The past year has seen South African businesses migrate a substantial amount of their data to the cloud. Phillip de Bruyn, customer experience manager at Redstor, believes this will bring a renewed focus to the benefits of extending such a rollout into the development of a cloud backup strategy.
“A cloud backup strategy is less of a technical thing to implement and more of a mental one. The principles remain the same with the environment being the key difference. Traditionally, backups were more physical and required less virtual thinking. Now it is all about looking at the possibilities without having to be concerned about the infrastructure,” he says.
This requires a different mindset – one that looks beyond the way things have been working and more mindful of the requirements of the digital age. Having a cloud backup solution allows for better control over backups and faster response times when it comes to restoring data. More importantly, it also provides the business with an automated off-site step when it comes to redundancy.
“In many respects, using the cloud is becoming the ‘new’ traditional way of backing up. We are moving beyond relying on a physical environment to one that is more out of the box and requires less infrastructure. This change of focus opens the door to different opportunities when it comes to leveraging data in the cloud.”
However, despite this, the organisation should never lose sight of its business continuity requirements. These are the heartbeat of the business. Like cash flow, a business can only operate for so long without access to its data. A question every decision-maker needs to ask is if a disaster was to occur, is the company satisfied with their solution to ensure operations continue?
The cloud should not change this. If anything, embracing cloud backup should have the same level of risk mitigation than any other kind of initiative the company embarks on. Being on the cloud does not change this. There still needs to be systems in place to protect the original data as well as that of the backups.
Going the cloud route means the business must be mindful of the fact that data is kept at another location. So, while the first step would be to ensure the integrity and security of its data, the next step is very much about having a backup strategy in place to begin with.
“Accessibility of the backed-up data is another consideration. Going the cloud route allows businesses to function in the most elegant way possible without worrying about digging out old tape backups and trying to find files in archives. And this is when the magic really starts happening. Imagine if you can fail over from your physical on-site solution to a virtual cloud offering without even having to schedule down time. With the cloud, it is possible.”
Of course, de Bruyn believes that the business will still need a smooth and low maintenance solution that forms part of business continuity. The cloud backup must provide a convenient way of doing things. If a disaster should occur, the company needs to recover quickly.
“As with any backup strategy, testing becomes an integral component of this. If a company does not perform frequent checks to see whether their data is backed up (and recoverable), then all of this means very little. It is often in the testing stages where gaps in the backup strategy are discovered and can be corrected without significantly impacting on daily operations. However, if these errors are only discovered during an actual disaster, the consequences can be more devastating.”
But if cloud backups are seen to be fast approaching the status quo stage in South Africa, what is the next step for the technology?
“Bringing down disaster recovery cost for South African businesses is what is going to drive the real impact (and benefits) of doing cloud backups. This will result in an environment where businesses can continue operating uninterrupted. Locally, service providers and businesses are focused on all aspects of data. The focus is now on making it work more efficiently and better to fit requirements,” he says.
Adding complexity to this is the notion of instant data which is turning backup strategies on its head. Users want access to information in real-time and expect a similar experience from backups. It is no longer good enough to restore information in a couple of hours’ time – the connected business demands a response time of 15 minutes or less.
Cost is driving where much of the cloud backup focus will lie for the immediate future. But irrespective of the level at which it is incorporated, the cloud does provide the business with additional options. Throughout this, it is important to ensure that all legal and regulatory requirements are adhered to. As with the security and privacy arguments of the past, compliance has also become less of an issue with providers ticking all the relevant boxes.
Backups and disaster recovery are no longer areas only left for the tech-savvy. Modern solutions have made it more accessible to a wider employee base resulting in more efficient and productive businesses. This more intuitive approach has made disaster recovery a more effective process in organisations willing to embrace more modern strategies around their backups.
These are exciting times for cloud backups in South Africa. Given the cost benefits and efficiency improvements of having data available (and retrievable) at the click of a button, very few business can afford to still keep their focus on premise-based solutions for long..