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WHAT IS “THE CLOUD”
It’s not magic, and it doesn’t float in the air.
The cloud is a third-party backup service or solution that connects to your system through the Internet in order to make a copy of the data on your computer. This copy is then stored and maintained along with other people’s data on large installations of hard drives at a centralized location. This is known as multitenancy.
BACKING UP TO THE CLOUD
If you choose a cloud-based backup solution, be aware that the first backup you perform on your system will likely take an excruciatingly long amount of time. How much time depends on two things: how much data you have on your computer and the speed of your Internet connection. This is because your data is being copied and uploaded to the service provider via the Internet, which is much slower than a direct connection with an external hard drive.
Speeds vary, but it usually takes several minutes to handle 1GB of data and many hours (perhaps days) to download 100s of gigabytes of data via a cable Internet connection. On even the fastest internet connection, it will take roughly 34 hours to upload a TB of data. Some internet services are asymmetric, so upload is much slower than download speed, which will also impact these backup times.
Keep in mind that this punishing sluggishness will likely only be an issue the very first time you use your cloud service. After your initial data upload to your cloud backup storage, subsequent backups will take far less time and may even be unnoticeable. This is because the service is able to recognize what files have been touched since your last backup and will only upload those files. Any file that hasn’t been opened since the date of the last backup will be ignored.
It’s also important to note that your internet service provider (ISP) may impose monthly data caps if you aren’t paying for unlimited data. Overages can be quite expensive, so it’s a good idea to check with your ISP before committing to a cloud backup solution.
Be sure to set an automated backup schedule so you can relax and just let it happen. Also, from time to time, check that the backup is happening properly.
RESTORING LOST FILES USING THE CLOUD
The whole purpose of using the cloud (or any backup solution) is so you can successfully restore your data in the event that your computer crashes.
In order to restore your lost data via your cloud backup solution, you’ll need a good Internet connection and a hard drive to which you can transfer the backed-up files. Then follow the instructions provided by your cloud service provider. The slow speed that occurred with your initial backup may also apply to re-installing your files to your computer from your cloud service.
We all know we should be backing up, but how often do we actually take the time to do it? Or even remember, for that matter? One huge benefit of cloud-based backup solutions is that they can run automatically on a schedule that the user determines, thus eliminating the human factor.
We always recommend that you have at least two backups of your data, one of which should be off-site in case of fire, flood, etc. Cloud-based backup counts as your offsite backup solution. If a natural disaster occurs in your home or business, data stored on the cloud will not be affected. Talk to your local computer shop for advice on a multi-tier backup solution that best fits your needs.
When it comes to cloud backup service providers, features, security measures, and prices range all over the place. It’s best to check with multiple providers to find the perfect solution for your needs.
If something goes wrong with your cloud service (again—it’s not magic; things do sometimes go wrong), fixing the problem is entirely out of your control. You are at the mercy of a company that has thousands of clients, and you may not be at the top of their list. The same can be said if something goes wrong with your Internet provider through which you access your cloud backup service. Of course, if you have an additional backup solution (we always recommend at least two), this is much less of an issue.
When using a cloud backup solution, you’re handing over control of the safety and security of your files to a third-party service. Security is always a concern when storing data online, so make sure to properly vet your cloud backup provider.
CHOOSING A CLOUD SERVICE
When it comes to selecting a cloud backup plan, features and prices range all over the place. It’s best to check with multiple providers to find the perfect solution for your needs.
For example, Apple offers iCloud (mostly for consumers), Microsoft offers Microsoft Azure (mostly for businesses), and there are lots of other options for individuals and small businesses, including Google Drive. Prices for single computer backups normally run less than $100 per year, depending on the provider.
Along with pricing, here are some good questions to ask any backup service provider:
- Can I protect more than one computer with a backup?
- What security measures do you employ?
- Is there 24-hour-a-day access to my stored information?
- What level of support do you offer?
- What happens if I make changes to my backed-up data?
- What happens with my data if I choose to stop using your service?
Make sure to read lots of independent reviews and research a service’s reliability and security before making a choice. We are partnered with Backblaze, but we recommend you do your own research and don’t just make your decision based on one recommendation (even ours). To help, here’s a list of top-rated commercial cloud services in the United States from Tom’s Hardware.
If you’re researching cloud backup solutions because you lost data on your computer, phone, or another storage device, call DriveSavers to recover your lost data.