Why you should make a cloud backup this World Backup Day

 Representational image of a cloud firewall.
Representational image of a cloud firewall.

He’s been! World Backup Day, or March 31, is over for another year. This brazen PR sleigh ride, asking the people of the world to make one (1) backup of their data, is backed by some of our cloud backup favourites like Mega and Backblaze, plus Amazon.

As the big day approaches, our e-stockings are full of emails full of dynamite discourse about why you need a copy of your organization’s data. Which is, you know, fine,  and we obviously agree, but the reality makes things much clearer than a snappy CTO soundbite.

Just today, for example, I heard of a company that stored all of its data on a single external hard drive. After a time, said hard drive no longer read data, and the company's bedraggled IT drone was dragged, by a great horned demon, into data recovery hell, never to be heard from again.

Minus some dramatic licence, this fable could really happen to you. Backups are good, backups are logical. ‘Make a backup before a backup makes you’ is advice for life. And yet, in its 2021 ‘State of Backup’ study, Backblaze suggest that 21% of people have never made a backup. I find this interminably depressing.

Similarly, any person or business refusing to admit the mortality of their external hard drives and SSDs is possibly (definitely) from another planet. The mechanical platters of a hard drive are more prone to failure to that of a solid state drive, because, as the name implies, the latter has no moving parts - but every drive can fail.

Plus, buying drives infinitely like this poses four key problems: 1) the expense, 2) the sheer amount of space this’ll take up if you start putting those drives in servers and 3) the relative lack of security of a purely on-premise storage configuration.

The 3-2-1 backup principle

Yes, for truly secure, preserved data, it’s not enough to keep all of your storage devices on one site. The 3-2-1 backup principle, revered by such big names as IONOS and Seagate, suggests that, at all times, you should have three copies of all your data at any one time, across two different types of media, and one of these backups should be held off-site.

And, because data is truly mortal, you’ll be replacing these backups and the kinds of media and devices that you keep them on forever, and you’ll love it, because you value your data, right?  This maintenance is one of the draining things about on-prem backups.

The principle is decades-old, well-worn to the point that even we have published contributors claiming that 3-2-1 backups are out of date because of the existence of the cloud driving the obsolescence of ye olde tape media and compact discs - the things that immediately come to mind when thinking about different storage types.

Well, sure. But that brings us to another of the big disadvantages of on-premise backups, which is that: if your business has the luxury of a second site to split backups between, that’s fine, but if you’re committed to 3-2-1, responsible data preservation, and circumstances mean that you don’t have that luxury, how exactly do you make an off-site backup?

In primordial times, this was some conundrum, but in the twenty-first century, I’d say that cloud backups can accommodate 3-2-1, no matter what the naysayers think.

Cloud backup and security

Cloud backup entails trusting your data to another company’s servers, usually in some data center somewhere, and paying a monthly or annual fee for the privilege. In the short to medium term, this can make financial sense, or even beyond that with lifetime cloud storage plans, offering much the same, but for a hefty one-off fee.

The other big advantage of cloud backups is that they solve the problem of where you keep your off-site backup, because you’ve ceded control over that to another faceless company, which will have its own data loss prevention strategies, and backups of your backup.

Getting another company involved can be a blessing and a curse, though: we recognise that handing off your data, which may mean sensitive client data, to another company’s servers may sound like, well, like a bad idea.

Well, to head that off, a number of our recommended providers, like pCloud, MEGA, and Icedrive, offer end-to-end encryption, sometimes referred to as zero-knowledge or client-side encryption, meaning that the company handling your storage have no access to your files or ability to view their metadata.

It’s a nice assurance to have in an age of well-justified fears of just how humanity can abuse the internet, and also a very recent phenomenon that many household names have only just started to take note of. Google Drive, for example, only permits end-to-end encryption for Google Workspace accounts belonging to organizations whose administrators have enabled it.

Solo professionals looking to use Google Drive will have to rely on server-side encryption - which might protect your files from ne'er-do-wells hacking into Google Towers, but not from Google itself, or anyone with unauthorized access to your account.

Google Drive also happens to be, for our and indeed your money, one of the cheapest cloud backup providers going, so that may be something to keep in mind.

Cloud storage vs backup

Another thing to think about is that Google’s offering, for instance, is also known to many as a cloud storage provider, but that’s not quite the same thing as a cloud backup provider.

If a service lets you backup ideally an entire drive but at the absolute bare minimum a single folder on a device to the cloud, that’s what you want in this context. Cloud storage, meanwhile, is focused on keeping copies of specific files, not whole drives, and not all cloud storage services offer cloud backups.

Back it up, wrap it up

I wish I had a more in-depth, less snippy argument to present for backing up your data at all - I don’t. Do you like having your stuff? Well then. But I do think that the argument for making cloud backups, not just during this momentous March but in general, is strong and clear.

Cloud backups alleviate, if not remove completely, a whole lot of the obstacles that the 3-2-1 strategy presents, and the industry is far along enough that providers which aren’t Google, Amazon or Microsoft are popping up left-right and center, if that’s a consideration.

We can offer recommendations for cloud backup providers, but the choice, ultimately, is yours. Read provider websites to understand the features offered, and whether any one service is even fit for purpose before you buy in because, as with any business decision, it’s important to do your research.