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The right kind of back-up for cloud-based business

The right kind of back-up for cloud-based business
Theresa Miller from Cohesity explains why data back-up is essential for business success

Elly Yates-Roberts |

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2019 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issues delivered directly to your inbox.

By 2025, there could be 175 zettabytes of digital data in storage, according to the whitepaper ‘Data Age 2025’ by analytics firm IDC. If you stored that data on BlueRay discs, you would have a stack that would reach the moon 23 times over.

Digital transformation is a cornerstone of modern business infrastructure and, as a result, cloud services are becoming commonplace in enterprise data management. Enterprises are increasingly using the technology to store data and are enjoying a multitude of benefits – reduced costs, scalability and increased security, to name a few – but there are also many difficulties associated with it.

“One of the first challenges is that companies need to get past the mindset that their data is already protected when they put it in the cloud,” says Theresa Miller, principal technologist at Cohesity. “It’s not. Their data is their data and they need to take responsibility for it. Put simply, software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers are responsible for the backend platform – such as the SaaS application servers – and any issues that might arise from there,” Miller explains. “The customer is responsible for user errors, insider threats and application usage.

“Once you overcome that mindset shift, you then need to look at what the potential solutions offer you, whether it is Office 365, Azure or a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. While they all offer ways to keep or back up data, it still may not align with the business’s service-level agreements (SLAs) or meet the expectations of that particular enterprise – different organisations may have specific data requirements that the cloud cannot adhere to.”

Once the customer understands its data responsibility, there are additional challenges to face. 

“There is no official back-up solution for Office 365 Exchange Online, but Microsoft does offer work-arounds,” she adds. “For example, a deleted mailbox can only be retained for 30 days and will then disappear. Using a second-stage recycle bin called deleted item recovery, the administrator can find the mailbox or email and reinstate it to its owner. However, this is only available for 30 days.”

According to Miller there is also further complexity regarding this type of recovery. “Litigation hold or retention policy can keep data around, but it has to be set up, which means administrators need to know how to set it up in order to benefit from it. In addition, recovering a single mailbox requires a long and convoluted process, and when this is done en masse it is unpredictable at best.”

However, Cohesity can simplify this process for its customers. “Our indexing capabilities allow for a Google-like search which means we can retrieve data quickly. The underlying SpanFS file system  is really the secret sauce to it all – it is key to ensuring we help enterprises meet their SLAs, have great recovery point and time objectives, and ultimately helps them be successful.”

In the pursuit of a ‘cloud-first’ strategy, organisations are often moving their operations and data to multiple clouds, for example Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and the Google Cloud Platform. While this could seem sensible, avoiding an ‘eggs all in one basket’ scenario, this storage spread is actually causing more problems than it is solving. Managing different pots of data in different places can become a major issue as a result.

“So, if I have a separate back-up solution from all three of these cloud providers, I now have three instead of one,” Miller explains. “Third-party software like Cohesity can give you one single pane of glass no matter where your data lives, instead of having separate tools for each cloud just for back-up and recovery. Any company, whatever their data requirements, can use Cohesity to consolidate and manage their hybrid cloud environments to have a single view of it, whether on-premises, in the cloud or both.”

A further problem for customers is ensuring that their data is retained correctly when it is in the cloud.

“With Office 365 specifically, there are four or five different ways to retain your data,” Miller adds. “Combine that with the fact that your data may be stored in different environments and that the retrieval process can consist of up to 10 steps, and the whole affair can become exceedingly complex. Cohesity can simplify all this with its single pane of glass and its ability to restore large quantities of data, fast.” 

According to Microsoft, 95% of Fortune 500 companies trust their business on Azure. As part of this, virtual machines (VMs) are increasing in popularity as they reduce costs by limiting the need for physical hardware. However, the technology has its limitations regarding back-up procedures.

“When a person creates an Azure VM, they must manually turn on back-up,” says Miller. “This makes human error a very real risk if someone forgets do that. Alternatively, some administrators use PowerShell scripting language to automate back-up so that it pulls in all those machines. However, this scripting changes all the time so isn’t always the best solution. Cohesity’s automatic back-up solution can avoid both of these problems.”

Microsoft does offer back-up options; Azure Backup is available to users, but it comes at an extra cost and while Office 365 Exchange Online doesn’t have an official back-up system, there are work arounds that can be of use. “While this is all true, Cohesity acts as a one-stop shop for enterprise cloud users,” adds Miller. “We can provide a single pane of glass into all of a company’s cloud environments. We provide users with a Google-like search to simplify data retrieval. We deduplicate and compress data to reduce data storage and data transfer costs. And we offer long-term retention of anything that we are touching, through a process called a data lock. What more do you need to know?”

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