Cloud Backup Services

4 Types of Cloud Backup Services
and How to Choose

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What are Cloud Backup Services?

Cloud backup strategies enable organizations to send copies of files, databases, or entire virtual machines to secondary off-site locations. The goal is to preserve these copies in case disaster or failure occurs. Cloud vendors offer the use of secondary data stores and servers for preserving these copies.

There are several types of cloud backup services: you can backup data directly in the public cloud, use a dedicated cloud backup provider, backup from one cloud to another, or setup on-premises backup to save data to the cloud.

In this article:

How Does a Cloud Backup Service Work?

A cloud backup service offers the use of shared software-defined storage, which is managed like a virtual resource. This type of virtual architecture enables providers to create a large pool of storage and parcel it out among many customers.

To use these managed services, there is no need for a dedicated physical or virtual server, off-site facilities for storing tape backup, or expensive tape drives with dedicated backup software.

Virtualized storage
Software-defined storage enables cloud providers to manage storage at the byte level, and employ multi-tenant architectures to ensure each account is completely separated from others. This helps isolate data belonging to different customers.

Customers of cloud backup services can store their frequently used data in several geographic locations. A vendor-owned data center located close to your office, for example, can provide fast access.

Backup targets and access methods
Cloud storage providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, offer Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) models that let you create servers in the cloud as backup targets.

Most cloud backup services provide dedicated solutions that look like network drives to software and users. While this option provides a high level of flexibility, it also comes with additional fees. You might also incur additional costs needed to protect the data stored in these services.

Cloud customers can also employ a local storage resource, such as a network-attached storage (NAS) device, to serve as a middleman for backups. This type of resource can store frequently used files and then serve them through the faster local network.

Management and storage tiers
Cloud backup vendors usually provide management tools according to customer requirements in terms of size and demand, security, and changing bandwidth conditions. In some scenarios, variable data retention requirements are also factored in. This enables cloud providers to automatically drop all files or folders that are older than the time specified by the administrator.

Storage tiers, like frequently-accessed storage or archival storage, are priced differently. Customers can define policies and automate how data moves between tiers, to conserve costs for data that is less frequently used or retained only for compliance purposes.

4 Types of Cloud Backup Solution

Here are several options for backing up your data to the cloud.

Backing up Directly to the Public Cloud

You can backup data by copying it to a public cloud storage service. You need to use your own backup software to create copies, and the cloud service provides a safe destination for the data. You need to ensure the backup software you use can interface with the cloud service (typically this means it supports the Amazon S3 API, which is becoming a de facto standard). You may also need to implement your own data protection measures.

Backing up to a Service Provider

Many cloud providers offer backup services that let you write data into a managed data center. If you opt to use this type of service, you’ll need to use backup software provided by the vendor, or generic backup software that can seamlessly integrate with the service provider.

Choosing a Cloud-to-Cloud (C2C) Backup

A C2C backup service helps you to backup copies of your data from one cloud environment to another. These services enable you to copy data already existing in your IaaS deployments or SaaS applications. The objective is to improve resilience and reduce the reliance on one cloud platform. Typically, the C2C service provides the software that performs these backup processes.

Backing Up from On-Premises Data to the Cloud

You can leverage hardware solutions that manage on-premises backups and also enable you to backup data to a cloud service. These appliances provide all-in-one backup facilities, including disk capacity, a backup server, and a dedicated backup software.

Some solutions let you integrate with one or multiple cloud-based backup services and cloud providers. These types of appliances ship backup copies to the backup provider while also locally retaining copies of the most recent backup. This enables you to recover directly from a local copy, which helps save time as well as transmission costs.

How to Choose a Cloud Backup Provider? 10 Points to Consider

Here are key aspects to consider when assessing cloud backup providers:

  1. Performance—may vary between providers, depending on backup options like the size of the network, the number of streams backed up in parallel, and the performance of cloud storage targets. Ensure that chosen service meets your recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO).
  2. Security—must include encryption and credentials management. Ideally, cloud backup services should also let customers use private keys, multiple cloud accounts, and object locking. There should be a logical "air gap" between backup data and the primary store to reduce risks such as ransomware from affecting your backups.
  3. Efficiency—data should be efficiently written to and from the chosen public cloud. Some cloud backup services employ WAN optimization as well as efficient block-level deduplication of data throughout the network. An important factor for backup efficiency is the service’s ability to compress and deduplicate data while still on-premises, before transferring it to the cloud.
  4. Reliability—evaluate how the provider guarantees reliability of backups. Ask the provider where backups are stored and whether they are collocated with other services that could pose a risk to your data.
  5. Content management—some vendors provide value-added services, such as archiving, search, e-discovery, and ransomware protection. Note that these features might come at additional cost.
  6. Data mobility—the backup service should enable you to easily move data between on-premises locations and public cloud environments. For example, before on-premises virtual machines can be booted in a public cloud, they need to be manipulated or seeded with the relevant drivers. This level of bare-metal support is highly important when implementing cloud-based DR.
  7. Feature depth—each vendor should be evaluated by the cloud backup features it offers. Check the maturity of each feature compared to traditional data protection products. Ideally, a cloud backup service should provide managed backup capabilities that let users automatically implement retention policies and schedule backups according to organizational policies.
  8. Cost—calculating data protection costs can be complex. Cloud vendors often charge fees per gigabyte of stored capacity, with additional charges for transferring data outside the public cloud, and different costs for different storage tiers.
  9. Availability—backup providers typically provide a service level agreement (SLA) for availability and time to access your data in case of failure. Ensure the SLA meets your organization’s recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO), and negotiate a better SLA if possible.
  10. Geographical coverage—identify where in the world the provider offers service, and where the physical data center is located. Data location can affect performance for local users, and can also impact compliance and data sovereignty.

In summary, try to select the backup service that offers reliability and features you need at the lowest possible cost, taking into account special considerations like data mobility and the geographical location of backup users.

Related content: Read our guide to cloud backup cost

Best Cloud Backup service for ONTAP - NetApp Cloud Backup

NetApp understands ONTAP better than anyone else, which is why the best backup solution for ONTAP systems is NetApp Cloud Backup. Designed by NetApp specifically for ONTAP, Cloud Backup automatically creates block-level incremental forever backups. These copies are stored in object format and preserve all ONTAP’s storage efficiencies. Your backups are 100X faster to create, easy to restore, and much more reliable than with any other solution.

Cloud Backup simplifies the entire backup process. It’s intuitive, quick to deploy, and managed from the same console as the rest of the NetApp cloud ecosystem. Whether you’re looking for a less expensive way to store your backups, a faster, more capable technology than NDMP, or an easy way to enable a 3-2-1 strategy, Cloud Backup offers the best backup solution for ONTAP.

Learn more about the NetApp Cloud Backup capabilities here, and find out more in our Cloud Backup Service Customers’ Case Studies.

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Semion Mazor, Product Marketing Manager

Product Marketing Manager