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Cloud data recovery is critical, but won't always come easy

The last thing an enterprise wants is to lose data in the cloud. Take a proactive approach by evaluating recovery services from cloud and third-party providers.

Backup and, more importantly, recovery are ongoing challenges for IT teams. Cloud computing addresses some of the more traditional difficulties, such as finding a quick and easy way to store information off-site. But new issues have emerged: increasingly, enterprises store data in the public cloud, and questions remain about how best to restore that information.

Data volumes continue to grow at rapid rates, especially with big data on the rise. In fact, the amount of data generated will double every two years and reach 40 zettabytes -- or 40 trillion gigabytes -- in 2020, according to analyst firm IDC.

And, more and more, that information is going to the cloud. Public cloud spending is growing at a rate of 17.2% and will reach $208.6 billion in 2016, predicts analyst firm Gartner. While the cloud can serve as a simple data repository, IT departments still need to ensure they have a sufficient cloud data recovery strategy.

One step at a time for cloud data recovery

The amount of data generated will double every two years and reach 40 zettabytes -- or 40 trillion gigabytes -- in 2020, according to analyst firm IDC.

The first step to craft an effective data protection policy for cloud is to understand the difference between backup and recovery. The two concepts are similar but not synonymous. Backup simply means that a copy of a file is stored somewhere in the cloud. This approach is used for noncritical information, such as an executive's PowerPoint presentation.

But cloud data recovery involves building an infrastructure that's capable of finding information and copying it, when needed. Recovery is commonly used for critical data, such as customer financial and personal information. Vendors in the recovery space typically deploy agents that monitor data reads and writes and create snapshots -- or copies of information -- at different times.

Compliance and governance requirements typically drive interest in cloud data recovery. Often, a company does not know it has been hacked until days or even weeks later. Regulators expect firms to recover files, but going back and pulling one customer record out from millions -- especially when those records have constantly changed for weeks, months, or even years -- is a complex task.

Sifting through the options

Confusion in the market adds to the cloud data recovery and backup challenge for IT teams. Most vendors offer different levels of recovery, and their services increasingly overlap.

Public cloud vendors focus more on the front end of the data issues, such as system availability and uptime, and less on recovery. They figure that making their systems available 99.999% of the time should enable users to work with needed information. However, glitches, such as a read/write error, arise, causing corporations to need to recover data. And typically, public cloud vendors offer rudimentary recovery functions.

In addition, these vendors draw lines between their own and their customers' backup responsibilities, something not seen with on-premises backup systems. For instance, Microsoft Azure tries to restore customer data lost due to Azure outages, but won't attempt to restore data if users delete files or if files become infected by a virus.

In response, more sophisticated ways to backup cloud applications are emerging. Vendors like Commvault Systems and Veeam Software have well-developed, on-premises systems that they are extending to the cloud.

There are also startups focused on public cloud data recovery issues, such as Asigra, Datos IO, Datto and Druva. Dell EMC also purchased startup Spanning in October 2014, and OwnBackup has developed cloud-to-cloud backup tools with more sophisticated features, such as federated search, so businesses can find data stored in the cloud or end-user devices.

Taking care of business

The cloud data recovery market is relatively new, and these tools still somewhat lack in maturity. To date, cloud recovery services have been constructed largely in silos. Microsoft Azure's services, for example, focus on backing up its own data; if users work with Amazon Web Services, they would need a second backup system.

Also, some of the third-party, cloud-specific tools work with only certain applications. Users may find a handful of possible services for the popular platforms like Amazon Web Services and Office 365, but fewer options for less popular cloud applications.

Data recovery is a complex issue that IT departments have grappled with for decades. Cloud offers some help as well as some new challenges for organizations that want to put sound processes in place.

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