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Direct-to-cloud backup: a guide to cloud-based BC/DR

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Dale Shulmistra

Data Protection Specialist @ Invenio IT

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Direct-to-cloud backup

Direct-to-cloud backup is an efficient method for protecting your valuable business data, as it stores your data directly in the cloud without the need for local backup hardware.

Additionally, depending on the system, you can back up all the data that matters to your operations, including not only local servers and endpoints, but also virtual machines, cloud workloads and SaaS applications, such as Microsoft 365. At a time when almost 50% of businesses are losing SaaS data due to human error and other factors, it’s critical for organizations to implement direct-to-cloud backup.

In this post, we look at the advantages of direct-to-cloud backup and how it compares to other solutions for business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR).

What is direct-to-cloud backup?

Direct-to-cloud backup is a form of data backup that copies files directly to the cloud, rather than storing it on a local backup device. This eliminates the need to deploy dedicated on-premises hardware for backup, making it a more efficient approach to BC/DR for some organizations.

A traditional approach to backup is storing the backups on local servers, storage devices or dedicated backup hardware located at the place of business. As an added failsafe, some backup solutions also replicate those backups to the cloud – an approach commonly referred to as hybrid cloud backup. Direct-to-cloud backup bypasses the local storage entirely, sending it directly to the cloud.

With some systems, direct-to-cloud backup also enables organizations to backup critical data from one cloud to another, such as the data in SaaS applications, cloud-based productivity suites and VMs.

Example backup strategies and location of the backup storage:

Local Cloud
On-prem backup X
Hybrid cloud backup X X
Direct-to-cloud X

Benefits of direct-to-cloud backup

“Which type of data backup is best for my business?” In short, it depends. Choosing a BC/DR solution should be based on each business’s individual needs and continuity objectives. For some organizations, direct-to-cloud backup has several advantages:

Business continuity

Like most disaster recovery solutions, the greatest benefit of direct-to-cloud backup is that it reduces the risk of business disruption due to data loss. Having any form of backup is better than no backup at all. Regardless of whether the data is stored locally, in the cloud or both, the backups enable businesses to restore data after a ransomware attack, server failure, accidental file deletion and other disasters. This helps businesses to maintain operational continuity, minimizing downtime and financial losses.

Ease of deployment

One of the biggest benefits of direct-to-cloud backup is that it is generally quicker and easier to deploy than other business continuity solutions. Since there is no hardware to install, businesses can typically begin backing up their data to the cloud within minutes. This separates direct-to-cloud from solutions that use dedicated hardware, which naturally takes longer to procure, install and configure. However, configuring a direct-to-cloud backup solution can have its own complexities, depending on the scope of the deployment, especially when integrating third-party clouds and other cloud services.

Off-site storage and availability

One drawback of storing backups locally is that the backups can be destroyed by disasters that occur at the place of business. For example, if a server room is flooded, or the entire building is destroyed by fire, the business will not be able to restore its critical data even if it manages to relocate the rest of its operations elsewhere. Direct-to-cloud backup keeps protected files securely off-site, so that data can still be retrieved even if local infrastructure is destroyed or inaccessible. Additionally, since the backups are stored in the cloud, the data can be accessed and restored from anywhere.

Scalability

Direct-to-cloud backup is typically easier to scale, since there is no local hardware to replace or expand. Most solutions allow you to expand your cloud storage as your needs change over time (though pricing will typically be based on the amount of storage and/or number of protected devices). This is especially valuable when a business needs to significantly increase its backup storage, such as after the deployment of additional servers or endpoint fleets. The cloud backup storage can typically be scaled almost instantly.

SaaS data backup

Solutions like Redstor and Datto SaaS Protection provide direct-to-cloud backup of data in common SaaS applications, such as Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. As businesses increasingly rely on cloud-based productivity apps, backing up this data is vital for protection against accidental data loss, malicious deletion, malware and other threats. Direct-to-cloud backup enables businesses to back up the data stored in these apps to a separate cloud. In addition to M365 and Google, there are options to back up Salesforce, Quickbooks, Azure VM, Xero, Amazon cloud workloads and other third-party cloud services.

Ease of management

In addition to being quicker to install, direct-to-cloud backup is also generally easier to manage. With solutions like Redstor, businesses and/or their managed-service providers can manage all aspects of the backup process from a single pane of glass. This is especially useful when backing up numerous machines and SaaS applications, as it allows centralized management of all protected systems (and users) in one web-based app. And again, there is no hardware to maintain or replace.

Cost efficiency

Depending on the implementation, direct-to-cloud backup can be more cost-efficient to deploy. Systems that use local hardware will typically have a higher initial installation cost, while pricing for direct-to-cloud backup will largely be based on the size and quantity of protected systems. Businesses that want to minimize their initial deployment costs may want to consider direct-to-cloud, but the decision should ultimately be based on continuity objectives.

The case for direct-to-cloud SaaS backup

80% of organizations now use at least one SaaS application, according to data from Zippia. This can include productivity suites like M365, accounting software, customer relationship management solutions, email, calendars and many others. But since this data is stored in the cloud, many organizations are not backing it up as they do traditional files stored on local servers and endpoint devices.

A common misconception about SaaS data is that it’s not at risk of being lost or destroyed because it’s already stored in the cloud. But in fact SaaS data loss is extremely common. As mentioned above, roughly 1 in 2 businesses have reported losing SaaS data. Here’s how it happens.

Common causes of SaaS data loss

Accidental deletion

47% of SaaS data-loss events are caused by files being inadvertently deleted, moved or overwritten. It’s the single most common cause of SaaS data loss. Examples can include deleted email threads, entire folders in OneDrive, customer records in Salesforce and so on. Even if the SaaS application temporarily retains deleted data in a Recycle Bin, it’s usually deleted permanently after a couple of months, without notice. If there’s no backup, those files are usually gone for good.

Malicious deletion

In a survey of businesses that reported SaaS data loss, 19% said that data was maliciously deleted by external actors. Shockingly, 6% of respondents also said that data was maliciously deleted by internal staff. Both scenarios underscore the serious risk of SaaS data being intentionally destroyed – and the need for reliable SaaS backups. With direct-to-cloud SaaS backups, organizations can still restore their deleted SaaS data even if it was permanently trashed within the SaaS application months ago.

Canceled user licenses

This category of SaaS data loss technically falls under “accidental deletion.” However, it’s not due to users inadvertently deleting files. It’s caused by administrators or simply bad organizational policies that fail to retain critical SaaS data before a license expires. For example: let’s say a company’s marketing director resigns. The company decides to wait 6 months before refilling the position. But no one tells IT, so the employee’s M365 account is allowed to expire, effectively deleting all the critical files that should have been retained for the eventual new hire: creative assets, marketing calendars, emails and so on. All of this data is deleted and needs to be rebuilt from scratch – a costly endeavor that could have been avoided with better data-retention policies (and SaaS backups as an added failsafe).

Ransomware, cyberattacks and other malware

In a recent survey of 2,000 IT professionals conducted by Hornetsecurity, 25% said they did not believe that M365 data could be affected by ransomware. But this is simply not true. Just because the data is stored in the cloud does not mean it’s immune to ransomware and other types of malware. As a basic example, consider what happens if local files are encrypted by ransomware and then mirrored to OneDrive or Google Drive. Or, consider a successful phishing attack that gives hackers unrestricted access to the company’s OneDrive directories, allowing them to encrypt data directly in the cloud environment. Having a reliable M365 backup provides an added failsafe that ensures compromised data can be recovered and restored back to normal.

Bad migrations and integrations

A lot of things can go wrong when large swaths of data are moved, bulk-edited or integrated with other third-party tools. Even when the integrations are otherwise completely secure, all it takes is one mistake during the configuration to botch the whole thing. Most commonly, data is overwritten, misplaced or even corrupted. If the volume of data loss is significant, it can have a direct and costly impact on operations. This is another scenario in which having a SaaS backup can be extremely valuable.

Is direct-to-cloud backup right for your business?

While direct-to-cloud backup is typically easier to deploy, this is only one of many factors that should be considered when evaluating a business continuity solution.

For example, some organizations may require a system that uses a dedicated local backup device for faster access to protected files and systems. Restoring a full backup or virtualizing a protected server will typically be much easier and quicker when the backup is local. On the other hand, some traditional backup methods require you to wait until all data is completely restored completely before you can access a single file.

Again, each organization will have different needs. So here are a few questions to ask when evaluating the right solution for your business:

  1. What is the maximum backup frequency? How often will protected systems be backed up, and how quickly? Are endpoint devices backed up at the same frequency as the SaaS data?
  2. How is data recovered? What methods are available for restoring the data in a variety of disaster scenarios? For example, how easy is it to restore individual files and folders from the cloud vs. restoring an entire machine? What if a bare metal restore is required? Can you restore the backup as a virtual machine?
  3. How fast are those recoveries? If you’re recovering a cloud backup, how long will it take to restore it on a local machine? How quickly can you recover to VMware or Hyper-V? How do these recovery times compare with systems that use a local backup device?
  4. Does it back up SaaS apps and cloud environments? Can you back up data within M365, Google Workspace and other common SaaS platforms? What about virtual machines or data stored within other third-party clouds, like Azure or Amazon Web Services?
  5. Where is data stored? For direct-to-cloud backups, will your data be stored in the provider’s own cloud or a public cloud? What is the physical location of the data center(s) and what security measures are in place to protect your data from cyberattacks and other threats?
  6. What is the cost? How does pricing work? Remember to consider initial deployment and configuration costs in addition to monthly service fees.
  7. How easily can you scale? As your storage needs increase, how easily can you back up greater volumes of data? If you’re using direct-to-cloud backups, how will these increases affect pricing or backup management processes? For local storage, how easily can you expand or replace hardware to accommodate increases in data?

Recommended direct-to-cloud backup solutions

Given the varying capabilities and features of today’s direct-to-cloud backup solutions, it’s important to weigh your options carefully. Here are a few solutions we recommend:

  • RedstorRedstor is a good option for direct-to-cloud backup, especially if you have numerous environments you need to protect. It offers “the broadest coverage of data sources,” including cloud backups for local servers and endpoints, M365, Google Workspace, Azure, Xero, Quickbooks, Salesforce and others.
  • Datto Cloud Continuity: Datto is a leading player for business continuity and disaster recovery, with several backup solutions to fit the needs of every organization. Cloud Continuity is its software-only solution, backing up local endpoint data directly to the Datto Cloud. Some businesses use Cloud Continuity in conjunction with Datto’s physical backup devices, such as SIRIS, to ensure that users’ locally saved files are protected.
  • Datto SaaS Protection: For SaaS backup, Datto’s direct-to-cloud solution is called Datto SaaS Protection, providing 3x daily automated backups for M365 and Google Workspace. Organizations also have the option of adding Datto SaaS Defense, which provides advanced threat protection for Microsoft 365. It proactively defends against malware, business email compromise (BEC) and phishing attacks.

Each option has its own unique advantages, so if you need help identifying the right solution for your organization, reach out to us and our technology experts will be happy to assist.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about direct-to-cloud backup

1. What are the benefits of direct-to-cloud backup?

The main benefit of direct-to-cloud backup is that there is no hardware to install or manage. This makes the deployment easier, faster and more cost-efficient. Additional benefits include scalability, ease of management and the ability to back up SaaS applications (on select systems).

2. How do I back up everything to the cloud?

For business-grade cloud backup solutions, backing up data to the cloud is usually as simple as identifying the devices you want to protect within the system’s software. Some direct-to-cloud solutions allow you to back up virtually everything, including local machines, SaaS applications, third-party clouds and virtual machines, all managed from a single app.

3. How is data recovered from direct-to-cloud backup?

Data recovery methods vary between different direct-to-cloud backup solutions. Common recovery options include the use of a virtual drive to gain instant access to protected data, recovering a system to VMware, booting to new hardware or creating a virtual machine in the cloud.

Conclusion

Direct-to-cloud backup is an efficient way to protect your critical business data, backing it up directly to the cloud without the need for a local backup device. Select solutions enable you to back up all the files that matter to your business, including local servers and endpoints, as well as popular SaaS applications and third-party clouds. Storing backups in the cloud provides an added failsafe against the risk of an on-site disaster. Plus, direct-to-cloud solutions are typically faster and easier to deploy, since there is no hardware to install. Businesses that are evaluating direct-to-cloud backup should use their continuity planning to identify a solution that can meet their recovery needs and objectives.

Back up ALL your data, no matter where it lives

Learn more about protecting your data with today’s best direct-to-cloud backup solutions. of Datto or Redstor, or contact our business continuity professionals at Invenio IT. Call (646) 395-1170 or email success@invenioIT.com.

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