Cloud vs On-Premises Backup and Recovery: What's Best For You?

By Holly Dowden | March 24, 2021
Holly is the VP of Marketing at Ntiva, a full service technology company offering managed IT services, IT consulting, cybersecurity solutions and more.

Imagine if you came into the office and all your PCs and servers were completely down. How quickly do you think you could get your business back up and running? How smoothly would that process go? Do you have a rock star IT team to help you bring everything back online?

We know that as a commercial business owner or nonprofit executive, the LAST thing you want to worry about is data backup – what it is, how it works, or any of the gory details.

However, if you’re ultimately responsible for keeping your business secure and your employees productive, you should understand which type of data backup and disaster recovery solution is right for your business.


What is On-Premises Data Backup and Recovery?

Not too long ago, most organizations used simple data backup and recovery solutions such as tape or disk backups, that they kept on-site in their office.

As the amount of data produced by the business kept increasing, other storage devices began to be utilized, including storage servers.

Sometimes these servers were on-site, and sometimes they were hosted in an off-site data center.

However, although there are specific circumstances where on-premises back and up recovery might be the better solution, for most businesses it does not make sense.

There are a number of challenges with on-site backup and recovery.

For starters, because backup data is stored only in a physical space, it’s at risk in the event of a disaster such as a fire or flood. 

Recovery time can also be an issue. Depending on the type of solution, it can take hours or even weeks to retrieve the data. 

And finally, the cost associated with purchasing and maintaining the server hardware and software, along with the internal IT staff necessary to provide adequate support, is typically far more than cloud-based solutions.


What is Cloud-Based Data Backup and Recovery?

At it's simplest, cloud backup refers to the process of storing your data in an off-site location that is hosted, managed and secured by a cloud provider such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft and many others.

Cloud backup typically operates on a subscription basis that is billed monthly or yearly, and can scale up or down depending on your needs. 

There are a whole host of benefits to cloud backup and recovery, including enhanced security, scalability, efficiency, and quick recovery in the event the backup data is needed.

The best cloud backup solutions providers use state-of-the-art facilities, especially when it comes to security, reliability and redundancy. 

Your data will now be accessible at anytime from anywhere, and you can even assign different levels of access to your employees.

In general, there are four types of cloud backup optionspublic cloud backup, managed cloud backup, cloud-to-cloud backup, and hybrid cloud backup. 

Every business has different needs which it comes to cloud backup, so be sure to discuss your requirements with an IT expert who has deep experience in cloud solutions.


The Importance of Managed Backup and Recovery

There is more to backup and recovery than simply "backing up" your business data. Let's start by taking a quick look at what you need to protect and why.

  • Files and folders. These are your day-to-day documents and records used to keep track of your operations. Patient records, client information, contracts, customer data, etc. This is typically what people back up, either on site, in the cloud, or both.
  • Applications. These are programs such as Microsoft Office, Exchange, SQL, your billing software, software that makes an x-ray generator work, or the software that’s tied to your point of sale equipment. Without these, you cannot view your files and folders. You must back these up too, and more importantly in a format that is easy to restore.
  • Configurations and Settings. Many of the applications you use every day have been customized for your needs. For example, auto-updating of software, malware alerts, access privileges, even scheduling. While these all happen in the background, they’re critical to your workflow and thus critical to your data backup strategy.
  • SaaS (Software as a Service) Data. If you’re using SaaS-based Microsoft 365 or Google Apps, believe it or not you still need cloud-to-cloud data backup. While these are both great cloud-based apps, they do have vulnerabilities. As an example, if an employee should accidentally (or maliciously )delete an important email, file or folder, and you don't find out about it right away - good luck getting it back! Many SaaS providers only store your data for a limited time period, and it can be difficult to retrieve.

Managing backups internally is not only complicated and time consuming, it can also be quite expensive. You need to have technical experts on your team who understand the intricacies of proper backups and who have the time to monitor these systems around the clock.

That's why many businesses choose to outsource this to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) such as Ntiva.

For starters, your MSP will know the ins and outs of the backup system it put in place, which makes the process of restoring data quicker and more efficient. This helps you save time, which is a significant benefit when you are experiencing downtime.


Five Key Reasons to Outsource Backup and Recovery Services

Here are five key reasons why businesses are choosing to outsource their backup and recovery management, rather than tying up internal IT resources or storing backups locally.

  1. Reliable backups need expert implementation. Most organizations now have terabytes of information to store, compress and if necessary, carefully retrieve. You may or may not have the in-house expertise to accomplish this.

  2. Third-party cloud storage that is managed properly is safer than local backups. If ransomware takes out every computer in your network, you'll want someone who can safely wipe everything to factory settings and restore from backup - expertly and quickly.

  3. Backup recovery verification takes time and skill. To ensure backups are there when you need them, recovery files must be constantly checked and verified. Most internal teams simply don't have the time to perform this function.

  4. Performing an actual recovery takes care and time. A third party will be ready to dedicate however long it takes to perform the recovery, should the need arise.

  5. An integrated disaster recovery plan is a must. Every company should have a documented plan that includes the required steps to take in the event of a disaster. This plan should be included in your company's overall Business Continuity Plan. 


backup and recovery image


The Difference Between System Image Backup and File Based Backup

Below is an explanation of the difference between image-based and file-based backup.

Why is this important?

Because it's a small yet good example of some of the nitty gritty details of backup and recovery that most business owners simply wouldn't know.

The back story here is a large nonprofit organization who suffered a ransomware attack just days before their biggest event.

All of their data was completely inaccessible unless they paid the ransom, which is inadvisable for many reasons.

Luckily, they did have a backup solution in place, but it was woefully out of date and retrieving their data was not as easy as they had imagined.

The tale had a happy ending, in that we were able to retrieve their data before their big event, but it took working around the clock for 72 hours by two expert engineers. 

Not to mention a lot of hand wringing during the process, and certainly an unnecessary expense that would have been avoidable if the proper backup and recovery solution had been implemented in the first place.


What is a Regular File Based Backup? 

File level data backup only backs up individual files. It's that simple.

This is fine if you're only trying to protect a few specific files (hopefully to a virtual machine in the cloud) but this won't save your settings, software, or even the parent folders those specific documents are stored in,

If you're trying to protect your entire in-house network, file level backup can take weeks or even months to recover.

The nonprofit we referenced above did not realize they had a file based backup solution in place, and had to find out the hard way what that meant.


What is a System Image Backup? 

System image-based backups take a “snapshot” of your entire system. This means you can quickly rebuild after damage or disaster, sometimes in a matter of hours.

The image backup can restore your entire system, including files and applications in the event of catastrophic failure.


What are the Benefits of a System Image Backup?

Think of the system image backup as the top-down review of your entire network. This "review" can then be saved to the cloud, ensuring that you will have a copy of your data even if your local machine or network is lost.

In most cases, all files can be quickly restored with a system image backup.


This is just one of the reasons why we recommend consulting with the experts on your backup and recovery strategy. We can tell you exactly what your network needs, and manage the entire process for you as needed.

Take a look at some of our client stories if you'd like to learn more about how we've helped other businesses just like yours!


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Tags: Cloud IT