Cloud storage has seen rapid growth over the last decade, from initially offering a few gigabytes to the current multiple terabyte capacities available. It is common to offer a small storage allocation for free, with fees payable for storing larger quantities of data. This free storage space is unlikely to be enough to satisfy the backup requires of your company or many home users.
Using a cloud storage provider to store your data sounds to guard against any computer issues sounds like a good option, but it is important to understand the many factors which determine if it is the correct solution for your requirements.
Bandwidth and Data Capacity
The amount of data involved and your network bandwidth will determine the suitability of using a cloud storage provider. If your company creates terabytes of data, it may lead to your upload bandwidth being saturated for long periods of time, which could cause problems. Even more important is when it comes to downloading multiple terabytes of data in the event of a disaster recovery event.
At DiskEng we have been called to recover multiple terabytes of data from a failed RAID array, despite a copy of the said data being stored on a cloud server. Most broadband services in the UK offer asymmetrical bandwidths, which even over fibre, could result in several weeks being required to restore your data when it involves tens of terabytes. While the data was secure on the cloud servers, it was much faster to have the data recovered from the RAID array, allowing the company to restart their productivity in only a couple of days.
Issues of Data Synchronisation
To ensure that all data is automatically backed up and downloaded as it is changed, each client machine requires software to be installed. It is important that this is regularly checked, as the failure of the software to synchronise the data could result in files not being uploaded, potentially resulting data loss in the event of a system failure.
Microsoft’s OneDrive enables office documents to be shared with updates synchronised to all users. It is essential that all users understand the implications of not accepting changes made by another user, as it could result in them losing their changes. Deleting files from the cloud server using the software or via a webpage should also be carefully controlled, as it may lead to data loss.
Data Recovery and Cloud Services
The main selling point of cloud services is that when your computer has suffered a failure, it is easy to then restore your files from your cloud storage. Your internet speed will determine how long this will take, as highlighted above. The order in which files are downloaded are determined by the software, usually allowing the user little or no control over this.
When your company is developing a business continuity plan, it is important to determine the quantity of data which needs to be backed up and how long it would take to restore it from a cloud service provider. This needs to be reviewed regularly to avoid the possibility of a shock at a later time, as it would be likely to only come to light when a disaster occurs.