This month at Tech Download, we’re talking about migrating to cloud storage. We sat down with our resident tech expert, Jim Griffiths, to talk a little bit about the benefits of cloud storage.
Q: What kinds of questions about the cloud do companies typically ask?
Jim: For most of our customers, a lot of them are either using, or considering using, Office 365. Some of them are running it just for the Office applications, but others are it to provide Microsoft Exchange as their Email server.
Other companies are more interested in how the cloud can help streamline their backup and recovery. Many of them are used to backing up their data using physical tapes or tape libraries. More often now our clients back up locally to disk, and then make copies to tape media. In the past, these companies would have taken tapes and transported them offsite (using a media storage provider), but many are now looking at cloud solutions to take the place that tape normally occupied in their backup strategy.
What we want to do is figure out how we can simplify their backup. For cloud backups, some customers are using Microsoft Azure and FoxNet cloud partners such as ThinkOn. We’re trying to take the backup they’re doing, say with Veeam, and forward that to a cloud-based backup provider where they’d normally put their offsite copies.
Q: What’s the benefit of moving to a cloud-based backup?
Jim: Companies who migrate their backup to the cloud don’t have to worry about their physical backup copies anymore. Some companies might have had a tape library onsite that housed their backup, and in the past, they would have had to install the tapes, remove them for transport offsite, and bring them back if they needed recover or restore their data. This method of backing up data typically creates a major cost in time and money for companies.
But now that the cloud is an option, we can back everything up in an automated fashion to the cloud and avoid tape movement and the associated costs.
Q: So how does that work?
Jim: Basically, the cloud replaces your tape library and houses the offsite backup. The backup itself will happens on the company’s local disk, using whatever tools that company has. What we do is come in and link that backup to a cloud repository, using Veeam or some other form of backup software. In the past, the backup would have been put on tapes, but we set it up so that the cloud replaces the tape layer. Now it’s all automated and companies don’t have to worry about it. When you need to access your data, you don’t have to get someone to deliver the physical backup tapes—you can access it through the cloud.
Q: Is it a huge deal for a company to switch over to cloud-based backup? Do companies get nervous about the idea of switching?
Jim: The concerns people have about switching to cloud-based backup tend to centre around bandwidth limits and time constraints. People want to know if getting their data to the cloud will be a resource-intensive process, if it will occupy a lot of bandwidth, and if the backup process will be quick, because everyone is worried about backup windows.
Other things companies worry about is the safety of their data. They want to know if it’s encrypted, if cloud storage means it’s staying in Canada or going to the US. And people often want to know how fast they’ll be able to get it back.
What’s important for people to know is that we have mechanisms to handle all of these concerns for companies. We can figure out what people’s requirements are, we can size network connections or provide connections to external providers, we can put in backup software that optimizes backup by reducing the amount of data that has to go offsite, by either de-duplication or compression or a combination of the two. we can reduce data that goes offsite by only backing up copies to the cloud once a month, if bandwidth is a concern. It depends what situation the customer is in.
Q: So does FoxNet do that? Evaluate a business’s IT situation and recommend the best strategy for them?
Jim: Generally, we do. We try to take a look at what the customer is doing, see if it makes sense, see what the ROI is, see if moving to a cloud-based solution for something like backup makes sense for them. Customers often ask us what data and applications they should move to the cloud, and the answer is not necessarily everything. It’s important to take a look at what the cloud offers, whether it’s Office 365, Azure, AWS, or something else. We like to take a look at what makes sense for the customer and doing it in a cost-effective manner. If it doesn’t make sense cost wise, there’s no point in doing it. From the backup perspective, if you’re spending a lot of money on tapes for backups, $100 a tape sometimes, it can be quite expensive to replace those tapes over time, move them offsite, and buy more as your capacity increases. We would start by comparing that to the cost of moving backup to the cloud, and go from there.
Q: Would you say the majority of your customers are moving to cloud-based backup?
Jim: I’d say the majority of them have tried the cloud in some capacity. And many of them have stayed with it. Some customers will start by moving their Office 365 to the cloud. As far as cloud-based backup goes, more and more people are relying on it, especially as disaster recovery becomes an option, and I think we’ll continue to see an increase in that over the next year.
Q: Are there any other insights you’d like to offer on the cloud?
Jim: The cloud is definitely picking up steam. More and more services are available there, and everyone wants the speed of the cloud. What a lot of IT departments struggle with internally is being able to provide applications and services that are self-service and automated, like cloud services. A lot of people look at their internal IT and see that it takes a long time to do something, so they’re offloading some of those processes and applications to the cloud to speed things up, like email and Office applications. For other processes, depending on the company’s infrastructure, it might not make sense to move it to the cloud. There are also things we can do internally to set systems and processes up to move more at the speed of a cloud environment.
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