To support business continuity at the appropriate level has become crucial nowadays, even a few hours of downtime may result in heavy business impact and financial loss. The cloud-managed backup procedure plays a vital role as it allows any business to quickly restore the lost files as if nothing had happened.
If a company relies on a managed service provider to carry out the task, then it becomes MSP’s headache to select the right backup solution. Why a headache? Because the backup technologies evolve over time, and it gets more and more difficult to select the best option.
When an MSP configures the managed backup software, one of the most important questions is where to store the backups, in the cloud or on the tape? Each of these options has both cons and pros, and we are going to review all of them in this article.
Historically, tape has been used by companies as the backup storage for generations, ever since IBM release in 1953. It has passed all the tests and it's quite a reliable solution. However, new technologies get into our lives and now cloud offers better options in terms of security and availability.
Which one is going to win? Let's take a look.
- Reliability. As it's already been mentioned above, tape has been used as the backup storage for decades and it has proved to be quite reliable.
- Portability, to some extent. If your company doesn't have too much data and there’re only a few tapes to move to another office, you can easily accomplish the task.
- Little infrastructure changes are needed. As the tape has been used for so long, it has evolved together with businesses during all this time. So if you decide to use the tape-based backup you will need to make just a few infrastructure changes to implement it.
- Low costs. This advantage follows closely the previous one. As you don't need to change anything within your infrastructure, you don't need to spend much money. Also, the tapes themselves are not expensive.
- Expensive multi-site storage. If anything happens to the location where you store your tapes, you may want to enhance the security by storing one more copy in another location. As we've already mentioned above, the tapes themselves are not that costly, but it may be very expensive for you to securely transport the tapes from one data center to the other.
- Power and cooling requirements. If you want your tapes to be stored securely for decades, you will also need to set up proper controls for humidity, sunlight, contaminants, and temperature within these data centers.
- Can be destroyed by natural disasters. Unless your tapes are stored in a metal bunker under the ground, hurricanes, storms, and floods may seriously corrupt them or even totally destroy.
- Old technology, data may be corrupted. A tape is a very old technology and it doesn't always meet the modern security requirements. Data may be easily corrupted when stored in this way.
- Technology refresh costs. A tape itself is not so expensive, that's true. But apart from tapes, you will also need to set up appropriate infrastructure including tape drives, archive software, and tape libraries. Moreover, you may also need to maintain all this infrastructure beyond the time of supplier support, which may lead to an increase in costs.
- Dependency on certain applications. A tape may be integrated with just a few applications for such tasks as data archiving or direct writing. Usually, such applications are not scalable and cause dependency for data access.
Cloud-managed backup, also known as the online backup for MSP, is a relatively new technology in comparison with tape and it has both pros and cons as well.
- No need to set up an infrastructure for tapes, low costs for cloud storage. If a service provider offers online backup for his client, he usually outsources the storage task to the third party and he doesn't need to set up everything himself.
- No need to provide security and transportation of tapes. This leads to reducing costs as well.
- Easier to find the necessary data. Unless you thoroughly categorize data that is stored on tapes, it will take you much more time and efforts to find the necessary data when you need to retrieve it in comparison with a cloud. Online tools for searching in the cloud are intuitive and easy-to-use.
- Meets your clients’ compliance requirements. Online backup allows MSP to meet clients’ needs in terms of encryption, security control and data location. That is essential for users storing medical data (you should be HIPAA compliant), financial and other types of sensible information under various governmental regulations.
- Multi-site backup is not a problem. If a service provider uses online backup he can store the clients’ data in as many locations as needed, it is not a problem anymore.
- Appropriate bandwidth is needed. If your customer’s internet circuit is insufficient, it may take many days to initially upload all the terabytes of data that you have to the cloud. Moreover, if you need to regularly back up whole images of servers, the low bandwidth may become the real problem.
- Efforts for cloud implementation. Setting up the cloud infrastructure may be way more difficult than setting up tapes. The new technology requires additional considerations and may require staff to be trained.
- No control of the storage. This can be a security breach as you entrust your clients’ data to the third-party storage provider. This is why you should consider the security options most thoroughly when selecting the cloud storage.
How to Make a Decision
Pay attention to the following aspects of your client’s business:
- How much data there is for backup
- Internet circuit, bandwidth, and other hardware requirements
- Budgeting (how much is allocated for data storage off-site
- How many locations need to be backed up, whether anything will need to be transported.
- The retention policy (how long the client needs to store the data). Keep in mind also the recovery time objective and recovery point objective. As an MSP, you should be able to meet them in case of disaster recovery or even the day-to-day recovery operation.
Whichever option you select keep in mind that the new cloud technology will most likely stand in place of old ways of backing up and storing data. However, tape still has some benefits, so the best practice is to make a hybrid backup so as to combine the cons of both approaches.