Cloud SaaS Backup and Recovery Tips for 2021


Backup and recovery of data is a fundamental IT operation that helps to ensure data is protected and available when needed.  It is a well-known process in on-premises environments as organizations have used backup solutions for decades to safeguard legacy physical servers and now virtual machines.  Businesses are migrating large amounts of data from on-premises environments to the cloud.  As they do, this data must be protected as well.

How can data in the cloud be protected in a fast and efficient way?  What technologies and backup methodologies need to be used to ensure they meet both RPO and RTO values?  This guide will look at the top cloud SaaS backup and recovery tips for 2021 and define the current needs of data protection for cloud SaaS environments.

Top Cloud SaaS backup and recovery tips for 2021

Backup technology and solutions have certainly evolved in the past decade.  Cloud technologies, including Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environments, have exploded in their use and popularity among companies today.  Traditional backup solutions without cloud capabilities are no longer adequate to protect business-critical workloads, data, and services.  

Keying in on cloud SaaS, what top cloud SaaS backup and recovery tips for 2021 do businesses need to be aware of and use? Let's consider the following:

  1. Use Cloud-to-cloud backups
  2. Carefully choose backup storage locality
  3. Leverage encrypted backups
  4. Migrate and offboard former employee data
  5. Implement cybersecurity protection

1.  Use Cloud-to-cloud backups

When thinking about traditional backup solutions, these are primarily on-premises solutions that backup on-premises data center workloads.  Most conventional backup vendors have evolved their products and solutions to encompass cloud technologies in their offerings, such as the ability to back up some of the cloud SaaS offerings on the market. However, despite the inclusion of cloud SaaS backup capabilities, most of these offerings still use the conventional approach of backing up your cloud SaaS data to on-premises storage repositories. 

This approach requires companies to maintain the necessary infrastructure to support storing business-critical backups, including servers, storage, and networking.  As businesses move to a more "as-a-Service" layout with IT infrastructure, the legacy approach is not suitable in many different ways.  With traditional backup technologies, organizations have to:

1.     Use large capital outlays for infrastructure

2.     Obtain, provision, configure and maintain the lifecycle of backup infrastructure

3.     Protect the environment from ransomware and other threats

Cloud-to-cloud backup solutions are the modern approach to backing up cloud SaaS environments.  What is a cloud-to-cloud backup solution?  Simply put, cloud-to-cloud backups are Backup-as-a-Service solutions that provide the same operational model of the cloud for business-critical backups.  Cloud-to-cloud backup providers maintain the backup infrastructure for you and abstract the underlying complexity so your organization can focus on backing up cloud SaaS data and not maintaining infrastructure. This characteristic leads to many great benefits for companies making use of cloud-to-cloud backups to protect their cloud SaaS environments, including:

1.     Ability to shift to an OpEx model for backups

2.     No need to obtain, provision, configure or manage the lifecycle of backup infrastructure

3.     Elastic scalability

4.     Low-level backup data is protected from the threat of ransomware by default

Using cloud-to-cloud data protection for business-critical SaaS provides organizations with an agile solution that allows tremendous scalability and quick provisioning with a few clicks.  Businesses today are moving towards this type of agility, not only for infrastructure but also for IT operations services like backups.  It is one less thing that IT operations have to focus on, allowing the focus to be on other business priorities.       

2.  Carefully choose backup storage locality

It has long been a standard for successful businesses – "location, location, location." When it comes to your business-critical data, the same is also true.  Carefully choosing a backup storage locality can make the difference in accessing your backup data in a disaster or losing access to both production AND backup data.  What do we mean by that?

There has long been a best practice backup rule known as the 3-2-1 backup best practice.  This rule's very essence is ensuring you have multiple copies of your data stored in different locations.  The rule states you need at least (3) copies of your data, stored on (2) different forms of media, with at least (1) copy stored offsite.  How does this apply to cloud-to-cloud backup solutions?

Cloud-to-cloud backup solutions are not created equal.  Many of the solutions on the market will protect Google Workspace or Microsoft Office 365. However, they store the backup data in the same cloud as the cloud SaaS environment they protect.  It is like storing your backup and production data on the same storage device, something you would never do on-premises.  Why would you do that in production cloud SaaS?  

For example, if you are backing up Google Workspace, following best practice, you would not want to store Google Workspace's backups in the Google cloud.  Conversely, if you are backing up Microsoft Office 365, it would not be a good idea to store your backups in the Microsoft Azure cloud as well.  Even though hyperscale cloud service providers such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have highly resilient infrastructure that is difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate, they do experience widespread outages from time to time. 

By storing your cloud SaaS backups in a different cloud environment than the SaaS environment you are protecting, it allows diversifying the backup storage locality away from the production environment.  You can even think of the separated backups as separate "media" in a sense in cloud terms.  Using different cloud environments is essentially different media for storage.  By storing your backups in an independent, separate cloud environment, you will significantly minimize the chances of not having the ability to access backups during a widespread cloud outage affecting your SaaS provider.

3.  Leverage encrypted backups

Protecting your backup data from falling into the wrong hands is extremely important.  After all, when you think about it, your backup data contains a copy of your production environment.  One of the top cloud SaaS backup and recovery tips for 2021 is to make sure you are using backup encryption to protect your business-critical data contained therein. The term encryption often leads to a "shiver up the spine" due to the plague of ransomware.  However, encryption used by the "good guys" can help keep your data secure.

Encryption makes your business data unreadable without the encryption key.  Encrypted files appear as "garbage" without first being decrypted.  Ensuring your data backups are encrypted keeps the information contained in the data secure and unreadable for unsanctioned use.  When using encryption for your data backups, there are two states that you want to ensure your data is encrypted.  You want to make sure it is encrypted both on disk and as it travels across the network.

Most are more familiar with encryption on disk.  On-disk encryption is also known as encryption at rest.  However, another kind of encryption helps to complete the protection afforded by encrypting your data.  It is called encryption in-flight.  This encryption type applies encryption at the network level, so that information transmitted across the network is secured before it lands on-disk and is encrypted there.

Make sure your backup solution uses both types of encryption to secure your data, both as it is transmitted across the network and when it is stored on disk.  Securing your data in backups is vital in 2021 as the cost of data breaches and regulatory fines are higher than ever before.      

4.  Migrate and offboard former employee data

Another key for cloud SaaS backup and recovery in 2021 is migrating and offboarding former employee's data. Leaving stale former employee data is inefficient, leads to bloated cloud SaaS costs, and can pose security risks due to unmonitored accounts.

Organizations that migrate employee data to cloud SaaS environments are often reluctant to remove former employee accounts. The accounts may contain business-critical data, or other services may rely on those accounts.  Since there are no native intra-migration tools built into cloud SaaS environments such as Google Workspace or Microsoft Office 365, many businesses choose to leave these former accounts to access these as needed.

Over time, leaving former employee accounts can add up to drastically inflate the spending for cloud SaaS services.  Choosing a backup solution that can easily migrate data between accounts allows businesses to operate SaaS environments efficiently and eliminate unnecessary expenditures for former employees.  Companies can append former employee's email aliases to new accounts with the proper migration tools and migrate their data to new users.

Eliminating former accounts also helps the cybersecurity stance of the organization.  The more user accounts that an organization has, the greater the attack surface.  Eliminating the extra, unmonitored accounts helps keep a lean number of active user accounts in operation to monitor and secure.

One of the top cloud SaaS backup and recovery tips for 2021 is to bolster the offboarding process for cloud SaaS environments and ensure the proper tools are in place to migrate business-critical data between accounts.  It provides the benefits mentioned above and minimizes the amount of data that organizations need to backup.  

5.  Implement cybersecurity protection

An increasingly important topic in the world of cloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environments is cybersecurity. The number of threats to business-critical data is growing exponentially.  Cybersecurity experts expect ransomware to attack a business every 11 seconds in 2021, with a cost of $20 billion.  Cybercriminals have been targeting businesses with feverish frenzy since the beginning of the global pandemic.  With the enormous shift to remote workers and cloud SaaS services, attackers have been looking for ways to compromise environments and data with ransomware.  

In a post about backup and recovery, why are we mentioning cybersecurity?  The two go hand-in-hand.  Data protection is cybersecurity in its most basic form as it provides a means for organizations to protect their data.  However, simply relying on backups is no longer enough.  No organization in the right frame of mind wants to rely on their backups in the event of a cyberattack.  Data is becoming increasingly essential and is the driving force behind day-to-day operations for most companies.  It must remain accessible for business continuity and meet SLAs.

Creating a robust, multi-faceted solution involving both data protection and cybersecurity is the best approach in 2021.  Threats are not going to diminish.  While backups are more important than ever, proper cybersecurity is the key to quickly having visibility to a cyberattack and containing the damage it may cause.  Businesses drastically reduce the amount of data recovery needed by melding data protection and cybersecurity together.  

Hyperscale cloud service providers like Google and Microsoft have shown they limit the number of data calls they make to the API endpoints in cloud SaaS environments.  They have certain thresholds that, once met, place limitations on these.  Why is this important?

Businesses that suffer a large-scale cyberattack and who have not put the proper cybersecurity measures in place will need to restore vast amounts of data.  Cloud-to-cloud or traditional data protection solutions carry out the data restoration process through API calls.  Even if proper data backups exist, if the cloud service provider is throttling the restore process due to excessive API calls, this can lead to drastically extended Restore Time Objectives (RTOs).  This scenario emphasizes the need to quickly stop ransomware or other cyberattacks from destroying data and containing the damage.  In 2021 companies need to have robust data protection and cybersecurity strategies and the tools to support both.  

Meeting the top cloud SaaS backup and recovery tips

Having the right tools to both backup and secure your cloud SaaS data is extremely important.  The native tools built into Google Workspace or Microsoft Office 365 are not enough.  Native enterprise data backups are non-existent in both environments.  SpinOne is a powerful hybrid solution that combines both data backups and cybersecurity into a single solution that helps to protect and secure your business-critical data.  It provides businesses the technical tools needed to overcome the challenges of disaster recovery and cybersecurity in cloud SaaS environments.

SpinOne is a cloud-to-cloud backup solution that abstracts the complexities of the underlying backup infrastructure so businesses can concentrate on the tasks at hand.  Instead of worrying about details such as the difference between incremental and differential backup, or lifecycle management of servers, SpinOne provides a simple web-based dashboard with a cloud-native operational feel.  How can SpinOne help your business meet the top cloud SaaS backup and recovery tips for 2021?

SpinOne provides, among other features:

      Automatic, versioned backups

      Ability to choose which cloud your backups are stored

      Ransomware protection

      Encrypted backups

      Third-party apps protection

      Alerting, notifications, and visibility to protected data

      Insider threats protection

      Data sharing visibility

To learn more about SpinOne and sign up for a free, fully-featured trial, click here.