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Is backing up to the cloud enough?

Is backing up to the cloud enough?

by Liam McNaughton

I am increasingly seeing sites that only backup to cloud. At Dental IT, we really don't recommend this.

Why not?

Firstly, it's important to make sure you capture all data from your server, not just certain files.

Yes, those files selected for remote backup will be the most crucial to the business; but, chances are, there are many other files not selected for the backup that you would also miss if there was a disaster affecting your server. It's not normally possible to backup ALL your data to cloud - not without either running up a very large bill, or having so much data that it never fully uploads, or takes a long time to catch up. Secondly, a local backup can usually be an "imaging" backup.

Imaging backup vs file backup.

As the name suggests, file backup just backs up individual files or folders.

An image backup typically backs up everything on your system including the Operating System itself, all the applications and all the configuration. Imagine, if you will, that you only have a file backup. What happens when disaster strikes? Well, you can get your files back, but first you have to rebuild your network - install and configure a replacement server, put all the applications on it, configure and test them. This might easily take as long as it did to setup the network in the first place. This could involve third parties - your software or other providers. So you could easily be looking at days of downtime or disruption before you are fully operational as you were before the disaster. But with an image backup, we can restore your server back to another machine (or a virtual machine), usually within hours - certainly by the next morning. Because we are restoring an image of the entire server, we don't have to rebuild any of the configuration, and we don't have to involve any third parties.

Another problem with file backup is when things change, and the backup doesn't see the change. For example, a database is moved from one part of the server to another, often by a third party. This could be Sage support for your accounts data, or Schick support for your digital imaging data. And the backup system that was setup years ago, perhaps by the person who originally setup your IT, isn't updated so it doesn't include the new data path. The backup, therefore, isn't working at all. Imaging backup avoids this problem, as it backs up every file on the system, wherever it is.

Trust

Another reason you might not want to place all of your backups into the cloud is trust.

I am sure most cloud providers are trustworthy, the data is stored securely and compliant with EU and UK regulations, and the data can be restored when required. But I have never come across any customer that checks any of this; it is all based on trust. If you have a local, imaging backup, then your data is stored at your site - usually on a NAS (network attached storage) device. The local device does not give you offsite backups, for fire, flood and theft, but it is a fast, comprehensive restore that will get you back up and running quickly when you need it.

At Dental IT, we recommend a combination of local and remote backup systems. The local backup system uses image based backup and saves to a local NAS device. The remote backup uploads core critical files to an offsite secure datacentre. We believe this offers the best of both worlds, and gives your peace of mind that should your network suffer catastrophic failure, or infection, fire or theft, we will be able to restore your systems and get you back up and running as quickly as we possibly can.


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