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The growth and impact of cloud backup services


Businesses and individuals alike have begun to embrace cloud-based backup services in greater numbers than ever before. And as adoption levels increase, the price of services is falling, which in turn catalyses the popularity of these solutions. Here is a look at how the market is expanding and changing.

Financial Impact

In 2014 alone the revenue generated by this type of backup hit a billion dollars (£701 million), effectively doubling over the course of half a decade. And from an enterprise perspective there are few better ways to ensure continuity in the event of a disaster than by committing mission-critical data to remote data centres rather than keeping everything in-house.

Investing in cloud storage as a means of disaster recovery planning is important not just because of the practical benefits, but also because companies of all sizes are facing increased costs when attempting to deal with a range of adverse scenarios, from data loss and theft to fires and floods.

A report from the Aberdeen Group published in 2013 suggests that any kind of downtime could cost medium-sized organisations an average of almost £115,000 an hour, meaning that the tolerance for extended outages is very low. And this figure is growing exponentially as business’ reliance upon digital services increases.

Usage Growth

With hundreds of millions of users relying upon cloud backup solutions across the world, tracking the growth of the industry paints an interesting picture of the changing usage habits that are still evolving as this technology shifts from a niche product to a staple of mainstream IT.

A study conducted by Kroll Ontrack found that in 2016 the number of people using local hardware to act as a repository for backed-up data had fallen from 68 per cent to 51 per cent, meaning that legacy systems are just about holding onto a slim majority in a market that is rapidly slipping away from them.

Meanwhile, 23 per cent said that they are in the process of deciding whether or not to make the leap to the cloud, with 86 per cent confirming that they have at least some form of backup solution in place, whether on-site, remote or based upon portable media.

The fact that there has been such a reduction in reliance upon local hardware in the space of 12 months shows that as cloud services grow in popularity, trends are influencing purchasing habits and manufacturers of traditional devices and infrastructures will need to update their offerings or risk being left behind.

The report also revealed that the cloud is having a positive impact on the accessibility of backup services, since just under a quarter of respondents said that cost was a limiting factor. This is notably lower than the 31 per cent who complained of being prohibited from adoption as a result of the expense in the previous year’s survey.

Report spokesperson Robin England admitted that some businesses were having a harder time managing backup solutions because of the increasing complexity, in addition to the growing need to rely upon these services to avoid outages. But with remotely managed cloud platforms, the responsibility to maintain the hardware, software and networking is taken out of the hands of individual organisations and placed with a provider which simplifies things enormously.

Risk Mitigation

While unscheduled downtime is not uncommon, being able to isolate the causes can help businesses to fight back and limit the negative impact of any outage. And while hardware failures are a persistent risk, one of the biggest issues that businesses have to deal with is data loss as a result of human error.

This mostly comes in the form of portable devices being lost or stolen while in the possession of employees, with a report from Lookout published in 2014 suggesting that as many as 113 smartphones go missing in this manner every 60 seconds.

Since most modern handsets can store anywhere from 8GB to 128GB of data or more, this represents an array of potential disasters that businesses will wish to avoid at all costs.

Furthermore, the appetite for cloud backup services has, in part, been fuelled by consumer usage of these storage solutions for personal files, in turn bleeding into the business world as employees make use of accounts to handle corporate data. This puts businesses in a problematic position if they refuse to embrace the cloud, since employees may already be using third party services with or without official approval.

The benefit of making cloud storage available on mobile devices is that it means staff will not need to keep sensitive information on the memory of a smartphone, tablet or laptop itself. Rather, they can make use of a network connection to access it in real time as and when required, while leaving the device free from data which might otherwise be exposed were it to fall into the wrong hands following loss or theft.

Training employees in the proper use of the cloud to backup files is essential, since it will help them to use the services safely and efficiently both while in the office and when working remotely. And if businesses can avoid the expense and embarrassment associated with data going missing when devices are discarded, then the benefits are even more significant.

Security Advantages

Committing data to the cloud rather than backing it up locally can pre-empt human error. But it is not just this area in which it offers improved protection compared with older solutions.

Data loss due to hacking is on the rise, with 500 million login details lost in the last year alone as a result of cybercriminal attacks, according to a recent Symantec report. Most notably the leak of millions of documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca has caused directed the spotlight at IT security and the damage associated with a breach.

An estimated 67.2 per cent of all data loss in the business world stems from hacks, with SMEs having a harder time coping with the sheer volume of attacks if they decide to rely upon in-house storage. It is all too easy for on-site servers to become overwhelmed by DDoS efforts, or cracked by brute force assaults. And even businesses which have the resources to run their own private data centres cannot assume that they will withstand the barrage of malicious threats they face daily in the digital realm.

To this end, choosing to use a cloud-based backup solution hosted by a dedicated provider makes far more sense from a security perspective. And the reason for this is all down to scale.

Backup providers have both the motivation and the resources to provide adequate protection for the data entrusted to them by their clients, as well as the ability to evolve security over time to keep pace with the ever-changing face of cyber crime. So rather than businesses worrying whether or not their systems are resilient enough to cope with hacks, they can join forces with a company that has the right tools to tackle this problem head on and in a more cost effective manner.

Hedging Bets

The latest Symantic report comes to the same conclusion as many other studies conducted by industry experts and analysts alike; every business will have to face up to the prospect of data loss at some point in the future, whatever the cause might be.

This means that rather than waiting for disaster to strike and then trying to pick up the pieces afterwards, cloud-based backup makes it possible for organisations of all shapes and sizes to invest in a robust recovery solution today, ensuring that they are prepared, should the worst happen.

The benefits of such systems are easy to understand, even for those who are not intimately familiar with the underpinnings of IT. And the growing market for cloud storage is similarly simple to grasp.

With so much interest in the cloud, competition amongst providers is reaching a fever pitch and of course not all solutions are created equal in this respect. This makes it important for firms that are in the market for cloud-based backup solutions to select a provider with considerable care. There is some inherent complexity in the way in which various packages are presented and in the underlying small print. This requires some investment in time, comparing packages and checking the reputation of an organisation to ensure that there are no nasty surprises further down the line.

It is crucial to avoid becoming complacent regarding your organisation’s preparedness for a disaster. Even successful, internationally known companies can succumb to hacks, data loss and human error in a way that erodes customer trust and costs millions. And while there is no sense in assuming that by embracing the cloud and backing up all data remotely you will be entirely protected from every threat, it is certainly a significant step in the right direction.

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