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Some things aren’t solved by just cutting a check

Every week, during the Spring and Summer, my lawn gets mowed. Specifically, it happens every Thursday morning, while I am working. Some guys come by my home and pick up the check from my wife, and then my lawn gets magically gets mowed. It’s not that I particularly mind mowing the lawn or whether it is hard to do, but just that I have constraints on my time and it is easier to simply cut a check. In organizations that my kids are in, we have some parents that would prefer to not do car washes or fund raising programs, but they are happy to cut a check to solve the problem. We all have things that while in a perfect world we might do, we are happy to simply cut a check and focus on other things.

Some folks look at Cloud-based services the same way. For IT tasks that they don’t want to deal with, perhaps due to complexity, competing for resources, or just operational costs, they would prefer some IT tasks to just ‘go away’ and to do so, they are willing to ‘cut a check’. Backup can be one of those mundane tasks, and cloud-based backup sounds ideal (and sometimes it is).

Here is the difference

When I pay for my lawn to be cut, the outcome that I want is immediate – a better looking lawn. And other than an accidental cut in an inflatable pool or hose, the risks are minimal. With a small amount of prudence and some proactive selection criteria for picking the service provider, my desired outcome is assured for about $30 per week. To me, I am buying back 3 hours with my kids at $10/hour – which is an easy choice for me.

But remember, you aren’t trying to buy the outcome of “backup” – you are trying to buy the outcome of “restore”. As I and others preach, ‘backup is just the tax you pay, so that you can restore’. In a cloud-based solution, it’s great that you can ‘cut the check’ to make your nightly operations easier. By cutting the check, you may avoid backup software licensing costs, tape media costs, power/cooling for disk-based backup servers, and operational costs for the folks managing backup functions. But if you can’t reliably restore, you haven’t bought anything. And no matter how much you ‘saved’, it will likely pale in comparison to the losses of unrecoverable data. The trickle of data to the cloud for backups seems nice, but have you thought through how the restore will work. Will it be a trickle, or will the data show up in a restore appliance at your doorstep the next day? If my lawn guy cuts a watering hose, I or he can pay a few bucks and all is forgiven. If I can’t get back my data, there are no easy fixes.

And just like picking a lawn guy who is cost-effective, but also professional and careful, one should look for a cloud-backup provider that protects a wide variety of the platforms where my data lives, using software that doesn’t tax my users by complexity or (worse) actually impacting performance or stability of my devices, from server agents that walk the file system too often to smart device agents that routinely crash my device. My neighbors don’t care how my lawn gets mowed, but they care if a trailer is parked in front of their house for too long, or if their water hose gets cut by my (guy’s) mower. Your users hold you accountable for backups and restores and their experience for both, regardless of whether you run it or manage it through a cloud-service.

First backup, now DR?

And now, we are starting to see “Cloud-based Disaster Recovery” providers. Again, it is a cool idea and I am very eager to continue watching as the offerings develop, but the same caution applies. Focus not on offloading your DR to someone else. First, because real BC/DR is about people and process, not just remote copies of your data — and secondly, because no one is as vested in your company’s recovery as you are. Most folks who manage their own DR planning don’t test their own recovery capability thoroughly or frequently enough, I cannot imagine someone who outsources it being more diligent (maybe).

So, is cloud-based backup or DR bad? NO, absolutely not. I am a long-time advocate of D2D. And more often, D2D2D = from production disk … to secondary disks at the same location … to offsite disks, whereby long-term tape-based retention might occur offsite (D2D2D2T). These days, I am just as much a fan of D2D2C – where the cloud is your offsite provider, and long term is managed by them (go ahead, cut the check).

Is cloud-based backup or DR too new to try? NO, in fact, ESG recently released some validations of Asigra’s v11 cloud-backup technologies.  Eleven generations of technology and a huge partner-provider network, with over 25 years of cloud-based backup and 400,000 sites being backed up. Those numbers are not typos. Here are links to the ESG reports:

Asigra Public Cloud Backup v11 – delivered by service providers near you

Asigra Private Cloud Backup v11  – using the same technologies in your own infrastructure

Most cloud-based solutions can’t boast a quarter-century of experience, but there are certainly other providers and technologies that offer cloud-based backups too, just like there are other folks that mow lawns in my neighborhood. In my own past, I have had positive experiences with Iron Mountain Digital, while it was still part of Iron Mountain and not yet HP’s Autonomy as a repository. And I have been a fan of i365’s cloud, using its EDPM appliance. Those two solutions both use Microsoft’s on-premise backup solution (DPM) but then store the tertiary copy in their respective clouds.  There are benefits to simply cutting the check (pure-play cloud-based service) and benefits for cutting a smaller check (hybrid onsite/offsite solutions).

My Advice

The other reason that I pay for my lawn to be mowed is because frankly, they do a better job than I do at it. So, not only is it cheaper (time/effort/cost) than doing myself, the quality of the outcome is better. For many folks, cloud-based backup fits the same criteria. The right combination of software and service will likely give you a better quality and cheaper (time/effort/cost) backup. But when you are picking your provider, remember that you are looking for how you will restore, not backup – and that you have a variety of platforms to protect so be mindful of the experience and support of those applications and workloads.

And most importantly, remember: no one is as vested in your restore as you are – regardless of how you chose to make backups happen.  So, choose your cloud-based (recovery) partner carefully … or you may find your favorite hose and slip-n-slide got hit by a weed-whacker.

Thanks for reading…

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