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There’s a plethora of different cloud service providers out there. They range from traditional integrators offering backup services on top of their managed offerings to Information as a Service (IaaS) providers looking to specialize in business continuity and disaster recovery (DR), and even to the hyper-scale public clouds that offer platform services that can be consumed as part of an off-site backup solution. It’s important to understand the requirements around choosing cloud service providers that offer data backup, replication and recovery services, whether you are a large enterprise or a small-to-medium-size business (SMB).

A recent study from ESG reported that cloud usage for data protection and Availability increased from 7% to 23% over the last four years. What the ESG report suggests is that there are a number of different business needs that can make it difficult to choose a cloud backup provider.

In the example graphic below, ESG asked respondents what their desired frequency was of creating copies of data and then protecting them into a cloud-based backup solution.

How to choose a trusted cloud service provider

A high percentage of respondents required continuous protection, while the majority fell into the sub two-hour range. This business requirement can dictate which cloud service provider is chosen over another. When choosing a cloud provider for backup services, you not only need to think about who to partner with, but also what problem or requirement you are solving for.

Below is a flow chart taken from a joint ESG/Veeam webinar that shows an example workflow of how to choose the right cloud backup service for your business needs. You can use it to start mapping the outcomes to a cloud service provider which in most cases, ends up being a provider offering Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) or Backup as a Service (BaaS). It should be noted that if you have VM workloads hosted on other cloud platforms you should still consider how a disaster could impact business continuity and Availability.

How to choose a trusted cloud service provider

So, how do you choose the right cloud service provider for your business outcomes? I’ve broken this up into four main areas and will talk about them in a little more detail below.

Longevity

Longevity in the cloud service provider market is relative. There have been some providers offering backup services for a number of years without question, but there is still a sense of immaturity that goes with offerings for many. This isn’t to say that the newer service providers haven’t designed and built robust, trustworthy services, but time and experience is worth its weight in the cloud backup world. This is especially important if your cloud backup provider is going to have your last-resort copy.

On that note, it’s important to understand that a cloud service provider’s backup offerings generally get proven in times of crisis when the other copies of your data (refer to the 3-2-1 Rule of backup) are not available. In this situation, experience counts, and the number of years that service providers have offered backup services should be taken into account. Has the service provider overcome their learning curve to provide backup and DR services?

Expertise

Expertise is critical in trusting your backup data to a service provider. You need to choose one that is competent and can provide insight into business continuity and DR services. Competence and insight are two different things. You should ask if they are credible and if they can educate you. By that, I mean that the service provider should be an extension of your own IT department. Given that businesses generally try hire smart, competent staff, you should treat hiring your backup service provider the same way. Would you trust them with handling the aftermath of a disaster? They’ll need to meet the level of expertise advertised.

Meanwhile, insight relates to the service provider’s understanding of your needs and environment so they are equipped be that last-resort copy. Who do businesses trust or expect to purchase cloud backup solutions from? They generally choose specialized backup service providers, or they select one that uses traditionally on-premises backup software that’s evolved into service provider offerings. This is where Veeam Cloud Connect Backup and Replication come into play and build on service provider experience together with the experience of Veeam.

Type of offering

There are many different types of offerings in the cloud backup world. Services range from basic Storage as a Service (STaaS), Backup as a Service (BaaS), Replication as a Service (RaaS) and also Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS). It’s important to understand that it’s rare for any one cloud provider to have all these offerings. In addition to that, you need to dig deeper into the cloud provider’s offering to see if management and monitoring are included with their services.

Self-managed verses managed is a big factor in choosing a cloud backup provider and expands on the points made above about expertise. Since this will be an extension of your IT department, can you choose a service provider that doesn’t have any backup or recovery management — meaning your staff will still need to be hands-on and end-to-end in terms of monitoring and recoverability — or does the service provider offer managed services that add value to the solution and give insight as mentioned above.

It is important to understand that you are not just choosing a service or a set of services. You are hiring a smart team of people to manage, monitor and keep that service running — like a leveraged help desk. Some businesses will outsource the service end-to-end, while other will mix and match between offerings. Ultimately, you are still responsible for the recovery of data. You still own the data protection and recovery strategy, no matter if it’s BaaS, RaaS or DRaaS.

Downtime tolerance

Referring back to the ESG survey, 75% of people said that they expected a downtime tolerance of less than an hour with the average being 49 minutes. This is where disk-to-disk-to-cloud services come into play. Two thirds translate downtime tolerance to mean that their service provider will be able to restore from a caching appliance or replica copy, and that it’s available for them to power on and access data.

How to choose a trusted cloud service provider

Specifically, DRaaS functionality behind VM recoverability means that you should consider cloud service providers that have the ability to restart VMs in the cloud. Taking that a step further, are they able to restore VMs without restoring the full data set? And another step further, do they have preconfigured workflows to recover data quickly with the ability to sandbox or test applications and workloads?

Downtime tolerance links back to the previous section about the type of offering, as each one will dictate the recovery time objective. It is important to be extremely mindful of it as it can mean the difference between a DR strategy that succeeds or fails.

Conclusion

Choosing the right cloud backup service provider is an important part of working out your complete cloud back strategy and should be something done with all the facts. Which providers offer what type of service and how are those services offered and supported? Here at Veeam, we have a great network of Veeam Cloud & Service Provider (VCSP) partners to choose from, and each one can offer cloud-backed backup and replication services that satisfy any outcome around business continuity and DR. Our VCSP partners have been offering VM backups built upon Veeam Backup & Replication with different level of management and reporting for a number of years. They have been able to extend or offer new services around BaaS and RaaS — with some further extending that to DRaaS — with Cloud Connect Backup and Replication.

Each service provider offers something different, but ultimately they need to suit your specific needs. Just remember that your service provider is your last-resort copy when disaster strikes.

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