Backing up your data used to mean making a copy to physical drive, such as a tape or disc, and this was a lot of effort to carry it out. It was tedious, time-consuming and often if time was on the short side, forgotten. You needed to make sure you had an off-site copy in case the building burned down, and there was also always the risk of media failure that would make your backup inaccessible when you really needed it. All in all, backing up was a bit of a nuisance.
In recent years cloud backup services have changed all of that. It's now possible to have your data stored remotely in a secure data centre. Once there, it's constantly updated and always accessible, so you can be sure of getting it back if you need it.
What Is the Cloud?
There's lots of talk about 'the cloud' but what does it really mean? Storing your data in the cloud means placing it in a data centre run by a service provider which you access via the internet. The cloud has become big business. In its simplest form it delivers storage services that allow you to keep your data online, access it from anywhere and synchronise it between computers.
For businesses the cloud can also mean accessing all of their key commercial software applications as a service, eliminating the need for servers on-site. In some cases there may be restrictions on where sensitive data can be stored - you may not be allowed to have it overseas, for example - so it's important to find out about your chosen provider and where their data centres are. You're still responsible for the data even though you're storing it elsewhere.
One of the most common uses for the cloud, though, is to make backups, and it's easy to see why.
Why Cloud Backup?
It's not difficult to see why the cloud is now a popular choice as a backup medium. It's always available, there's unlimited storage and once set up the task can be run in the background without human intervention. This removes the chore element and ensures it's easy to make backups. Crucially, it makes it easy to get files or folders back when you need them.
There are other advantages for the business too. Cloud backup is continuous: if changes are made to the file you can backdate and choose a version of the file that you need, depending on your retention. You also don't need to expand your backup capacity as your data grows. There's an almost infinite amount of space in the cloud, so you can just rent more as you need it. Of course, there are costs involved, but they're easy to understand and based on the amount of space you use.
Cloud backup uses a client program running on the machines being protected. These are designed to run in the background, using minimal processing resources and monitoring for changes to files, which then get backed up. These programs can be used to protect servers and desktop systems, so a cloud backup ensures that your data is safe across the whole enterprise.
Of course, a backup is no good if you're unable to recover your information when something goes wrong. In the majority of cases, you don't need to access data from a backup because there's been a huge disaster like a flood or a fire. Mostly, you need to do it because someone has accidentally deleted or overwritten a file or folder. Using cloud backup services makes this simple: there's no need to track down a disc, and you can even allow users a degree of self-service recovery.