These days more and more applications are placed in the cloud. This happens for a lot of reasons but typically it is done to consolidate several services or to simplify the operations.
The three largest operators on the market are Azure Public Cloud by Microsoft, Amazon Web Services by Amazon and Google Cloud Platform by Google. Onthe Danish market the main focus has been on the two first-mentioned.
The cloud transformation demands change within the surrounding operating environment and backup is naturally part of this. Let’s just forget all the jokes about how real men do not back up their data and focus on the fact that backup is the best choice in most cases.
But what is important to note when backing up an application in public clouds? Here are 6 important considerations you should reflect upon before choosing a backup solution for your MS Azure application.
The most important strategic consideration is where the backup should be placed. All public cloud vendors offer backup as part of their service catalogue and in principal it is really easy to get going. It doesn’t require a lot of work – just a couple of clicks to order backup, then some clicks ordering compute and storage and before you notice it, you are already out there.
Placing the backup within the same infrastructure as the application is the proper solution for most applications. However, this solution may not be suitable for applications which are vital to your organization. Taking this into account, do you wish to utilize private cloud oranon-premisesolution?
Before you make this decision you need to do some research and you may benefit from drawing upon your CISO. If you already have a business continuity plan this is most likely establishing the guidelines as to which model you should choose.
Most companies will for years use a hybrid model combining on-premise, private cloud and public cloud applications. In addition, the applications placed in the cloud are diverse. Some will be placed in an IaaS-model with OS being taken care of by the company itself. Others are operating by using Azure PaaS-components and some may be placed on a clean-cut SaaS-model asOffice 365.
If you are using various solutions for your application backup, which might make sense considering the unique application, you quickly end up with a management disaster when applying similar administration of backup across all applications.
Who’s responsible for data backup on a daily basis? Does it make sense if the owner of the application has to consult a centrally managed IT-service function to commission backup or order restore of specific components? It is important to consider which level of agility you want within your organization.
Considering this prior to the implementation of the solution will make your future work with the application easier. In general, the IT industry is moving toward self-service therefore it is crucial that the people who are responsible for the application are also able to manage the backup.
If you decide to place the backup as part of your Azure operating environment, you’ll benefit from a flexible Pay-as-You-Grow model which is capable of both scaling in and out. If not, you should probably calculate expected Total Cost of Ownership for the backup-solution and compare it to the expected cost in case of complete data loss.
It may sound simple, but I, the writer, have in fact experienced backup solutions which were costlier to operate than the joint value of the data protected.
It is also important to note that an on-premise backup solution requires extensive attention from the organization’s IT-department such as storage, compute, licenses, regular operations and maintenance, maintaining qualifications etc. Whether you accept these requirements, or you wish to consolidate to the cloud is an important consideration.
Well, isn’t backup security? Yes, it is and for that reason your security and business continuity policy iscrucial to your considerations. If data plays a crucial role in your business exclusively cloud-based backup is probably not enough for you. You should instead consider combining cloud-based and physical backup.
What we want to emphasize is that considerations of security, based on a thorough risk assessment and a well-written business continuity plan, are important for your backup to function as intended – as a safety net to catch us if we fall.
6. Restore test
Let’s return to the joke about real men not backing up their data. When it comes to data backup, almost every company has come to terms with the fact that they are not brave like real men but more like insecure teenage boys before going on their first date. Transferred into the world of technology: These days almost every company wishes to play it safe and to secure their data.
This gives rise to additional questions:
- Am I capable of restoring my data in case of a breakdown?
- How long will it take to restore the data?
In a world were almost every company backs up their data very few run tests on restoring the data. This may surprise you considering that various security firmshave recommended doing this for years.
Several things may go wrong with the initial being that restore simply is not working. Meaning that the backup you thought you had, is worthless.
Another complication may be that restoring the data will be so time-consuming that you might as well go without backup. If a high-risk system has broken down and the company cannot go without it for more than eight hours data restore with a duration of 24 hours is simply not sufficient.
In spite of this not many companies have procedures for running tests on data restore. At Netic we recommend that you consider implementing restore tests.
By using the built-in backup-services in Azure you obtain access to Restore-as-a-Service. This enables you to mount a cloud recovery point as a volume and then browse it in a point-and-click interface and choose the files you wish to restore.
There is no doubt that managing backup in MS Azure is easy. Actually, almost every operation in Azure is easy. At Netic we wish to point out that considering backup arises from something completely different. Just as most other IT security considerations, it is rooted in the assessment of the level of risk that your organisation experiences with the application in question.
This assessment may subsequently serve as the basis for a number of essential decisions:
- Is it sufficient to only place our backup in Azure?
- What is our retention time?
- Should we keep our on-premise backup?
- Should we have physical backup?
… and so on.
If you have any questions concerning strategy, choice of technology or simply just wish to receive practical guidance on how to succeed on a backup-strategy for your public cloud application, feel free to contact us.