Cloud Backup Advantages and Disadvantages, Totally Honest

Cloud backup advantages and disadvantages are a very interesting topic and a lot of what you read online, if not most of it, is just advertising for cloud backup services. My popular post “Cloud Backup Disadvantages” already summarizes all the critical issues surrounding the cloud, such as slow recovery, vendor lock-in, much higher cost than self-hosting in many cases, and cloud security concerns. In this post we’ll summarize the advantages of cloud backup, please visit the above article to get to the list of disadvantages.

Advantage #1: Geographic Diversification

The word diversification is often used when referring to financial investment strategies, with the general recommendation being: “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. I don’t know about you, but I always put all my eggs together in the fridge in the same spot, so I know how many eggs I have. It’s too easy to forget about eggs in the basement fridge, isn’t it? And this brings us to the real world. Yes, you could buy 1,239 shares instead of putting all your money in one share. However, if you put all your money in just one share, there is only one share to monitor and observe, and that’s convenient and involves only a little work. How would your day be if you had to monitor 1,239 companies?

So the cloud backup advantage #1 is also a disadvantage. It’s nice to have your data in 10 datacenters. If one burns down, you still have 9 to restore from. That’s if you can afford it and if you can afford monitoring and maintaining the process of having 10 remote backups running. Yes, it’s not just a purchase decision based on available budget, it’s also labor intensive to geographically diversify, or to diversify anywhere really.

Apart from labor, which is probably the highest cost involved, you would also stress your servers and your internet connection by sending data to many targets. In addition there are access fees involved in many cloud companies; hence, there will be rather large overhead fees involved if you wanted to back up to many data centers; that’s on top of the additional labor required to manage and maintain the process. Some cloud systems may allow synchronization from cloud to cloud, but when data leaves one datacenter to go to another, you will be charged additional fees, too. In addition, how are these sync processed going to be monitored properly and reliably?

Advantage #2: Protect Against Local Risks

We are being told about the 3-2-1 backup rule: keep several backups local on different media and one remote. Yes, your office could burn down. A malicious employee could delete important files. Ransomware can wipe out your file servers. Your baby (or puppy if you are vegetarian) could vomit on your external hard drive. These are all good reasons to back up to a remote site, such as the cloud, at least it initially appear so.

However, cloud backup advantage #2 is also a disadvantage. Picture this situation. You are afraid ransomware could wipe your file server. But even if your company has 10,000 employees and a billion dollars revenue, it’s still small compared to Microsoft or Google, or wherever you plan to store your cloud backup. Criminals aren’t stupid; otherwise, they would just line up to go to prison voluntarily, where food and health care are guaranteed free forever.

Cyber-criminals like to go after big fish. In the future, it’s likely that security breaches will concentrate mostly around the big cloud platforms, because that’s where most of the lucrative data will be. If all the money were in one bank, where would the thieves go? Ransomware works inside Microsoft’s data centers just as well, after all. Linux has bugs and so does Microsoft Windows. So, it may be an illusion after all that your cloud backup storage is any safer than your local storage, unless you work in downtown Baltimore or other crime hot spots. Malicious employees can also delete cloud files and do so very cleverly, avoiding detection for quite some time. If someone wants to do harm, they often succeed because they abuse our trust. And, they have lots of time to prepare their surprise attack without us having a clue of what will happen.

Moreover, cloud centers do burn down occasionally, look at the OVH data center fire, for example, which left many businesses without a backup because they thought their data in the cloud is somehow “automagically” backed up and protected. The OVH CEO explained to them that things weren’t exactly as they had assumed….

Advantage #3: You Don’t Have to Buy Storage or Infrastructure

A corporate insider told me how painful and long-winded obtaining infrastructure for a big corporation can be. “It’s much easier to put it on the credit card and pay for Amazon services”, she said. This means in simple words that some corporations give priority to spending cash on rental services to Amazon, and penalize buying infrastructure internally by delaying purchase requests unreasonably. In many cases, this is more of an example of bad management rather than an advantage of cloud backup storage.

It’s true that if you had a tiny website to run, it’s cheaper and easier and faster to rent a tiny virtual machine on Amazon or wherever and host it there. No need to provide expensive hardware that needs to run 24 hours a day and worry about internet connectivity and so on. However, these are a small portion of Amazon’s customers. Big corporations usually have a lot of data to work with and they need to work with that data for a long time.

So is it perhaps just short term thinking rather than careful long-term planning? I believe so. Especially larger corporations would be better off running their in-house infrastructure because they are dealing with a lot of data, which also requires a lot of bandwidth to go in and out of the cloud, which again includes hidden fees if done in a third-party cloud.

Perhaps what larger corporation need is an in-house, private cloud, which offers the same benefits as Microsoft’s or Amazon’s cloud, but is totally owned and on-premises. I personally think this is the most likely scenario for the future because all infrastructure costs are going down over time: hard drives, CPUs, internet fees, etc. It’s becoming more and more feasible to run your own private cloud because the costs involved are coming down over time. Before you know it, a clever company will come around and provide a simple and secure solution to set up your own private cloud, but in-house, providing the same flexibility benefits within your own offices. And Microsoft and Amazon will be losing a lot of big corporate customers. Is this an accurate prediction or a naive fantasy? Time will tell.

And that’s how cloud backup advantage #3 is also a disadvantage: while it’s true that you don’t have to buy infrastructure, in many use cases this is actually a bad choice in the long-term. Owning most often pays off better than renting. The best example is the real estate market, but naturally it all depends on the exact circumstances.

Advantage #4: You Don’t Have to Be An Expert to Protect Your Data Well

They make it sound easy. Put your backups in the cloud and stop worrying, and start living…, I mean working. To a certain degree that is true. Picture the situation where a very old person, who is let’s say technically challenged, needs to protect documents from local risks, like the ones outlined above. It’s better than nothing to send the documents to the cloud. However, such a person wouldn’t fully grasp the ramifications of making this choice, at least not without an in-depth consultation with an industry expert. Sending data to the cloud may expose the customer to privacy risks as well as security risks. Yes, the cloud offers protection against local fires and natural disasters, for example, but the choice to store your data elsewhere has other potential repercussions.

What if hackers get access to cloud information? Will the cloud company even reveal the breach to you? Do they have to? Will they? Are cloud accounts perhaps unnecessarily exposed to the public? Do (local or foreign) governments or other third parties have access to the data? We all know that cyber-protection can only be offered to a certain degree, and that cloud providers are prime targets for hackers, after all.

And this is why I see cloud backup advantage #4 also as a disadvantage. If you feel you are not an expert and want to use the cloud because it feels “easier” and more “convenient”, perhaps the issue is that you are not an expert. Perhaps what you really need is to gather additional information and evaluate alternative options, and learn about all the risks involved. One fallacy I see often is the notion that not doing something is safer than doing something. That not using the cloud is safer, or that not using the cloud is unsafe, for example. The truth is both options involve risk: if you use the cloud, there are a bunch of risks, and if you don’t use the cloud, there are other risks to deal with. And often, the same risks appear in all options you can choose from.

Cloud Backup Disadvantages

My post “Cloud Backup Disadvantages“summarizes all relevant, major cloud backup disadvantages and is recommended for more information on the downsides surrounding cloud backup. The question remains as to whether cloud backup is a good choice for your company, or not!

Cloud Backup: Yes or No? So, Is It Worth It?

You probably came to this article wondering what cloud backup is really about and whether it’s a smart choice, and what risks it involves. It turns out, cloud backup involves a lot of risk, and not using cloud backup also involves a lot of risks. Some risks are similar, some are different. Ransomware risks for example, may be higher in-house than in the cloud, or may be higher in the cloud compared to in-house.

Why is that so? Because it depends on what ransomware protections and experience you have in-house. It also depends on which cloud backup provider you are considering. Are they prime targets for cyber-criminals? If you feel that your data is safer in-house than in a public cloud, then there is probably some truth in it. Or perhaps you are fooling yourself, overestimating your IT security skills and setup. Who knows?

You see, this article is more about questions than answers. The choice of whether cloud backup is a smart choice depends on your unique situation and where you are going in the future. Your company has certain needs right now, but how will those needs likely evolve in the future? It’s best to discuss your cloud storage needs with an experienced cloud backup company that also works with “offline” backups and private clouds. Sure there are many cloud providers and IT providers who work with cloud providers out there. But are they going to give you independent advice? Since they will receive lucrative monthly commissions from you for signing up for a cloud plan, you can bet that they will try to push you into a cloud plan, even if it would be best if you didn’t use one.

The guys at BackupChain are happy to help you out and discuss your needs. Perhaps you could repurpose parts of your existing server farm and set up a private cloud? Perhaps it’s better to use a cloud storage provider. Either way, they can ask the right questions to help you find the right cloud backup solution.

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