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Cloud backup and storage is the practice of moving data off-site to a service provider for management, access control, and protection. It can either replace or complement existing on-premise storage or backup systems. Cloud backup for business gives IT a way to increase capacity or extend recovery capabilities as needed — without investing in new infrastructure, personnel, or hardware.
Historically, vendors haven’t always offered cloud backup and cloud storage synchronously. The former was just a digital archive of information, stored away in case of disaster. And while the latter does back up files, it also provides working access to them. However, since the demand for both services has increased, leading vendors tend to offer both in order to stay competitive. When it comes to cloud backup and storage, sync is the new save.
The cloud offers a nearly infinite space to store data. Initially, the best backup software will safely and economically send your files to the cloud. Then, it will continue to back up your organization’s work, as well as scale with your business as it grows.
Business cloud storage software helps businesses stay organized and productive while protecting the integrity of sensitive information. For example, you can exchange documents online, track changes with version history, and search documents, files, and PDFs based on their content. Real-time syncing, sharing, and storage simplifies communication and increases collaboration among employees and clients that need access to files. Additionally, cloud backup software offers offsite protection in the case of disasters, such as fires, storms, or theft.
Look for these features:
Business information is a precious asset, so it’s no surprise that protecting it is paramount. At minimum, vendors should offer encryption so that only those inside your company can see your information. The functionality below is designed to help keep your sensitive data safe, and will vary among vendors — your company’s goals and needs will dictate which are most important:
Though every cloud backup and storage solution is generally meant to do the same job, they’re not all created equally. It can be difficult to differentiate between vendors, especially if you only examine functionality. However, when choosing the best backup and storage vendor for your business, there are many additional considerations to make. Be sure to vet potential vendors by examining the criteria below.
The cost of cloud backup and storage software is straightforward, and usually billed annually or monthly. Service cost is proportional to the amount of storage, users, and/or features you need, so you must estimate how much data you’ll need to backup and store in order to stay within budget. To determine costs, your vendor will need to know the following:
You want to select a vendor with storage that grows as your business grows. If you’re considering an “unlimited” plan, keep in mind that many vendors may have bandwidth throttling in place.
How often is your data saved? Does the service back up the entire file again, or simply sync the changes you made? How often you need backups depends on the type of data to be backed up. For example, if you’re storing critical data, then daily backups may not be enough.
The main purpose of cloud storage for business is to make sure your information is available whenever you need it. In the data industry, there are varying levels of uptime that indicate how much of the time a data center is fully operational. A vendor’s uptime depends on their tier; Tier 1 services offer 99.671 percent availability, and Tier 4 offers 99.995 percent availability. Though the percentages seem close, it’s the difference between experiencing 28.8 hours of downtime a year, versus less than one. Remember that downtime can severely hamper employee productivity and brand perception.
It’s true that downtime isn’t always preventable. This is why it’s important that your vendor has an effective and efficient disaster-recovery plan. Ask potential vendors how long it would take to recover data in an emergency. Don’t be afraid to be inquisitive — go beyond a simple checklist or yes and no questions. Ask open-ended questions, such as: “What are the defined recovery objectives for your services?”
If you do experience emergencies or issues, your vendor is your knight in shining armor. Look for a provider that offers comprehensive support and troubleshooting through multiple channels such as phone, email, live chat, and even social media.
Your customers’ privacy should be a top priority. Cloud backup and storage vendors should offer regular compliance that ensures high levels of protection, such as Payment Card Industry Standards. If you store sensitive information, your provider should be compliant with industry regulations. For example, a medical practice storing electronic protected health information (PHI) should look for a vendor that’s HIPAA-compliant.
Don’t skip the fine print before signing a service level agreement. Vendor contracts can prevent you from switching providers should you outgrow their current services. There may also be additional costs aside from the basic cost of per gigabyte storage, such as charges for data transfer or copying files. Beware of hidden costs and familiarize yourself with the terms of service.