Is backing up to the cloud your safest option?
Using a cloud-based backup system for your data might seem like a leap of faith if you are used to the idea of having close, physical control over your data storage.
Even in an age of digital convenience, it is a legitimate concern to think about the security of your data in the cloud. Therefore, you must consider which your safest option is: backing up to the cloud or to a physical, on-site server.
Is your data ever completely safe?
Unfortunately, the short answer to this is no.
Cyber security must always be a focus because criminals’ methods evolve just as the technology used by businesses changes and improves.
The National Crime Agency reports that there has been a significant growth in cybercrime, with breaches involving leaked personal data leaving more people vulnerable to fraud.
The complexity and scale of cyberattacks is becoming more wide ranging and a big concern is cloud security.
Businesses put their faith in cloud providers, but as more companies use cloud-based backup for their data, it will become a more attractive target to cybercriminals.
In its 2017-2018 report, the National Crime Agency has stated that only 40 per cent of all data stored in the cloud is access secured. That’s why many businesses are concerned about the level of encryption and security of data they can expect from backup services in the cloud.
What are the backup options for business?
The decision about backup boils down to two options: cloud or physical.
With either option, the key objective is to protect your data whether from a hardware failure, user error or security breach.
If you lose data it can be a crippling, or even catastrophic, loss. It can include payroll information, privileged client data and proprietary company information. You cannot afford to lose any of these, or for such sensitive information to fall into the wrong hands.
What, therefore, are the pros and cons of cloud and physical data backup?
Cloud data backup
There are clear benefits to backing up your data in the cloud:
- You have no need for on-site hardware or capital expenses to keep up with your data storage needs.
- Cloud-based backup is a scalable solution, and on-demand providers make it straightforward and cost-effective for when you need to increase your data storage capacity.
- You can initiate backup and restore from any location, at any time, giving you a large amount of flexibility in managing your data.
- Using the cloud means you can back up your information as regularly as every 15 minutes, minimising data loss should a disaster occur. You can also benefit from shortened recovery times for smaller amounts of data.
You should weigh up these benefits against the potential disadvantages of relying on cloud backup:
- Full data recovery can be costly, and may overshadow the benefits, if your business is dependent on instant recovery and minimising downtime.
- Costs may also determine how much data your business can afford to store in the cloud, depending on availability and your provider’s rates.
- Your data backup is dependent on the internet. If it goes down either on your or your provider’s side, you will not be able to access your information.
How secure is the cloud?
When choosing a cloud data storage provider, security and encryption policies should be critical in making your decision.
Ideally, the provider should encrypt your files first on your device before uploading them securely via an SSL internet connection.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and it is a protocol for establishing links between networked computers that are both encrypted and authenticated.
Using encryption algorithms should make your data impregnable because without the encryption key no one can access your files.
However, there is the issue of a third-party having access to your cloud-based data.
One way of addressing it is to use a service that allows you to use your own key, which means only you can read your files.
A potential pitfall here is that if you manage to lose your key, there will be no way for you to access your data.
It makes sense to consider your options carefully, and look at what different cloud data storage providers can offer.
One further online measure you can take to make your cloud-based data storage safer is to add another layer of security.
If you store your online files in an encrypted container or vault, then your backup programme will then backup the vault rather than the files it contains.
This protects you on two counts: from someone accessing a stolen computer, and from online hackers attacking your backup service.
Physical data backup
Despite the expansion of cloud-based data storage services, there are still benefits to the physical backup of data:
- It involves you copying your critical data to a local disk. This has the advantage of giving you physical control over your backup.
- Your important data stays in-house with no third parties having access to your information.
- Another feature of external hard drives and servers is their speed. You’re not dependent on the speed of your internet connection, which can be an advantage if you’re transferring large files across.
However, there are potential downsides to physical data backup:
- Your hardware costs could mount if your business grows and the amount of data you process and store expands. You will need to invest in more hardware to keep you backup up to date.
- Hard copies of backup data can become corrupted for various reasons such as mishandling or incorrect formatting. If this happens to your physical backup, the data may then be irretrievable.
- Physical data storage leaves your data more vulnerable to physical theft, should someone break into your business, or accident through fire or flooding.
Cloud or physical? Your choice
Backing up your data is a necessity for your business. It is an essential part of having a disaster recovery plan.
How you choose to do it will largely depend on the nature and size of your business and the kind of data you deal with.
And it doesn’t have to be a binary choice: you can combine cloud and physical storage, to be extra sure of your data’s safety.
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