Questions to Ask When Procuring Cloud Backup Services

Posted by Tracy Staniland 

This is part of a series of interviews with Asigra Partners. In this post we're talking with James Chillman from UK Backup about Cloud Backup Services.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is James Chillman, and I am the Managing Director at UK Backup (@UKBackupltd). We provide a range of online backup and hybrid/private backup solutions to organizations in both the private and public sector. UK Backup provides an end-to-end solution that not only makes backing up easy but ensures that our customers can quickly and easily restore their data as and when they need to. Our services are offered as a fully managed public cloud, hybrid or private cloud solution.

We are based out of a high security campus in Farnborough, UK where the data that we backup for customers resides within an ISO:27001, BS 25999 and ISO:9001 accredited facility. With a team of engineers on site 24/7/365 we ensure that our customers’ data is easily available as and when they require it.

When organizations engage with you to discuss using your cloud backup service powered by Asigra, what is their top concern?

Typically, governance. Where is the data stored is the number question we get when first engaging with a potential new customer. They want to know where the data is stored – the physical location – and secondly, whether the location has the most up-to-date accreditations like ISO 27001, etc. Data sovereignty is a primary concern for most companies, they want their data to remain in the country of origin. For example, UK based companies want their data to be kept in the UK. German based companies want their data to remain in Germany.

"Companies should keep pace with the IT Industry to ensure that they are future proofing their systems to grow and scale accordingly"

Is security still a primary concern for companies?

Yes, security will always be a primary concern as data is the lifeblood of any company. Losing customer data, financial data, the CEO emails, etc., would be bad for any company and could be the downfall of the company. It is critical that the data is encrypted during flight and at rest at all times. Buyers should be asking vendors about encryption to ensure that the cloud backup services they are considering are using AES-256 encryption. Another question buyers should always ask is who holds the encryption key as this is a very important consideration too.

What is one area of back up, that most buyers overlook when procuring a cloud backup service?

Great question. Quite often companies do not ask enough about retention policies. This is a key area of data protection that companies should ensure that the service can provide to meet their short and long term needs especially if they are in a compliance mandated market such as financial services and healthcare. Companies should be looking for a service that can provide more than 30 days and multiple versions in different time periods – per week and every month.

When buyers approach you and your team, do they already know what type of service they want to procure?

Yes and no. There are definitely some companies that approach us and they know they want to outsource all of their back up to us as a fully managed service. Typically, these organizations have completed preliminary research online and are very educated and know what they want. However, we do have some companies approaching us that are concerned about the security of their data and due to corporate protocols; they prefer a private cloud approach. Luckily since our service is powered by Asigra Cloud Backup, we have the flexibility to offer our service as a public (fully managed), hybrid (co-managed) and private (self-managed).

There are always questions about what type of data we can back up. Typically customers have three or four sources of data that they need protected. The data could be email like Exchange, simple office documents, spreadsheets, multi-media files, content created in Office 365, so we typically discuss our capabilities to back up all of the data across their entire environment. Since our service is very comprehensive, this enables us to back up data on virtual and physical servers, enterprise databases and applications, laptops, workstations, tablets, smartphones, Office 365, Google Apps,, AWS and Azure, backing up data in a variety of locations and sources is not an issue for us.

When it comes to Recovery Time Objectives, what advice would you provide to companies considering cloud backup services?

I would tell companies to categorize their data, that not all data should be treated equal or the same. I would also suggest that companies should work with a Service Provider who can help them through this process as it can be daunting depending on how much data is across the organization. Companies should ask the Service Provider to conduct a LAN Storage Discovery analysis to identify the data available across their LAN and then to discuss which is critical data and not critical to build a better data picture. And the Service Provider should be asking questions such as “In the event of a disaster, which data would you need to access immediately?”; “What is critical data that you need to keep 30 versions of in the event that you needed it in a court of law?”; “Which data is non-critical that we can move to low cost storage?”.

Is price a critical factor for companies who procure cloud backup services?

Yes, price is always a factor whether you are buying a car, a fridge or a cloud backup service. However, in my opinion you need to balance quality with price. There is a misperception in the marketplace that cloud backup services should be cheap – we can probably thank Amazon for this as they continue to promote their web services offering for 1 cent. However, in all seriousness, companies need to ensure that they know what they are paying for as not all cloud backup services are priced the same. Some vendors you pay per virtual machine, some per socket, and some for protected data, not stored data. Companies should be asking for a service that prices based on compressed and deduplicated data. For instance our cloud backup service is priced on compressed and deduplicated data – typically we see a 3:1 compression ratio – which can make a big difference on the pricing.

Also beyond the data capacity, the type of service will affect the price too. Some Managed Service Providers provide a white glove service, some provide a fully managed service where they completely handle the entire backups for their client while others provide a co-managed service. So companies need to understand what type of service they are paying for and decide whether they need all of the bells n’ whistles being delivered. It is no different than when you purchase a car – do you need the heated seats or can you live without them? Each buyer has different needs, some are pickier than others.

The one piece of advice that I would provide companies is to ensure that they are comparing apples to apples when considering a cloud backup service as there are many different flavors in the market place – make sure you are selecting the one that meets your business needs and can evolve as your needs change.

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