we deliver consistent service levels and have never suffered data losses.

    I think the point you are missing about the industry is that you are comparing very cheap cloud storage solutions such as Amazon with enterprise grade fully managed cloud backup services like the ones we provide.

    The reason there have been outages or data losses with the consumer grade providers is that the cost per GB or Tera Byte is so low that it is not possible to provide the levels of service or infrastructure that businesses require.

    Also many of the consumer based providers have been venture capital funded with a business model based around having to gain a customer base of hundreds of thousands or even millions of users to even break even.

    Our solution backs up locally and offsite at the same time so it is a true cloud backup solution. Because we only deal with Business and Enterprise customers we use the best quality NetApp storage and replicate all data in encrypted format to geographically separate data centres to ensure we can always recover our customers data.

    It is wrong to presume that large companies like Amazon and Google have better storage infrastructure than smaller dedicated backup and recovery providers such as ourselves.

    We encourage interaction on our blog but I would ask you to look at the differences in a cloud storage provider like Amazon who just give you some space to save your data to and a fully managed backup service where customers have a dedicated account manager, detailed daily reporting and ISO standards which validate the service, security and support levels.

    A good reference point for this is BackupReview.info

    Backup Review independently publish the top 25 providers in the Consumer, SMB, Enterprise and Enablers each month. You will notice that Backup Technology have been the Number One Enterprise provider for over 2 years.

    You will also see that the list is dominated by smaller specialist providers, who value their customers individual needs.

    I hope this gives you a better perspective on the different types of cloud services that are available.


  9. I think, readers are comparing consumer products with enterprise grade solutions – completely different solutions that cater to different markets using totally different technologies.

    For example: a consumer online backup company might offer you $5 per month to backup unlimited data. In this case, you don’t have the option to ask for a service level agreement (SLA) or sometimes even there is no email or phone support before you sign up. Such consumer based services hope to make money from mass adoption, but it has been challenging for them as consumers usually go for free services.

    If you sign up with an enterprise cloud backup solution, however, the signup and agreement is not done online with just a user name, password and a credit card. Signing up for an enterprise cloud backup solution requires more than that. It is a fairly exhaustive exercise to make sure that all areas are covered. As a new prospective client, you can request a conference call, a one to one meeting, presentations, and more.

    Potential clients of enterprise grade cloud backup solutions can also request the backup service provider for a detailed SLA stating:
    – location of your backed up data
    – geographically dispersed data centres – how many
    – recovery point objective (RPO)
    – recovery time objective (RTO)
    – customer service levels – Is it 7x24x365?
    – price per GB
    – bandwidth throttling
    – cloud migration – if you decide to switch your provider, is there a built-in tool to migrate your data to a new provider (without first restoring to your network)
    – private, public or/and hybrid clouds?
    – and many more … too many to list here

    In addition, some companies provide a full disaster recovery and business continuity services in addition to backups. So, as a potential client, it is your responsibility to make sure that you are covered for all possible services.

    I believe that cloud backups are the best way to backup your enterprise data if it is done the right way.

    Happy backups!

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