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AWS Failure Illustrates The Need For Proper Backups
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AWS Failure Illustrates The Need For Proper Backups

Reminder: stuff stored in the cloud probably isn't backed up.

Not long ago, we wrote about how cloud services like Office 365 and Google Drive should not be used like backup solutions. Last week, one company experienced exactly the kind of data loss that proves this point.

Taking to Twitter, programmer Andy Hunt explained how, following an outage at an Amazon AWS datacentre, his organisation lost all their precious data.

Although Amazon worked to restore as much lost data from the servers as possible, some was simply gone forever - including Hunt's. Users were advised to restore from their own backups.

Fortunately, this story had a happy ending: Hunt's company had a backup that they were able to restore from. But that's exactly the point: the cloud is not the same as a backup, even though sometimes it can feel like it is. Without that backup, this company would have been in big trouble.

It's easy to fall into the trap of assuming your data is backed up if you use cloud software. You log into the service, put files into it, and everything is good. You can return to your account at any time, from any location, and your files are right there. Until they're not. 

The fact is the cloud is basically just a remote connection to someone else’s computer, and that means it can go wrong too. Servers can break, datacentres can experience power cuts, and file corruption can still wipe out data. 

Dig through the terms and conditions of your cloud software providers, and you'll likely find a paragraph or two about how backing up data remains your responsibility. These services are not sold as backup solutions, and they should not be treated as such. Yes, they allow deleted files to be restored, but they have relatively short retention times for deleted and overwritten files, and they are not built for backup purposes, so they can't be held for resonsible for data loss. 

So what's the solution? At TMB, we recommend having multiple backups, the first of which should be to an on-site server. In addition to that, organisations should use a dedicated cloud backup service (not just cloud storage).

At this point, you might be thinking that cloud backup would be subject to the same risks as any other kind of cloud solution. However, while cloud backup services still use datacentres, and their servers can still go wrong, it’s the differences, not the similarities, that matter most.

For a start, cloud backup services are designed solely to provide a data safety net. That is there entire business model, and it means they bear a direct responsibility to manage backups and to ensure they are working as expected. You can bet they make copies of copies of copies as well, to ensure everything is totally safe.

Cloud backup services also offer much better retention than general cloud storage providers. Rather than keeping deleted files for set periods of time, many will offer infinite retention, so you will always have access to that data, as long as you have sufficient storage space left in your account.

You can’t overestimate the benefit of having additional copies of data either, even if they’re stored in the cloud. The chances of two datacentres, in completely different locations, having outages at the same time is miniscule. Simply put, the more copies you have, the better. At TMB, we recommend making at least one backup to an on-site location, such as a server or NAS drive, and another backup to a cloud backup service. Office 365 users, meanwhile, should use our Office 365 backup service, which offers infinite retention for files, emails, attachments and user configurations. Read more about it here