In the connected society, cloud adoption is increasing at a phenomenal rate. Linked to this growth is the fact that cloud backup has been absorbed into the disaster recovery plans of many organisations. But even though much has been written about its benefits, what has the impact been on the way we approach data?
Phillip de Bruyn, Customer Experience Manager at Redstor says, “From a backup perspective, the cloud essentially provides an extension to more traditional methods such as tapes and disks. With so many companies embracing a virtualised environment, the advantage of having organisational data available at an offsite location through cloud backup compliments this effectively. But using the cloud does not necessarily mean company data is more accessible or even meets legal requirements.”
So while there is a clear temptation to embrace the cloud for every aspect of business, decision-makers need to get a better understanding of how this is impacting on compliance requirements and how they use data before rushing in.
Granted, not too many articles have been published of directors being sued or dragged into lawsuits around the Protection of Personal Information Act (Popi). Yet, despite the lack of repercussions for non-compliance, now is the best time to get the systems and processes in order to ensure the cloud backup provider used meets with regulatory requirements.
“Companies need to be mindful that how they use the cloud for backup has a direct impact on the level of availability and compliancy required.”
The impact on the SLA
“Some businesses use the cloud as a way of providing an alternative location for company data. Others who have already migrated everything to the cloud, rely on an additional hosted solution for disaster recovery and business continuity reasons.”
However, there is a lot more to business continuity than just the data itself. The real-time nature of business in the digital world means that companies cannot afford to use providers that are too slow or do not perform according to certain service level agreements (SLAs).
Of course, de Bruyn argues, the biggest mistake any organisation can make is to assume that SLAs cover data and its availability.
“In the 24x7x365 business cycle, no company can have the luxury of not having access to their critical back-end data. While certain data selections might not necessarily fall under the scope of high availability, others do and not being able to have those cloud backups restored within minutes might cause the organisation considerable reputational and financial loss.”
In extreme cases, companies might never recover from this and be forced to close down. One of the most difficult things to get right is for the business and the cloud backup provider to agree on how its data is valued and what steps can be taken in the event of a failure to restore files within the agreed-upon parameters.
“Even though improvements have been made, the speed and accessibility of bandwidth are not yet ideal in South Africa and the rest of the continent. And while better mobile infrastructure and the expansion of WiFi throughout the country have taken place, companies need to examine how they use connectivity and what impact this has on access to cloud backups.”
Irrespective of these challenges, South African businesses have embraced the cloud for their data backup requirements. This is especially the case when it comes to extending their disaster recovery capabilities beyond those offered by on-site solutions.
The rise in data usage has also seen the tempo in business increase with employees collaborating more than in the past. There is a myriad solutions available that harness the power of enterprise data. In some aspects, the cloud is providing an important mechanism for this as it opens new channels of access to decision-makers.
“People are no longer reliant on accessing mission-critical data from their desk. Instead, the mobility landscape has resulted in expectations increasing for access to wherever they are using any range of devices. The security concerns of the cloud have given way to creating more cost-effective ways of linking employees to data.”
Small to medium enterprises are leading the charge when it comes to cloud backups. These business owners realise what is possible and the cloud provides them the peace of mind they need to remain focused on meeting strategic company objectives.
Not too long ago, effective disaster recovery was not possible from a cost-perspective for these smaller businesses. The cloud has changed that. Now the mobility and flexibility the cloud provides means data can be analysed and benefitted from wherever there is cellular or Wi-Fi reception.
“Using cloud backup solutions in a time where data forms the DNA of any business, requires a considered approach. It definitely provides a backup alternative to the offline copies of old. Yet, the business needs to evaluate exactly how it matches requirements for efficiency and availability,” he concludes.
by Phillip de Bruyn