What's the value of an enterprise backup application supporting cloud storage as a repository? After all many enterprises already are moving data off-site either by truck or data replication. For those that don't want to manage the costs associated with an off-site storage facility or DR facility replication to the cloud can be an attractive option.
The big advantage for the enterprise really comes in addressing the long term retention requirements that a growing number of data centers are facing. Where do you store all this information? While it is fair to say that most enterprise could afford the hard costs of storing that data, the soft costs of managing and maintaining that data and those systems could be very challenging.
By leveraging cloud as an extension to the backup process, backup jobs could be replicated to the cloud storage facility whose sole job it is to manage and maintain both the equipment and the data. Also, depending on the vendor, steps could be taken to enhance the mining of these backup jobs when the need arises to be searched years later for specific data content. This means that locally you only need enough capacity to meet the "normal" restore requests.
There is some disagreement on whose cloud storage should be used. Should the backup application developer build their own cloud and maintain that, or should the application simply support various cloud storage providers and let you select from the list? There is value in both. The important concern from your prospective is does the organization that is holding your data have the fortitude to be there when you need it and does the facility they are using meet up to your standards for security and availability?
A final note on encryption. Almost every application in all three types of cloud related backup have some form of encryption built in. Many systems don't even have an option to turn it off and most will not allow the storage provider to read the encrypted data. Enterprise systems can set encryption before it ever leaves the local client let alone the data center. To a large extent this data is safer being transferred across the wire then unencrypted tapes being placed on a truck.
Cloud storage has a role to play in just about everyone's backup strategy. The size of your organization and how much you already have invested in a backup infrastructure will determine in large part how you go about that.
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George Crump is lead analyst of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.