As my job is to design tailored and strategic technology solutions for school environments, I naturally talk to schools every day. When it comes to Backups, I keep hearing ‘I just want it to work’, or ‘I don’t want to worry about it’, and more frequently now ‘I just want someone else to deal with it’. I hear your pain, that’s why Backup as a Service exists!
These days it seems like everyone is getting onto the Backup as a Service (or BaaS) bandwagon! With the ongoing costs managing, repairing, maintaining, replacing, supporting, troubleshooting, etc, etc of LTO tapes, tape library’s, offsite storage providers, disk arrays, backup software, licensing, agents, time, warranties, manpower, power, rack space and air-conditioning… it’s all just getting a bit much and the idea of a simple Backup as a Service solution is very compelling.
While BaaS may not be the right solution for everyone, things have certainly come a long way and are moving forward very quickly with the improvements in technology, bandwidth and cloud services. Historically, one of the biggest roadblocks to adopting a cloud backup solution was the connectivity between the school and the cloud provider. Over recent years schools have seen demand for online services go through the roof and as a result their internet connections have had to grow and scale to provide connectivity to the students in the classrooms. After school hours however, the links are frequently underutilised and have a great deal of bandwidth available.
As could be expected, many schools I speak with still have a lot of questions around how BaaS works, so I’ll endeavour to answer some here.
Backup Problems VS Cloud Backup Problems
I frequently get asked questions about cloud backup and what to do when something goes wrong or breaks. Most of the time the answer is that we do the same as if it was an on-premises backup.
I normally treat the cloud as another site: It exists somewhere, it is connected via a link of some type and is has certain capabilities and capacities. All of these things are very similar to what a remote site may look like.
How do I know if my backups are successful?
You should always have regular reports on failed backups (and successful ones as well), however the only real way to know is to test them!
On site or in the cloud, it is always good practice to test your backups and I strongly recommend that you do so on a regular basis to confirm and enforce good practices around your backups. Data is very valuable and in today’s environment the value of data is only growing.
Who should I use for Backup as a Service?
This is a simple one, you should use the company that best suits your needs and understands your business, provides you with value added services, can assure you that your data is secure, and can help you understand the how, where, when and why of their cloud solution.
What will happen if I hit my maximum storage allocation?
Generally this will cause problems if your Windows guest machine runs out of storage, however this is not a uniquely Cloud, IaaS or BaaS problem and shouldn’t be considered as one. If you are close to, or have run out of space on your cloud environment, you can easily fix this by logging onto the admin console or contact your cloud provider and request additional space to be added to your account. I’ve done this a number of times and it is generally provisioned either instantaneously or within a matter of minutes. This scalability is one of the key benefits of Cloud computing.
Where are my backups?
This is always a great question, and here at Computelec we do tours of the datacenters where our cloud is located to show off both the facilities and the local capabilities. Where your data is stored can be critically important to some customers due to a number of different reasons such as legal, data sovereignty and risk mitigation.
I find that a lot of cloud backup services do not address recoverability time lines and it is not fully considered what the impact of these times will be. When you need to recover a critical virtual machine from a cloud backup you need to restore it. If that machine is hundreds of Gig and you are restoring from the cloud this can take days or even weeks.
To address the above problem, I would recommend a provider that can recover your backed up virtual machine into their cloud IaaS environment allowing you very quick access to the data, or one who can facilitate backups being copied to removable storage that can be securely transported to your site in the event of needing a large amount of data quickly.
How frequently should I be backing up?
Frequency of backups can be a long and interesting discussion, and comes back to what the business Recovery Point Objectives (RPO‘s) and Recovery Time Objectives (RTO‘s) are. I’m a strong believer that ICT should not dictate these times, they should be part of a greater discussion and provide guidance and support to the decision making process.
What is Value Add?
Value add is the differentiation that a lot of cloud providers are striving for. Computelec for instance is purely focused on education, that is a value we have above and beyond the norm. Our understanding of and close alignment with education gives us insight and understanding of schools and means our solutions are suited for today’s educational providers.
I hope this article has shed some light on Backup as a Service, and hopefully answered a few of your frequently thought questions. Again, BaaS may not be something that will fit your school’s ICT plan, but for schools who find Backup to be a real pain point in their operations, I implore you to investigate further.
If you have any questions that I haven’t addressed above, please don’t hesitate to comment or email me, I’d love to continue the conversation.