Cloud computing is an umbrella term used to describe a set of services that users can enjoy by creating an online account with a cloud vendor. At a very generic level, the cloud can be said to facilitate data storage and recovery, disaster recovery planning, mobile computing, collaboration, and a host of other similar services. However, each cloud offering is distinguished by a set of features that constitute the vendor’s unique selling point (USP.)
Public, Private, and Hybrid Clouds
Cloud service offerings may be public, private, or hybrid cloud offerings. Public clouds are cloud constructs in which all hardware and software resources maintained by the vendor are shared between customers, and security and privacy is enforced by the software. Private clouds are cloud constructs in which hardware and software resources are exclusive to a specific customer. Hybrid clouds are constructs in which customers store part of their data in public clouds and part of their data in private clouds or local storage devices.
Agentless vs. Agent-Based
The process of connecting to the cloud may be “agentless” or agent-based. Customers signing up for an agentless connection will have to install an agent on one central computer and identify all systems that will be connecting to the singular online backup and recovery account using the admin interface that is deployed by the agent software. Agent-based cloud systems require the installation of an agent on each of the computers that will be connecting to the singular online backup and recovery account. Each model has advantages and disadvantages.
Compression and De-Duplication
A variety of data compression, data de-duplication, and data encryption systems may be integrated into the cloud computing system. A few cloud vendors may implement data compression and data de-duplication before data is transmitted over the Internet to save on bandwidth and time to backup. Others may use data compression and data de-duplication processes at the destination point to minimize the time it takes for individual, connecting systems to process the data for backup.
For security reasons, all cloud computing systems encrypt data before transmitting it over the Internet. The type and quality of encryption will distinguish one vendor from another. The encryption methodology may be described as bank-grade or military-grade, depending on the algorithm adopted by the vendor in encrypting information before transmission. Popular encryption algorithms use 128-bit or 256-bit encryption to ensure impregnability of data. Decryption reverses the encryption process. A few vendors may offer to store data in an encrypted format in the online backup server.
Continuous vs. Scheduled
Data transmission to the storage repositories may be continuous or scheduled. Continuous backup may be ideal for those who generate large volumes of mission-critical information continuously and cannot afford to lose data records for a single second. Scheduled backup may be preferred by businesses that can afford to wait and backup the information once a day, once a week, or once a month. In either scenario, cloud vendors may provision for time-stamped backup for ease of recovery. Additionally, they may provide for file versioning with or without provision for file collaboration between users of the online backup account or even third parties to the account.
Decide if an agentless or agent-based cloud backup and recovery system works for you by carefully investigating their pros and cons. In addition to well-prepared Service Level Agreements, ensure that the vendor you are considering facilitates data compression, data de-duplication, data encryption, file versioning, and collaboration. Gauge the vendor’s engagement level with their customers, and when you are ready to test the product, ensure that you have at least two weeks of trial before you sign up.