Cloud Backup vs. Cloud Storage

The cloud hype has blurred the lines between cloud storage and cloud backup. Many providers like it that way because it gives them a broader appeal in capturing potential customers. But clouding up cloud definitions confuses the market. In reality they are very different solutions for different business challenges.

A Quick Comment about "The Cloud"

The Cloud is often misunderstood and made into a near mythical, ambiguous entity with no physical representation. The Cloud is really just someone else’s computer.

Most of the time, that “someone else” is a company’s computers in a data center.

When you are using the cloud, you are simply using a computer provided by a company.

What is cloud storage?

Cloud storage, like Dropbox, Google Drive, Apple’s iCloud, and Microsoft’s SkyDrive, is a great way to easily share files. The main goal of cloud storage is to store files online to be accessible from any device anywhere. You can compare it with a cloud-based USB flash drive.

However, there is no guarantee, no monitoring and reporting, and no support. If a server goes down in one of their data centers, you may never see those files again. The majority of the services have a web interface for you to upload files. Therefore, files can only be encrypted on the server side, making transportation less secure. They do not offer an automated process for uploading or syncing files between your computer and their service — Files have to be put over manually or placed in a shared folder to be synced. Last but not least, only files and folders can be stored, so there is no application data.

Cloud Storage is a great way to share documents. However, it isn’t the place to back up your business-critical applications and documents.

What is cloud backup?

Cloud backup is a cloud-based application, which provides you with the ability to automatically backup your files, applications, virtual machines, or servers and store them safely for disaster recovery purposes. Cloud Backup is insurance for your data and business continuity.

Cloud backup is typically built around a local client application that runs, ideally multiple times daily, on an automatic schedule in the background. The application collects, compresses, encrypts, and transfers data to the service provider’s servers. To reduce the amount of bandwidth consumed and the time it takes to transfer files, the service provider performs incremental backups after the initial full backup.

The primary data resides in the original location where secondary data is safely stored to the cloud, to be used for data recovery. The cloud backup solution stores all data with a custom retention policy, so you can fix corrupted files by restoring earlier versions of a file. Professional cloud backup solutions comprise of special plugins to back up data from third party applications (like MS Outlook, Exchange, SQL). Clear reporting on the success of the backups makes it easy to verify if all files are safe.