This Non Profit Cloud Backup guide is for Canadian organizations thinking about backing up to the cloud.
We answer the questions you may have about cloud backups and explain the features.
We explain the 3-2-1 rule and why you need it.
We will show you why cloud backup is the most effective way to protect your data and get it offsite.
Cloud Drive vs Cloud Backup
Let’s start by clearing up the confusion between cloud drive and cloud backup. They sound similar, but they are not.
A cloud drive is a shared space on the internet where you can store your documents and data and have them available to you wherever you are. Your documents are readily accessible to view and edit if you’re out of the office. Even though it’s in the cloud, it is not the same as a backup.
A cloud backup is a COPY of your documents and data, stored on a cloud backup server. All data is encrypted and compressed and is therefore not accessible to use or work on if you are out of the office. You only go to your cloud backup when you need to restore an accidentally deleted file, or some disaster has occurred where you main files are stored and you need that data back.
In today’s distributed work environment, ideally you have both; a cloud drive, and a cloud backup.
Today we are going to focus on the cloud backup.
Why Cloud Backups?
Why store you backup data in the cloud? Because your local drive in the office, and your home just down the street are too close geographically should a major disaster occur. Case in point is the Fort McMurray disaster and the backup and recovery lesson learned for companies there.
Here in Vancouver on Canada’s west coast we always talk about “the big one“, the big earthquake that will reshape the coastline and cause significant infrastructure damage to our cities. Like the Fort McMurray story, you don’t want your data to be anywhere close to you.
It’s the main reason why our backups are stored in Ontario.
A cloud backup gets your data offsite, out of your office – which is a good start. It also gets it out of the city and maybe even out of the province, even better. And yet because it is internet based you can easily recover your data even if your office no longer exists and you have to move to a new location.
Why Keep Your Backup In Canada?
British Columbia and Nova Scotia both mandate that public bodies cannot store data outside of Canada (here’s the PIPEDA act). PIPEDA can also apply non profits under certain situations. You should check and see if it applies to you, but there are other reasons.
A 2012 report by the British Columbia Law Society (pdf) determined that over 10,000 organizations could get to your data, without warrant, if it was stored in the United States.
The data privacy laws are different in Canada than they are in the US. If your organization deals in any way with confidential information you should seriously consider where that data is being stored.
Important Backup Features
Here’s some important features that your cloud backup should have in order to be properly protecting your backup data every step of the way.
Your backup data must be secure, wherever it might be. To be secure it must be encrypted, but there are varying levels of encryption. You want AES 256-bit encryption, currently the highest level available today.
Robust backups perform that encryption right on the desktop or server, before your data leaves the building.
To be really secure you also want the ability to set your own password on the encryption, not just use the default. Having your own password ensures that only you know it, and that data can only be restored and looked at by you.
In order to backup your data to the internet as efficiently as possible you want to make the size of that backup as small as possible.
This is compression, actually lossless compression, and it should be built in to your backup product along with the encryption above.
Most programs will compress on the fly as you backup, and un-compress on the fly when you restore.
It’s great that your cloud backup is encrypted and compressed, but as a non profit you want to ensure it is sitting inside a Canadian data center with robust security features and redundancies.
These data centers should have cameras, locked cages where servers are stored, and personnel must either have a pass, or be escorted when inside the data center. Nobody gets to just wander around.
Data centers should also have redundant internet connections that automatically fail over if one goes down. Electrical power should be backed up with a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply), basically a big battery, and also a diesel generator to cover a total failure.
The backup servers themselves should have redundancies within the equipment such as RAID for the drives and synchronization to separate servers in case of a failure.
Cloud Backup companies don’t often give out all these details for security reasons (such as the exact location of the server) but it is good to ask the questions.
If you are a larger non profit, with 100Gb of data or more you need to consider how you will get that backup data to your backup provider. Trying to backup 100Gb over your internet connection will be slow, possibly up to a week!
Many internet connections have only 1Mbps upload speed, which according to this File Upload Time Calculator will take 238 hours! Find out what your internet upload speed is, and do your own calculation.
If you have a lot of data to be backed up your solutions is to do what is called a “seed load”. A seed load is when the backup provider sends you an external hard disk and your first backup goes on there. That disk is sent back to the backup provider, who loads that data directly onto the backup server so that your next backup is only the changes that have occurred since the original backup.
Your backups from then on will be quite quick, depending on the amount of changes that occur within your organization on a daily basis. Most cloud backups are incremental (they backup changes) and could take less than an hour each night.
Here’s another article about why you need a seed load.
Local Backup (Hybrid Backup)
If a staff member in your organization accidentally deletes a document or some data, you need a quick restore. It is much more efficient to pull that backup from right within the building rather than go to the cloud to get it. Having a local backup gives you a quick first point for recovery, with your cloud backup as the full disaster recovery. If your cloud backup provider allows hybrid backups you should be able to do both.
Having a local backup also means you now have your data in three places; your live data, your local backup, and your cloud backup.
This is known as the 3-2-1 rule:
- Have 3 copies of data (one is the original)
- Keep backups on 2 different media
- Keep 1 backup offsite
The two big benefits of cloud backups for non profits are:
- There are no capital expenditures. You don’t need to budget for any hard assets, no expensive robotic tape drives like we had in the past. Cloud backups are software based and run on existing computers or servers.
- There are no up front costs. You don’t need a full engagement team and you don’t pay for a year up front. Most cloud backups are priced on a month-to-month basis with no contract. You can change or move at any time.
Cloud backups are the best way to protect your organization’s data and have it available to you when you need it. One copy is local, one copy is in the cloud far way from you, ready when you need it.
Hopefully this guide answers your questions about cloud backup, how it works, and what the benefits are to putting your non profit backups in the cloud. Our cloud backup solution here at CloudPockets.com covers all the points mentioned in this article and if you have any further questions feel free to contact us, or comment below.