As small business IT Consultants in Toronto, we take a lot of calls from small business owners looking for the right IT solutions to meet their needs. One common misconception is around cloud storage versus cloud backup. If your business is using OneDrive, Google Drive or Dropbox storage, you may have a false sense of security that your data is "backed up". While cloud storage is certainly better than local hard drive storage, it is not backup. In this post we explain what is the difference between cloud storage and cloud backup to help you decide if you need both.
Cloud Storage Features
Cloud storage can generally store static file types such as Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and images. Cloud storage solutions can't properly backup or render shared database drives or files such as Quickbooks files, resulting in entry and data loss issues. Any software that runs on a Windows Server also needs a true backup solution, as cloud storage ill not work as required.
Cloud storage is helpful in that it provides a cost effective backup of your important files, and is safer than an external hard drive in terms of drive failure, loss, theft, fire, flood or ransomware.
Cloud storage allows for easy retrieval of files from any internet connected device.
To check if your cloud storage is working properly, no restore test is needed. Simply log in and search for your desired file. In contract, true backup solutions should be tested regularly to ensure files are backing up as intended and the backup restored is functional. This way, in the event of breach or data loss, you know you have working backup to restore from.
Cloud Backup Features
Good cloud back up solutions include the following features. Cloud storage services do not.
Document Revision Control
While most cloud storage providers have some level of revision control, meaning that you can roll back to a earlier version of a file, it is not “point in time” revision.
For example, OneDrive will keep the three most recent versions of your document. You can roll back to any one of the latest 3 revisions. If you save the file three times today, you are unable to roll back to yesterdays version of the file.
Having "point in time" revision control is crucial in some industries (legal and financial for example).
Deleted File Retention After 30 Days
With cloud storage services, deleted files are not retained indefinitely.
If someone deletes a file, it goes to the cloud recycle bin. From there it is recoverable for a time (usually 30 days), but after that time has passed, the file is purged forever. This includes all previous revisions of the file. It is simply gone.
If you can be diligent and check the deleted items in the cloud for each of your staff daily, then great. If you are like most people though, your day is way to busy for that.
You must assume that your staff will never make a costly mistake, or you have to put in place a proper file retention system.
We spoke with a customer recently who has a spreadsheet they work on once per year at the end of each fiscal year. After working on it last year, the bookkeeper accidentally or mindlessly dragged it to the trash folder. It was permanently deleted 30 days later. When this year's fiscal end came, panic ensued when the file could not be found. Needless to say, the business owner was not too happy about having to hire an IT Consultant to perform a security review to pour over the activity logs surrounding the missing file, and also to assess if a larger IT security issue was in play, and in the end, to learn it was user error, and that staff would need to be paid to recreate the permanently deleted data file. This type of techache is preventable by having the right IT systems in place.
All the above noted retention and deletion rules apply to your email too. You may be running Exchange on Office 365, but if you delete an email, it will be purged after 30 days. If you need to be able to revert to old messages from staff that you no longer pay the Office 365 or G Suite licensing fees for, you are going to have a bad time.
What if your cloud provider goes out of business? Hard to imagine that this would ever be a problem for Alphabet (Google) or Microsoft, but what happens if they do? Nirvanix customers found out the hard way when the cloud provider went out of business in 2013. AOL was once considered too big to fail.
If you are in the legal industry, the Law Society of Canada says that you should have a “Safe harbor” plan in place where your data and more importantly your clients data can be recovered should your main provider go offline for any reason. Other industries have their own rules. Be sure your IT setup meets your industry guidelines.
Good Cloud Backup Options For Small Business
We have vetted several backup providers that offer backup for your cloud based data and have narrowed it down to a few options.
If you want to back up to your own equipment/storage you should opt to purchase a Synology NAS and take advantage of active backup for office 365 or active backup for G Suite. This has no per-user licensing fees or ongoing monthly costs. There is a decent upfront cost however.
If you’d prefer to have managed backup, talk to a managed IT service provider for complete peace of mind.
IT Help in Toronto & GTA: TUCU offers IT consulting services and Toronto IT support. Since 2003, we have been helping small business owners figure out what technology they need to support their success. Talk to us today. We're here to help.