What in a nutshell is the difference between cloud storage, backup and archiving?
One of our readers recently sent us this question:
"Our intention to set up cloud is to have an off-site back up system to protect our data. Remote access is facilitated via our internal network. I don't anticipate that our staff connect to our off site cloud. My question is:
To arrange that with the above intention, we should be able to manage by a NAS and hard drives connected to the internet and a backup software. Is that correct?"
We often try to use different storage solutions for purposes they really aren’t designed for.
After many years of working in IT, the one thing I've learned is that technology can always provide a solution. The real challenge is identify what problem you're trying to actually solve.
The reader's question focuses on creating an offsite backup system. But this is only part of an overall data management strategy. So we're going to walk through creating a viable data management strategy:
When it comes to managing data there are three main needs that need to be satisfied. These are
Storage: This is what we use to store our working files and business data.
Backups: A copy of our data that's kept away from the main workplace so that, in the vent of a disaster, we can retrieve critical information in a timely manner.
Archives: Copies of data we need to retain but we don’t need to access regularly.
One of the challenges of managing our data is that a solution, such as a cloud storage solution like Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive, looks like it can provide more than one of these needs. However, it might only provide part of what you really need.
Getting backups right
With backups, we're fans of the 3-2-1-0 system. That's at least 3 copies of your data on at least 2 different media with a copy at least 1 other location with 0 errors.
If you consider a cloud storage system it almost ticks all the boxes. It only misses on the three copies.
By using a cloud storage service for regular saving of documents and a NAS that's kept at another site our reader can keep his data safe.
What the reader will need is some backup software that automatically backs up files that have changed from the computers in the office to the offsite NAS.
If he does this, he will have three copies of his data – the main copy, the synchronised copies on the cloud service and the backup to the remote NAS. He'll also have covered off the multiple locations and storage media. All that remains is the zero errors. For that, he'll need to test his NAS backups regularly to ensure that the software is working correctly.
Setting up a data archiving process takes some planning and will require some extra equipment or use of another service. One approach some companies use is to take a snapshot of their backups and store that on tapes that are stored offsite at a secure location.
There are companies that specialise in this this. Amazon Glacier is a cloud-based archiving service or, if you invest in your own tape system, you can use a company like Recall to collect and securely store your tapes. I've used them in the past to collect a monthly set of seven tapes and store them. The cost was, at that time, less than $100 per month.
So, for the BIT reader, we'd suggest using both a cloud storage system and a remotely located NAS with some backup software to ensure that he meets the 3-2-1-0 rule.