Featured Article – The Difference Between Cloud Backup and Cloud Storage

This article looks at the difference between cloud backup and cloud storage and how each contributes to daily business life; business continuity and disaster recovery.

The Need For Storage

Businesses not only have limited hard drive space, plus they are having to deal with an increasing amount of data (primary and secondary), comply with stricter data regulations (GDPR) and are facing more security threats i.e. more criminals working in more sophisticated ways to steal company data.  In addition to these challenges, as highlighted by 2020’s pandemic, more businesses have employees in different locations (working from home) but who still need work apps and data and information to be stored, synchronised, made secure and yet be accessible for work use (and for collaboration). 

With this in mind, some of the reasons why cloud storage is now not only popular but vital for businesses include:

– It avoids the risk of data being lost to hardware/server failure/damage, outages and/or file corruption, the effects of environmental/natural disasters e.g. fire and flood, or damage to/theft of storage media e.g. USB drives or external hard drives.

– Cost efficiency. Cloud storage is relatively cost-efficient and the expense and responsibility of upgrading the storage hardware, data-centres and more rests with the cloud provider.  Also, the customer saves in terms of expertise required in-house and resources (time and staff) that would have been needed to maintain its own cloud storage.

– Lower energy consumption. The energy savings of using the cloud add to the efficiencies mentioned above and can help bring ‘green’ benefits.

– Scalability and flexibility. It is relatively easy and fast to up-scale (or down-scale) in cloud storage capacity.

– Usability and accessibility. Cloud services typically come with an easy-to-use user interface and drag and drop, and help/support is available. With cloud storage, data can be accessed from any device and any part of the world. 

– Increased capabilities. Cloud platforms and the apps and flexible storage that they support can boost a company’s capabilities thereby contributing to its competitiveness.

– Synchronisation. Cloud storage data can be synchronised with any device.

– Centralisation and better control.  Having a centralised, synchronised, up to date copy that everyone can work on enables better data management and helps with day to day efficiency.

– Automation and convenience. Cloud storage only requires clicks from the customer rather than having to set up and swap around hardware solutions (removable hard drives or USBs).

– Supports multiple users. The same cloud environment can have more than one usage and it allows multiple users to work collaboratively on a common file.

– Security. Cloud storage provides compliant (GDPR), safe and secure storage for company data.

The Need For Backup

Things can (and often do) go wrong with company systems, data, platforms, and hardware. Theft, loss, natural disasters, cyber-attacks, data breaches, important 3rd supplier failure or the loss of key employees, and less serious digital events that cause business disruption mean that companies need to ensure, for the purposes of business continuity and disaster recovery, that recent backup (copy) of data is available. Backups are essential files that enable a full restore, and as such are an important element of ongoing good practice. The cloud also offers a convenient backup location for the apps that the business uses as these are also vital parts of the day-to-day running of a business. Although the Cloud is not the only way to back up data i.e. store a copy of data, it is now the preferred method for many of reasons mentioned in the previous section (about cloud storage).

The Difference

The basic difference between cloud backup and cloud storage is, therefore, that cloud backup is a service where data and apps on a business’s servers are backed up on a remote server so that a recent copy can be reinstated in the event of problems such as an outage, system failure, a debilitating cyberattack or natural disaster i.e. it provides a way for files to be restored in the event of data loss. Cloud backup is therefore strongly linked to business continuity and disaster recovery (and the plans for both).

Cloud storage is really a way to supplement and give greater flexibility to the business’s hard drive space and make it easier to access and edit files from different devices, from any location.

Cloud Types

The different types of cloud storage offer different benefits and businesses can choose which type or which combination suits their needs. For example:

– The Private Cloud (internal/enterprise cloud), as the name suggests, is inside the organisation, the resources are not shared with other organisations and are protected from the outside by a firewall.

– The Public Cloud is available to all, mainly paid-for, through third-party services from providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and more, and the resources are shared with multiple other public cloud users. Public cloud services are now extremely popular with businesses. Research by the Synergy Research Group (2019) shows that cloud-associated markets, such as the public cloud, are growing at rates ranging from 10% to over 40% and the annual spending on the cloud may double in four years.  Big growth cloud infrastructure segments are infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) with a massive 44% growth rate. 

– The Hybrid Cloud is, therefore, a mixture of on-premises, private cloud and third-party, public cloud services, with cross-over between the two.

Remote Working

The remote working resulting from the pandemic restrictions has now only emphasised the value of the cloud for storage, backup, communication and collaborative working but this has also translated into a big boost in spending on the public cloud and this is forecast to grow by 6.3 per cent in 2020 to $257.9bn, up from $242.7bn last year (Gartner).

Although software as a service (SaaS) is expected remain the largest market segment, the desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) segment, although relatively small, is forecast to experience a boost in spending (from $616m worldwide in 2019) due to the fact that it offers an inexpensive way for organisations with large numbers of remote workers to enable staff to securely access enterprise applications from multiple devices and locations.  This has proven to be particularly valuable during the lockdown and beyond. 

In Summary

Cloud storage, therefore, provides many benefits over more traditional, less secure or scalable alternatives and use of the cloud also makes it easier for businesses to ensure that valuable work and data assets are backed-up effectively and regularly just in case they are needed. One lesson that this year has taught businesses is that the unexpected can happen and this emphasises not just the value of the cloud to business operations, but also the value of the cloud to business continuity, disaster recovery planning and how cloud backups feed into these.

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