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When and How Should You Use Cloud in Your Backup Workflow?

by Andy Ferris – September 11, 2018

While traditional tape workflows may make sense for some organizations, tape backup comes with a set of challenges that become especially difficult to manage at scale. At scale, the cost of tape storage no longer seems so cheap, and IT leaders start looking around for alternatives.

Today, we’ll look at how certain tiers of cloud storage from major public cloud providers can be a viable alternative to traditional tape backup, and when it makes sense to use cloud in a backup workflow.

Some of the challenges of tape backup workflows include:

  • Scale: Backing up large amounts of data with tape can actually end up becoming extremely costly. We did the math here.
  • Difficulty of restore: Restoring data from tape is notoriously time consuming and can become increasingly complicated at scale.
  • Impact on primary tier: Backups are canceled entirely when they can’t be completed within a backup window, exposing organizations to the risk of data loss.

What would a cloud backup workflow look like?

Long-term retention in cloud

A common way that our customers use cloud to replace LTO tape in their backup workflows is as a long-term retention tier. Because cloud tiers can be optimized for cost and efficiencyunlike tape—it can be hugely advantageous to use cloud for a cost-effective long-term retention tier. In this scenario, organizations back up their primary tiers locally to Igneous based on policies designed by IT. If the policy includes cloud replication, Igneous software then automatically tiers the data to a low-cost tier of a public cloud using a cloud account owned and operated by the organization—not Igneous. After the data expires on Igneous, a copy can be retained in the cloud for long-term storage.

For enterprises creating massive amounts of data, using cloud as a long-term retention tier helps to reduce on-premises footprint and costs in addition to reducing the cost of actually retaining backups until they expire.>

Cloud disaster recovery

Disaster recovery (DR) is another workflow in which using cloud can be hugely beneficial. Attempting to use tape for DR workflows is only a viable option for DR of data that is not in active use by an organization. Because restoring from tape is an arduous, time-consuming process, tape is only useful for DR if the recovery time objective (RTO) is days or weeks.

However, tape has significant risks due to the number of moving parts and possible failure points in tape workflows. Because of the limitations and risks, most organizations are seeking alternatives for a DR solution.

A cloud DR workflow for our customers involves backing up to Igneous, then replicating to cloud. The secondary copy in cloud is cost-optimized for data at scale, accessible from anywhere, and simple to restore in the event of a disaster.

When is it not appropriate to backup to cloud?

A cloud backup workflow will likely not be a viable option to completely replace secondary storage for daily backup. One reason why is that this would be prohibitively expensive, as each new or changed file generated on the primary tier would incur costs as it moves directly to the cloud. When organizations have billions of objects, even a moderate amount of data growth or change will result in huge bills from a cloud provider.

Second, backing up directly to the cloud will add significant complexity and management overhead for maintaining backups. IT admins would be saddled with manually managing snapshots and versions, which can create significant burdens and will likely end up adding needless expenses in the long run.

Finally, the data on the primary tier is typically important, and if it were to be impacted by an accidental change or deletion, it needs to be quickly accessible. Even the lowest-latency tiers of public cloud storage can’t compete with data stored on-premises when comparing against modern recovery SLAs.

For these reasons, using the public cloud as a replacement for secondary storage in a backup workflow is not appropriate for most organizations.

Learn how Igneous tiers to cloud on our Cloud Integrations page.

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