8 Questions You Should Ask Your Cloud Backup Provider

Apr 2014

8 Questions You Should Ask Your Cloud Backup Provider

Posted by Ani Yildirim

All organizations need a secure and reliable backup and recovery solution to ensure business continuity. If you can'tclouds recover your data quickly in the event of a data loss, your ability to maintain day-to-day operations could be compromised.

Cloud-based backup solutions provide security and peace of mind, while improving the productivity of your IT team by automating data backup policies and procedures. But how do you get started with finding the right service provider? If you are thinking about moving your data to the cloud, or changing your existing service provider, there are eight questions you should ask your potential managed service provider to gain a better understanding of the security and reliability of their service.

1. Does the service provider fit with the way your business works?

Finding a cloud backup service provider requires a careful evaluation of business-fit in advance. It’s important to check if the service provider has:

  • Experience in related industries and/or business verticals
  • Customers of a similar size and environment to your company
  • Experience helping with data disaster recovery under conditions seen in your business
  • Familiarity with laws and compliance standards within your industry

2. Does the service provider have a good reputation?

Businesses should be attracted to service providers with a good reputation. It provides the assurance that the critical function of backup and recovery will be maintained by an experienced provider. Are their staff properly trained and do they have sufficient experience? Find out how long the company has been in business for and conduct reference calls with existing clients. Customer reviews should support the major benefits and features the company advertises. You should also review any press recognition they have received. Do they have testimonials, analyst recommendations and/or industry affiliations?

3. Can you trust the service provider’s technology platform?

Organizations must ensure that the service providers they are evaluating can meet their current requirements, and potential future changes in their backup and recovery strategy. Businesses are constantly changing, and with data growing quickly, backup and recovery software should adapt to meet your needs. Their backup and recovery service should be built on a solid technology platform and leverage state-of-the-art data center facilities to provide quick and secure access to your data. It is important that the backup and recovery software can protect data on servers, physical and virtual machines, desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, as well as third party cloud-based apps (e.g., Salesforce.com, Google Apps, etc.). They should also support private, public and hybrid cloud models and offer key features such as agentless architecture, file-based and image-based recoveries (locally and remotely), ability to leverage disk-based storage (DAS, SAN or NAS), options for a bare metal restore, deployment as standalone or high availability (NA) N+1 configuration, backup file validation, data reduction through deduplication and compression, and incremental server backups and change block tracking.

4. How secure is their service and storage facility?

Data security is of great importance. You must ensure that your data stays protected and properly encrypted while at rest and in flight, preventing unauthorized access. Remote backup providers should have their security policies ready for review. It’s vital that you determine if the facilities possessing your data meet international standards and are guaranteed both physically and digitally. Make sure their service has been screened and approved by reputable third parties (i.e., government and standards organizations). You need to ask if the service provider makes updated documentation available that details its adherence to:

  • Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256 – in-flight and at-rest data encryption
  • NIST Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2
  • Legislated regulatory standards for your industry (e.g. SOX, HIPAA, Basel II)

5. How are costs determined?

Some of the characteristics that factor into the cost of the service include the total amount of data being backed up, the number of machines that the backup is coming from, and the number of versions of the data files being stored. But what happens if you exceed capacity? What additional charges will occur if your needs change? It helps to understand what is included in the price. Some service providers charge a fixed monthly fee regardless of how much data you send them. Others offer recovery-based pricing, designed to enable organizations to pay for backup and recovery based on the percentage of data they recover in a term. With this new innovative pricing model, organizations will be able to better predict the cost for backup and recovery.

6. What is their disaster recovery plan?

Identifying a procedure for recovering data in the event of loss is crucial. Hopefully you won’t need to recover from a disaster—but if you do, your backup provider must help your business recover quickly. All service providers should have a disaster recovery plan. For example, how many redundant data centers do they have and how dispersed are they? Do they have a second data center so there is no disruption of service and is it far enough away that it won’t be hurt by the same disaster? Even if your provider’s disaster recovery plan protects your data in a natural disaster, they should still be able to operate under extreme circumstances to ensure business continuity.

7. What is the level of technical support?

Ensure that your cloud-based backup provider includes a client support team you can depend on when you need assistance. The majority of service providers offer email-based support but not much beyond that. There must be enough flexibility to find the best restoration solution via chat, phone or email. Does the service provider offer 24/7 support capabilities and support for backup and recovery in different geographies and time zones?

8. What does the Service Level Agreement include?

Does the vendor offer a Service Level Agreement (SLA)? Are the guarantees, penalties and recourse offered in the SLA sufficient? Always read the fine print in your SLA—it is the blueprint for the contractual service obligations of your service provider.

There will always be a service provider available that will meet your needs and budget. It’s up to you to be very diligent when researching service providers. Quite simply, spend some time evaluating the technical expertise of both the service offered and the staff to make sure you are getting the service that you need.

Use these 8 questions to help guide you in finding a Service Provider that best meets your business needs.

Questions? Comments? Send them to info@asigra.com. Get the latest backup and recovery best practices and industry news by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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