How to create a robust backup strategy with cloud services

From platform support to file versioning to private options, it’s important to consider all the factors when evaluating a cloud-based backup strategy.

cloud-based backup services

Love it or hate it, cloud storage is here to stay. Yet the fact is that cloud storage providers, like all IT companies, can experience outages or even go out of business. Moreover, the ever-present threat of data-corrupting malware and ransomware means that synchronizing to the cloud no longer offers adequate protection against data loss.

With this in mind, let’s look at how you can work with more than one cloud storage service to put together a cloud-based disaster recovery strategy to protect your files.

Narrow down your cloud storage option

Despite there being many cloud services out there that offer free storage space, it makes sense to narrow down your primary cloud provider to just one service before trying to create a backup strategy. This serves to reduce complexity, and also makes it easier to ensure that your files are accounted for and backed up correctly.

On this front, it’s worth noting that while the cost and capabilities offered by the various services are rapidly converging, some important differences remain. One of the most important would probably be the platforms that are supported by a particular cloud storage service, including the capabilities of the apps created for each platform — which may not necessarily be equal.

[Related: 9 things you need to know before you store data in the cloud]

Some cloud platforms have been more successful than others in terms of persuading external developers to integrate with their storage platforms: All BlackBerry 10 smartphones comes with the ability to access Dropbox, Box and OneDrive from the built-in File Manager app; separately, support for Dropbox was also recently added to Office Mobile.

Finally, some cloud platforms offer business versions of their more consumer-centric offerings. These typically work the same way, but add the ability to better manage user accounts and quotas, and in some cases offer additional capabilities that are useful in a business environment, such as the presence of audit logs.

Private cloud options

As an alternative to storage cloud services that are based on the public cloud, private cloud offerings allow data to be synchronized across devices that are owned by the company. Private cloud storage services offer similar capabilities when it comes to desktops and laptops, though access options on mobile devices are usually much more limited.

Below are a couple of private cloud options that are worth mentioning.

  • BitTorrent Sync. As its name suggests, BitTorrent Sync makes use of the time-honed BitTorrent protocol to keep files in sync across multiple devices without relying on a centralized storage hub. Individuals or teams can work on shared files that replicate up to 16 times faster than cloud-based services, according to a company representative.
  • Transporter. Created to make it easy for small businesses and individuals to create their own private cloud storage, additional appliances can be added to an existing deployment from anywhere for additional redundancy. More recently, the company also launched higher-end storage devices geared toward the enterprise.

File versioning

One feature not often discussed, but highly pertinent when it comes to protecting work documents, is file versioning. Used to track the various changes made to a file, it could potentially be used to recover from malicious edits or mistakes.

In addition, having more than one version of a file around can allow recovery from mistakes that were not immediately discovered, or to retrieve an early snippet that has been deleted. The downside, though, is that most cloud services offer relatively limited support on this front.

Below is a summary of some of the top cloud services.

  • Dropbox: The paid-for Dropbox Pro service offers version history, though older versions are kept for only 30 days. You can bump it up to a year by paying for Extended Version History, or unlimited revisions by signing up with Dropbox for Business.
  • Google Drive: Will save changes made to a file for up to 30 days or 100 revisions. Note that older versions of a file will count toward the storage space used.
  • SugarSync: The last five versions of a file are saved.
  • Box: Depending on the plan subscribed to, the last 25, 50 or 100 versions of a file will be tracked.
  • OneDrive: Only works for Office documents; all saved versions count toward utilized storage space.

[Related: Cloud storage users share pros and cons of leading services]

Of course, file versioning is no guarantee that an earlier iteration of a file can be recovered in time. Ultimately, separate backups are still very much necessary.

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