Data Backup and Recovery: On-Premises vs. Cloud
Downtime can be devastating for organizations of all sizes. An astonishing 76% of organizations worldwide experienced unexpected downtime due to data loss in 2021. These incidents had various causes — human error, cyberattacks and system crashes, among others — but this statistic reveals that without proactively taking measures to protect your data, your organization could experience significant losses.
Implementing a strong, integrated data backup solution ensures the safety of your mission-critical data so you can keep operations running with minimal interruption, even in the worst-case scenario.
This post explains the key differences between cloud vs. on-premises backup solutions to help you decide what's best for your organization.
What is an On-Premises Backup?
Using an on-premises backup involves storing a copy of your data at a physical location on a storage device such as an in-house storage server or external hard disk. It's a simple, straightforward solution for backing up your data, which is why many companies start with it.
You can choose from several types of on-prem data centers to back up your data:
- Enterprise Backup: Companies with sufficient resources can build their own internal data centers on their corporate campuses. This model is common among large tech companies. While an internal data center is ultimately optimized for your company's use, the initial setup and ongoing maintenance costs make it a difficult model for smaller organizations to implement.
- Managed Backup: A managed data center is owned and managed by a managed service provider (MSP). With this model, companies lease equipment and infrastructure from the service provider. While this option works if you have the budget for it, it's also important to remember that your provider owns the storage equipment in a managed data center.
- Colocation Backup: A colocation data center is a hybrid of enterprise and managed centers. A third party rents out server space to other companies, which can be as small as a few shelves on a server rack or as large as several racks. The facility owner provides and manages essential infrastructure such as cooling, bandwidth and physical security, while the company provides and manages its own hardware, including data storage components and servers, as well as security software.
The type of center your organization needs depends on several factors, including the amount of space you have available for storage devices, the number of employees you have and your organization's IT budget.
What Are the Advantages of On-Premises Backups?
Many companies across various industries use traditional on-premises servers to back up their data because of their easy accessibility and security.
Some other reasons an organization may prefer on-prem solutions include:
- Offline: One of the key advantages of an on-premises backup solution is that you can access your data with or without an internet connection. Even if you experience network issues, an on-premises solution enables data availability.
- Cost-effective: Although you may occasionally need to pay for maintenance, most on-premises solutions do not require any monthly or annual subscription fees.
- Secure: Because most on-premises backups do not require an internet connection, your data stays secure from external attacks behind your network's firewall.
What Are the Disadvantages of On-Premises Backups?
Although on-prem backups are still common, this kind of solution is often less effective than it could be.
Consider the following if your company is looking for a backup solution:
- High initial investment: Before you can begin using an on-premises backup, you need to purchase the infrastructure for it. Making a full investment tends to be too steep a cost for many organizations, especially startups and small businesses. However, cutting corners to save costs can leave your data open to vulnerabilities.
- Ongoing costs: If you manage a traditional on-site data center, your organization is responsible for overhead costs, like powering and maintaining the servers where your data is stored. You have to budget for elements like security, environmental controls and potential repairs. You may also need to hire and train more IT staff to solve emergency hotfixes and hardware repairs as they arise. These costs add up quickly, making on-premises data centers an expensive choice for many organizations.
- Increased vulnerability: It's critical to protect on-premises data infrastructure against physical damage, such as fire and water damage caused by natural disasters, mismanagement, system damage and even theft. Redundancy and physical security measures are key to minimizing the risk of data loss, but managing these elements yourself can be complicated and increase costs, especially if you need to meet certain compliance requirements.
- Management responsibilities: Your organization should concentrate on managing your digital assets, not dealing with backups. If your IT team is already stretched thin, adding data management responsibilities to their workload can slow down typical operations, negatively impacting your organization.
- Fixed storage space: When you buy a physical storage device, you have a fixed amount of space you can use to store your data. Organizations that frequently run backups can quickly run out of room on these devices, while small organizations that produce less data may find they have too much space and will not fill it for a long time. Regardless of company size, IT teams are constantly calculating how much backup space they will need in the future, which eats up time they could spend on more urgent tasks.
- Process snags: Sometimes, backing information up to traditional equipment can present frustrating problems. For example, if you have an eight-tape loader and need to begin backing up to the ninth tape, you might have to adjust your backup process or create a new one entirely.
What Is a Cloud Backup Solution?
A cloud backup solution stores a copy of your data in a digital, off-site location. Cloud service providers (CSPs) are third-party companies that manage these storage systems and may provide other services in addition to data backups and storage.
It's important to understand the difference between cloud backup solutions and cloud storage solutions:
- Storage: Storage solutions are primarily concerned with where you're putting your data. With a cloud backup solution, that location is the centralized cloud location your provider owns.
- Backup: While there is an element of storage involved in cloud backup solutions, these programs are more focused on how you get your data into cloud storage. Where you store your data is less important.
The methods of cloud backups available to you include:
- Backing up to a public cloud: A copy of your data is stored in a public cloud, such as Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. For many companies, this is a cost-efficient way to back up their data without expanding the IT budget.
- Backing up to a private cloud: This option is similar to using a public cloud. However, the cloud is dedicated to your company instead of shared with other companies.
- Managed cloud backup: With a managed backup, you work with a CSP that oversees your data storage and provides security and recovery functions. Many of these providers include their own backup software as part of these plans, but some support specific third-party backup applications.
- Cloud-to-cloud: If you already store your data in the cloud, you can use cloud-to-cloud (C2C) services to back up that data to another cloud, which effectively acts as the "off-site" location for your first cloud.
- Hybrid backup: A hybrid backup involves keeping an on-premises backup and copying that data to the cloud. Both backups are periodically synchronized, ensuring all your mission-critical data is up-to-date and secure in an emergency.
What Are the Advantages of Cloud Backups?
For most organizations, cloud backups are the better option for saving and securing critical data.
The most significant advantages of using cloud backups include:
- Affordable: No initial infrastructure investment is required for a cloud backup system, making it significantly less expensive than on-prem backup. Plus, your provider manages infrastructure for you — with no ongoing maintenance or human capital costs, you save money.
- Simplified infrastructure: A cloud backup removes some of the complexity involved with managing on-premises backup solutions, freeing your IT team to focus on other tasks.
- Scalable: Cloud backup systems only charge you for the space and features you use, and you can easily scale up as your data needs grow.
In addition to the above, the services included in many true SaaS-style cloud backup solutions enable the following advantages for your organization:
- Accessible data: When you back your data up using cloud storage services, you can access your backup any time you need to, from any internet-connected device, in any location. This capability also means your data will be easy to recover in a disaster like a ransomware attack.
- Secure data: Reliable cloud vendors often provide advanced, up-to-date virtual security measures such as firewalls, zero-trust architecture and multi-factor authentication, which protects your information from cyberattacks and takes some of the burden off your shoulders.
- Low maintenance: When you choose a cloud backup solution, you free your IT staff up to focus on more pressing tasks. Some CSPs take on the responsibility of performing important system and security updates and automatically ensuring your data is backed up at regular intervals.
- Peace of mind: Outsourcing backup maintenance and security to a trustworthy vendor can ensure your backups are always up-to-date and accessible, saving you money and providing peace of mind.
Keep in mind that cloud backup services can vary depending on your provider. Conduct thorough research on all your options to ensure you select the best match for your organization.
What Are the Disadvantages of Cloud Backups?
Even though cloud solutions are advantageous for companies across many industries, there are some potential drawbacks you need to consider before making a decision:
- Data costs: Although scalability is one of the chief advantages of the cloud, it can become a problem if managed incorrectly. Organizations need to manage their data carefully to prevent accidental cloud overspending.
- Speed: Backing up your data to a cloud server can sometimes affect network speed. Many organizations that rely on cloud solutions need to strategically time backups to prevent them from impacting operations.
- Internet connection: The internet is what makes cloud services possible. Network issues can lead to unplanned downtime, which can cause organizations devastating financial and reputational losses.
- Loss of control: Companies often fear losing control of their data when backing it up to the cloud. However, it's important to note that choosing the right CSP can improve the security of your data against outside attacks.
When to Use Cloud vs. On-Premises Backup
A solid backup and recovery solution is key to keeping your data safe from potential threats, such as malware attacks, programmatic errors and malicious internal actors.
Consider the following when determining whether your organization should choose a cloud or on-premises backup solution:
- Budget: How much do you have to spend on infrastructure and maintenance? Budgeting for on-premises backup solutions can be tricky because of the limited space available on traditional storage devices. You could quickly run out of space or find that you have too much space available, making your investment a waste of money. The cloud's scalability provides your organization with the flexibility to adjust any time your data needs change.
- Backup frequency: How often will your organization need to back up your data? Understanding this need will determine how much storage space you'll need — if your organization needs to back information up frequently, a cloud solution will be the more affordable choice.
- Available staff: Do you have enough people to manage an on-prem solution without having to hire new employees? Would adding the responsibility of managing on-premises solutions overburden the staff you do have? Choosing a cloud backup solution allows you to outsource data management responsibilities so your employees can focus on higher-value tasks and get more done.
- Compliance requirements: Some niche industries require companies to keep backups on-site to remain compliant with stringent security regulations.
- Recovery time objective (RTO): How quickly you need to recover your data can determine whether cloud or on-premises solution is better for your situation, though both can meet common RTOs in the right conditions.
How to Select a Cloud Backup Provider
If you've decided a cloud backup solution would work best for your organization, you need to ensure you choose a vendor that provides more than just an affordable service — you need to work with a vendor with your company's best interest in mind.
Here are some considerations that can help you find the right provider for your business:
- Security and privacy: While the cloud naturally protects data from physical threats, you also need to protect it from virtual threats. A reliable cloud backup provider will offer advanced data protection measures such as multi-factor authentication and encryption to keep your data safe from malicious actors and corruption.
- Integrations: Be sure to choose a solution that can integrate with the software and applications you use for typical business operations. This way, you can ensure your solution will fit seamlessly into your workflows and improve processes rather than hinder them.
- Usability: You need your new system to be up and running quickly to get the best return on investment. A simple, user-friendly solution eliminates the need for long training sessions, so your staff can get back to their ordinary work right away.
- Automation: Look for providers who offer automated backups. By automatically backing your data up to the cloud at set intervals, you remove the hassle of remembering to do so. Often, these backups run in the background while you work, so you can continue your typical processes without interruption.
- Simple recovery procedure: In emergencies, you need to be able to access your data quickly and easily. Look for a provider that offers one-click recovery — this is one of the simplest and fastest recovery procedures available.
- Cost: Of course, you need to consider your budget when choosing a cloud backup provider. It's important to find a provider whose services meet your data needs without additional fees or unnecessary add-ons.
Protect Your Data With HYCU
At HYCU, we believe in providing a better way for companies to back up and recover data in hybrid or multi-cloud IT environments.
HYCU Protégé is a Data Protection as a Service platform that provides backup, disaster recovery, migration and mobility. Key features of our solution include:
- Application awareness
- One-click disaster recovery
- Protected, simplified cloud migration
- Application consistency
- Consolidated management across clouds
- Multi-cloud SLO compliance
HYCU Protégé also supports various cloud platforms, including Azure, Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services. Whatever platforms you use to manage your workloads, you can count on HYCU to ensure your enterprise applications are always available when you need them.