Backups Using Cloud Resources: Amazon S3, Skydrive, Mozy
Backing up using cloud resources sounds very out of reach for the average user, but in the last 2 years this kind of service has been becoming much more common and affordable. Cloud computing is also known as on-demand computing and it’s when the resources you are using are not directly attached to the device you are working on.
There are several types of resources that can be allocated from cloud computing but for our purpose we are looking for disk space. For backups this is a huge advantage because while a large percentage of users have learned to do some kind of backups, a smaller subset actually moves those backups farther than 10 feet from the system they backed up.
If you use a cloud resource you can store that backup in a remote location that is safe from any mishaps that may happen to your primary location. The other benefit of this is that it is accessible from anywhere, so if you need to relocate in a hurry, you can still get access to this data.
Easy answer is "Yes & No."
As in everything in life it can be as secure as you make it. Use strong ids and passwords for the logins on the cloud systems and it will protect you from 90% of the security issues. If you have such sensitive data that you are worried about placing it on someone else’s system than you can look at encrypting the file before uploading it to add a layer of protection. If that is not good enough for your data, you should really look into investing in a non-cloud offsite retention solution.
Your restored data is only going to be as good as the backup you use to make it. There are a multitude of different backup methodologies and technologies out there, some of the cloud resources even come with their own applications for back up.
Think about the type of restores that you might want to do; is backing up the system as a full image that can’t do file level restores good enough? Or are you going to want to be able to restore individual files easily?
Again everyone’s needs will be different, so these are questions you have to look at before choosing a backup solution. Now let’s look at where to store those backups.
Amazon Simple Storage Solution (Amazon S3)
Amazon launched a series of web services to help offset the cost of hardware to startup developers looking to create an application and scale up the resources they need as demand increased. In this case the storage is also available to anyone with an Amazon account who signs up. With Amazon being a household name the system could be an easier sell to security minded individuals.
A limitation of S3 is that it can only handle a file size up to 5GB, but with an unlimited number of files. If your backup files are going to be larger than this you can use a utility like RAR to chunk the files into appropriate sizes to send them up.
S3 also is a paid service, though it is pretty cheap when you come down to it. As of this article the cost is as follows per month for US users:
So if you are keeping 10GB of data on the server it would cost you initially $1 to transfer the data and $1.50 a month to store.
While there are no native tools provided for uploading to S3 there are several free 3rd party tools out there that will help you quickly interface with the service and upload data. Or you can have one easily written by any competent programmer.
To sign up for the S3 Service go to aws.amazon.com.
Skydrive: Microsoft Live
Have only the need for a small amount of files to be backed up? Then Skydrive by Microsoft might be for you.
The main drawback to this service is the 5GB storage limit, but it is free and they have upped that limit in the past from 500MB, so there might be further increases. It can be accessed easily if you already have a Live account or you will be prompted to create one. You also have the ability to create and share folders with either the public or specific users. Since file uploads are limited to 50MB this solution is really limited but it is available for those that can handle those limits.
You can go to skydrive.live.com to try it out.
Mozy is owned by famed SAN vendor EMC and provides backup ability to a wide range of systems. They offer two services MozyHome and MozyPro.
MozyHome is targeted at home users and gives a free account good for 2GB of storage or for 4.95/month per computer and you can have unlimited storage space. They do use proprietary software so you will have to download and install it to access the service. It can be setup to do scheduled backups so it is a good option to setup for friends and family that are non computer literate.
MozyPro is targeted at the business user and has a good feature set that can be incorporated easily such as the ability to map your storage location to a network drive. The other benefit is the ability to use a pooled storage area between different systems. This level of the service is also HIPPA compliant which will help smaller businesses achieve compliance without the overhead of configuring their own backup service.
The costs for these services are as follows:
- Desktop Licenses: $3.95 + $0.50/GB per month
- Server Licenses: $6.95 + $1.75/GB per month
To test out MozyHome or MozyPro go to mozy.com.
Should You Be Using The Cloud For Backups?
There is a solution out there that can fit every situation that you might have in backup storage. In the past offsite storage and retention was cost prohibitive for most small and midsize businesses. But with the number of services coming online you can easily attain this good practice for a very low cost compared to what it would cost your business if you lost everything in a disaster.