The cloud has changed the way in which we carry out many everyday IT tasks, and nowhere is that truer than in the world of performing backups. The cloud offers greater convenience, easier access to saved data, better security and no need to worry about cycling storage media.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the adoption of cloud-based backup has soared across all sectors of industry. It makes the task easier whilst also helping to keep costs down. The education sector in particular, both in schools and in higher education institutions, has been quick to see the benefits of backing up to the cloud
The old way
In the past, backing up data generally involved some form of removable media. The earliest backups tended to use magnetic tape, although in more recent years, disk-to-disk backups or the use of flash drives has become more commonplace.
The use of physical media brings its own problems as you need to keep multiple copies of data to be able to recover to different points. This not only means having to store large quantities of physical media; it means having to have a plan to cycle the media and re-use it in the correct sequence. This is quite a chore, and it can easily lead to errors involving the wrong data being overwritten. It also means that if you do need to recover something, there are inevitable delays in locating and loading the correct copy – especially if backups are stored off site.
The cloud way
Using cloud backup for educational institutions eliminates many of these issues. Because cloud storage is always available, there’s no need to worry about locating the right media when it’s needed. Of course, there’s no need to worry about secure storage or cycling of copies, either.
Another big advantage in using the cloud is that it’s easy to scale the amount of storage. If there’s an expansion in the number of students or a new research project leads to an increase in the amount of data to be backed up, storage in the cloud can easily be increased to cope.
Using the cloud helps contain costs as there’s no need to buy physical media or the hardware required to read it. Cloud storage is generally priced according to the amount you use, so you do not end up paying for unnecessary space.
The big advantage is that backing up to the cloud is continuous. In an educational situation where there is fast turnover of information and potentially many inexperienced users, it can be easy to lose data in between the intervals of an old, fixed-time backup schedule. Using the cloud means you can backup data all the time, so in the event of failure or accidental deletion, the data you recover will never be more than a few minutes old. It’s also secure because the information is automatically stored in an off-site location.
Everyone hopes that their backups won’t be needed. In the educational sector, however, there’s a better chance than most that you will need to recover files, folders, or even whole systems at some point.
This is another area in which using the cloud for backups offers major advantages. The data is easily available with no need to track down physical media, and it’s usually possible to select from several different versions of a file should you need to restore it.
Cloud systems give you the option of restoring a particular version of a file from a specific backup. You also have the option of restoring to a different location should the data need to be verified before going back into live systems.
Backup is essential for all organisations, but in the past, it has represented something of a chore. In educational environments, it represents a particular challenge because of the fast-changing population and the diverse amount of data to be handled. The cloud makes the job of backup easier to carry out and ensures that the data can be stored in an easily accessible, secure and cost-effective way.