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A Primer on Why Consumer Focused Cloud-based Backup Solutions Will NOT Meet the Needs of Your Small or Midsized Business

Many small and midsized businesses (SMBs) are starting down the path of evaluating which cloud-based backup solution to use to meet their data protection needs. As they do, they may look at their total amount of data in their business and compare it to what they have at home and may even find they have roughly the same amount of data in each location. So they ask, “What type of cloud backup solution do I need?” and “Could I possibly use a consumer-focused cloud backup offering for my business?

The low cost and relative ease in which cloud-based backup solutions may be deployed is making them a natural fit for SMBs. However there are so many cloud-based backup solutions now available that it can be hard to distinguish between those intended for businesses and consumers.

This explains why many cloud-based backup providers lead with a low monthly or annual fee. They are looking to attract subscribers and get them to sign up quickly in the hope that the subscriber never takes the time to analyze if the service offered meets their needs.

Yet as appealing as these low fees are, business owners need to condition themselves to look beyond them, especially when it comes to subscribing to cloud backup solutions that specifically target consumers. While their monthly or annual fee is certainly attractive, they come with a lot of trade-offs that may preclude them from working well in a business environment and may even negatively impact the ability of the business to operate.

So to help businesses understand if a consumer-focused cloud backup solution is a good fit for them, here are some of the shortcomings of the consumer-focused cloud backup solutions:

  • They backup all data to the cloud. These solutions backup all data to somewhere in the “cloud” as opposed to first backing up to some local device. So to do backups, the SMB minimally must have an Internet connection with sufficient bandwidth to handle the transmission of its backup data. The provider must also have sufficient bandwidth to handle incoming data from all of its customers. If either the SMB or hosting provider experiences congestion, lengthy backup delays may result.
  • They recover all data from the cloud. Once you have backup data stored with a cloud provider, if an SMB ever needs to do a recovery, it needs to be able to get the data back from the cloud provider. Depending on the amount of data that an SMB needs to recover, this could take hours or even days to complete plus the SMB will likely need to initiate the recovery using a web browser and have to do the recovery with minimal help or assistance.
  • The backup software is agent based. SMBs are rapidly virtualizing their environments but few if any consumer-focused cloud backup solutions take advantage of the new means of backup that these virtual operating systems offer. Instead SMBs will need to install agents on the virtual machines (VMs) and do agent-based backups. This may result in long backup times plus the backups may impact production applications running on other VMs on that physical server.
  • They assume low data change rates. One of the premises upon which consumer-focused cloud backup are built is that the data change rates on consumer laptops and PCs are minimal so the amount of data that has to be transmitted during backup is minimal. However SMBs may regularly create, update and delete their data. So while the amount of data that an SMB has may be the same as what it has at home, its higher data change rates will likely cause lengthier backup times.
  • It may take days for the first backup to complete. The first backup that the consumer-focused cloud backup solution runs is a full backup of all of the system’s data. Since there may be hundreds of MBs or even GBs of data and it has to backup all of this data over an Internet connection, it will likely take hours and maybe days to complete the backup.
  • Minimal or no application integration. SMBs may have applications like Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and SharePoint running in-house as well as other internal applications that they have built. Odds are a consumer-focused cloud backup solution has no integration with any of these applications. As a result there is no way to get an application consistent backup of this data without completely stopping the application (which is usually not an option) until the backup is complete.
  • No advanced management features. Features like reporting on how long backups take, if they  complete successfully, what servers are protected and managing all backups from a central console are NOT features one will find on a consumer-focused cloud backup solution.

Note that this blog entry is NOT meant to be an all inclusive list of all shortcomings of consumer-focused cloud based backup offering nor was the intent of this entry intended to bash these offerings. Consumer-focused cloud based backup offerings have their place.

However when one takes into accounts the shortcomings of consumer-focused cloud backup solutions, it is highly unlikely they will meet the needs of a small or midsized business. Most SMBs have different demands as to what they need a cloud backup solution to provide and are looking for a cloud backup offerings to solve their current backup problems, not make them worse. This is why they should specifically seek out cloud backup solutions such as what Imation offers. In a subsequent blog entry, I will take a look at what features a cloud backup solutions targeted at SMBs should offers and why.

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