Do a web search on “backing up cloud-based resources” and you’ll get a wealth of articles on how to back up your local machines to the cloud, but that search produces virtually nothing about how to back up the data already stored in the cloud. Does this concern you? It should!


Data Loss Incidents

Just to make sure you’re sufficiently concerned, let’s revisit some of the more well-known “disappearances” of cloud-based data in recent years:

  • 2007 – Carbonite loses backup data for over 7,500 customers.

  • 2008 – The Linkup loses access to unspecified amounts of customer data for 20,000 paying subscribers. The Linkup closed its doors forever.

  • 2009 – T-Mobile Sidekick users lost all data stored “in the cloud.” It’s believed that this data loss was attributable to human error. Ironically, they failed to back up the data before performing a hardware upgrade.


Loss of Data Access Incidents

And a few other scenarios that simply resulted in extended loss of data access:

  • April 2011 – Amazon EC2 suffered an outage as a result of a network configuration change run amok.

  • December 2012 – Netflix services were offline due to an operational dysfunction at Amazon Web Services.

  • July 2013 – Gmail and related services were offline for 40 minutes; similar outages occurred in December and April, the previous year.


Lessons Learned

There are two lessons to be learned from these stories:

  • You should never put all your eggs in one basket.

  • While cloud-based services/storage may be cheaper and more convenient, they are not necessarily any less risk-prone than on-premise solutions. It’s still servers, disk drives, software, and people – all of which can malfunction or fail at almost any time.


The Plan for Protecting Cloud-Based Data

  1. Backups are still a necessary component of a disaster recovery plan. The question is: Where do you back up your cloud-based services/storage? The answer: A different cloud-based provider!

  2. Business continuity requires access to business data. The premise of the cloud is access to that data is available anytime/anywhere – until you can’t access it. So, in addition to backing up that data to a different cloud-based storage provider, you should also back it up to a LOCAL resource.

  3. Be aware that entire backup process is likely going to be a bit more complex than it would be if everything was on-premise in your own data center. Some backups may need to be run from the applications themselves, particularly those that are SaaS-based. Some providers have tools specifically for this purpose. For example, NetSuite provides a tool expressly designed to back up NetSuite cloud-based data into an on-premise database instance.

Most importantly, this effort will likely involve a fair amount of home-grown work. In my research for this article, I could not find a single provider focused on backing up cloud-based services or storage.

There’s a very astute backup principle, known as the “3-2-1 Principle” – 3 Copies, 2 Physical Locations, 1 Offsite. Backing up cloud-based data to another cloud provider, plus an on-premise copy, including