News/Trends, Tech/Engineering

Is Your Enterprise Backup Plan Appropriate? Probably Not.

A recent poll of IT pros focused on data centers found that only a small fraction were considering cloud backup, despite evidence suggesting the cloud as a viable option. Several use cases offer low-risk ways to modernize backup, or at least offer a good answer when your boss inevitably asks, “So what do you think about backing up to the cloud?”

Measuring the success of data backup for large companies used to be a simpler affair. You made decisions by answering questions such as: Are the business units happy (i.e. not squeaky)? Is my solution affordable, so the procurement team won’t balk? Are my applications reasonably safe and protected?

Gone are the simple days. Macro forces at work today are making data backup more complicated and nuanced, says Dave Russell, VP Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, who spoke at the recent Gartner Data Center conference in Las Vegas. These forces include new choices of types of backup (disk, tape, cloud, or a combination of all of these), overwhelming growth of corporate data, different types of data, more stringent service level agreements (SLAs), and changing cost structures. Organizations are asked to consider all of these factors, as well as protect all kinds of data that does not live in the four walls of the data center.

“Most backup systems are antiquated and designed for architectures and environments that are no longer the norm,” says Russell. “New approaches are needed and being sought.”

The surprising thing, however, is how few data center leaders are considering backup to cloud for secondary storage. Russell’s informal in-room poll of about 150 session attendees at the Gartner show indicated that the majority of data center-focused IT professionals are using traditional backup methodologies such as to disk and tape (D2D2T), backup to disk (D2D), or backup to tape (D2T) with very few (less than 5%) considering cloud (D2C or D2D2C).


It is not surprising that these custodians of corporate data and operations are conservative in their cloud approach; a quick tour of the conference show floor showed a strong preference for “things you can kick” such as data center server hardware, disk arrays, cooling systems, and other infrastructure equipment. However, it is surprising that cloud is not more top-of-mind given the increasing amount of money spent on backup (a $5 billion market and growing) and the search for solutions to today’s broken backup.

“Your boss is going to ask you about cloud in the next 12 months,” Russell warned this audience. Asked if they had plans to deploy cloud backup in the next 12 months, 43% of attendees in the room planned to investigate it for “some data” and 23% have no plans to use cloud backup for anything. That’s a whopping 66% of data center professionals in attendance who are making few moves towards cloud backup in the next year.

One reason for the lack of adoption is a concern about data security. But when it comes to choosing a cloud backup provider, “Security should not be the first concern,” says Russell, suggesting that the top cloud backup vendors worth their salt address data security issues.

It’s data latency you should prioritize, says Russell. With on-going improvements in cloud backup related to bandwidth utilization and trust in the public cloud, these concerns are being overcome and compelling business benefits are emerging, driving cloud backup adoption ever-upwards.


Slide credit: Dave Russell, Gartner, Backup To The Future, Data Center Dec 3 2014

At the conference, analysts outlined four use cases that make the most sense for cloud adoption for large enterprises: file-sharing services (being driven into the data center by consumers), storage as a service, archive as a service, and backup and recovery as a service.

Are you unsure how to respond when your boss asks for your cloud backup strategy? Here’s a list of recommendations from Russell that are low risk and can improve your overall backup situation:

  1. Stop looking for a Swiss Army Knife for backup; find the right tool for the job. With more niche players in the market, more companies willing to deploy multiple point products to achieve best of breed solutions for unique challenges
  2. Don’t be wedded to the past. Try new approaches in “less sticky” areas such as backup and recovery.
  3. Acquire point backup solutions consciously and with a multi-year vision in mind. Design for 3-5 years in the future, and pick a vendor that has a clear 1-3 year roadmap.
  4. Keep an open mind when evaluating new vendors and approaches.
  5. Look for ways to get more value out of backup. For example, backup can support disaster recovery as part of the deal. (In the case of Druva, it can address challenges beyond backup such as eDiscovery and compliance.)

A mindset for cloud may still be lagging among the stalwarts at the heart of the data center. But new opportunities are emerging that bring organizations cloud entry points, such as protection and backup of data on endpoints and remote offices outside the data center. These new approaches offer a foot in the door for realizing cloud efficiencies. If nothing else, they are a great answer for when your boss asks for your plan for cloud backup so you won’t be caught with your head in the clouds or your feet kicking the tires of very real, but outmoded, legacy solutions.

To read more about cloud backup, read How To Determine If Cloud Backup Is Right For Your Servers.