The Data You Didn't Know You Need to Keep Safe

SimpleBackups founder

Laurent Lemaire

Co-founder, SimpleBackups

January 18, 2022

Many companies rely on cloud storage as their default backup solution. They've reverted to this backup mechanism because of the promises made with cloud storage.

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Those promises were compelling. Cloud storage solutions (such as Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud) are easy to use. They offer an affordable option for increased storage. They make files available from anywhere, and don't require specialized staff.

Before these solutions, companies had to set up their own data farm. They needed complicated rules to allow employees and clients to access the data. It also required highly skilled personnel to set up, maintain, and monitor 24 hours a day.

This type of solution was too costly for most small businesses. They had to set up a homegrown solution while hoping and praying that nothing would go wrong.

Thankfully, those days are mostly behind us. Today all businesses have access to low-cost storage that is always available. In fact, more than half of the world's corporate data resides in cloud storage services. The move to a work-from-home model means this trend is here to stay.

With cloud storage, a third party handles the hard work of making data available at all times. These providers have invested a lot put in place an easy-to-use infrastructure that works all the time. Their solutions are reasonably secure and mostly hassle-free.

Based on those facts, companies assume that putting their data on cloud storage services is sufficient.

But is it really?

Cloud storage vs cloud storage backups

Simply said, cloud storage is not cloud storage backup, and it's essential to understand the difference between the two.

Cloud storage is when you take data that you could put on your computer and store it online instead. If you save a file on OneDrive or Google Drive, for example, it looks like it’s stored on your computer. In reality, it’s stored on a remote computer in the cloud.

Cloud storage is not some type of magic trick. In the end, all of your data is stored on a computer. The primary benefit is that you don't manage those computers, and you're not the one who needs to make sure they're always up and running.

If one of those remote computers fails, it's similar to when your own computer fails: whatever is on it disappears. And if you don't have a backup, you lose the data.

That said, cloud storage providers store the same copy of your data on multiple computers, so losing data to corruption is not a big problem. If one computer fails, the data exists elsewhere, and the cloud storage service will make that available to you.

Cloud storage backup is making a copy of your data—whether this data resides on cloud storage or not—on a cloud service. Unlike cloud storage, cloud storage backups don't give you immediate access to your files. If you want to access a file that has been backed up, you need to request that file from the backup system's restore tool. This tool will allow you to select the version of a file—or multiple files—to "bring it back to life" so you can use it. This is crucial when someone has accidentally deleted or corrupted the file.

The restore tool must make it easy to bring back files that come from a specific cloud storage, without forcing you to jump through hoops. SimpleBackup’s integration with the most popular cloud storage services gives you that ease of use.

We typically talk about the 3-2-1 model for storing backups. You need three copies of your backup: one on your device, one on a secondary device (this could be a thumb drive or cloud storage), and one that is off site. If the only copy of your data resides on cloud storage, then you are missing at least two more versions.

Data backups should be part of the daily activities conducted by any business. They should run automatically at regular intervals. SimpleBackups makes copies of your important data automatically. After setup, it requires no specific action on your part. That way, you can never forget.

Furthermore, a good system also encrypts your backups. If there is a breach—and if 2021 is any indication, it's not "if" you suffer a breach but "when" you suffer a breach—bad actors won't be able to read your data.

This is even more critical if you deal with sensitive data, such as Social Security numbers, emails, passwords, or home addresses.

For most companies, it is often more affordable to use a commercial cloud storage system than it is to set up their own infrastructure. While it's not free, the ongoing costs usually pale in comparison to the salaries that would need to be paid otherwise.

However, consideration should not stop at cost only.

Cloud storage services aren't foolproof

Even though these systems are built for resilience, they aren't perfect.

Most cloud storage systems are set up to prevent failures. There is a redundancy of services and servers throughout a provider's infrastructure. This means that if one computer server or disk fails, another will be available to take over.

Or if there is too much load on one part of the system, it can automatically offload some of the services to another system. This ensures almost 100% availability.

However, the past has shown that this is not a guarantee. Facebook and Amazon had major outages that lasted several hours in 2021. Overall, that may not seem like much, but if your business depends on the availability of that data, it can have serious consequences.

If an outage lasts a few minutes, most of the time you won’t realize it. When it lasts for hours, and you need to access some of the files, your only option may be to access a backup that is on a separate infrastructure.

But even if cloud storage providers guarantee the availability of your data, you are never fully protected from user error. If someone accidentally deletes data on the cloud storage, you will lose that data unless you have a backup.

2021 has also seen a gigantic arise in cyberattacks such as phishing, ransomware, supply chain attacks, and more. If you store your data in a single cloud storage environment, and bad actors manage to take over that environment, you lose all access to that data.

Having backups of your cloud data in a separate environment reduces this risk. Instead of focusing on a single environment, attackers must also infiltrate and attack multiple points of entry. Such an attack becomes more complicated when your backups are stored in a completely different environment.

SimpleBackups provides you with a simple, secure, and affordable solution that allows you to protect your data in case of a disaster. It allows you to create another copy of your cloud storage data in a different environment. If there is a problem with your regular data storage provider, your backup copy won't be affected.

You can even migrate your data to another cloud storage. It gives you the freedom to change providers if their terms and conditions change.

What to back up

What should you be backing up even if it's on cloud storage? Here are some examples.

  • Application data: Application data is anything that an application needs to work properly. This includes information such as database files and configuration files, or other artifacts. If you need to reinstall and reinitialize the software, you can take the backup copy to avoid starting from scratch.

  • User files and assets: this includes things like pictures, spreadsheets, word processor documents, presentations, and so on. Any file that a user created and stored on cloud services (for example, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive) should be backed up elsewhere. If you decide to change service providers or if the files are accidentally deleted or corrupted, having a backup can make a big difference.

  • If you are a creator, you can back your original art, such as:

    • photographs (photos with your phone are also stored on cloud services such as iCloud and Google Photos)
    • drawings
    • manuscripts
    • audio recordings
    • video recordings
    • marketing assets such as logos
    • and more

    Regular backups of these files will protect you against the dreaded "that was the only copy" catastrophe. Having said that, there are temporary storage and other clutter you can remove before backing them up to save available backup capacity

While we've been covering the backup process, just as important is the restore process. If you can't restore your backups because they are corrupt, they are useless. Similarly, if you can only restore a single file after wading through hours of backups to locate the right file, your backup loses its usefulness. SimpleBackups provides easy-to-use commands to find and restore any file in minutes. And our backup approach ensures that your backups will never be corrupt.

Make your cloud storage data redundant and secure

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Next steps

Take time to evaluate the state of your cloud storage data. Are you relying entirely on online storage as your backup process? If that's the case, or if you are unsure, contact us or try SimpleBackups free for 7 days.

If disaster strikes—and we hope it never happens to you—you'll be happy to have taken the steps to protect your most important data.

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