Welcome to Cloud Cuckoo Land, where all your data’s backed up and safe... or is it?

19 Dec 2019

The advantages and disadvantages of cloud computing: is that even a debate any more?

For most businesses, the disadvantages of cloud computing lie buried deep beneath its obvious benefits - flexibility, scalability, availability, cost-effectiveness – and are comprehensively offset by the fear of what they’ll miss out on if they don’t move to the cloud!

But dig into the detail and a scary truth emerges: data in the cloud is not typically backed up anywhere else. If your cloud service implodes tomorrow, it takes your data with it .

For most users, this is utterly counter-intuitive. Cloud services are powered by legions of beefy servers run by some of the world’s biggest and most respected tech corporations. Without your data, they have no business model – so surely built-in backup is part of the deal to protect it?

It’s not. And here’s what that means for your business.

Backup’s gone backward in the cloud

Just a few years back, businesses ran their office, productivity and accounting software – and all the accompanying data - from on-site servers.

Whilst this came with an element of data risk from hardware failure, fire, flood, etc., it also made for a readily available, easily accessible source to which a backup service could be connected, so the business was protected if the worst happened.

Fast-forward to 2019, and backup and recovery in cloud computing has taken a backward step, because cloud service providers have positioned themselves as a one-stop-shop not only for the application and its data, but also for that data’s backup – and the latter is a claim that flies in the face of the facts .

Take Xero, the hugely popular accounting software, for example. Totally cloud-based, it holds the application and all the associated data on its own servers (users simply log in via the internet), and its marketing spins a confident story to the effect that backup is built-in.

Yet in Section 34 of its own Terms of Use, Xero confesses: “Data loss is an unavoidable risk when using any technology. You’re responsible for maintaining copies of your data entered into our services.”

So what kind of backup is that?

Backup and recovery in cloud computing: don’t trust the big names!

And it’s not just Xero, either. Microsoft publish a similar disclaimer for Office 365, quite simply because, again, despite the hype, it has no inbuilt backup either, as we explained in a recent post.

More alarmingly still, even cloud infrastructure giants like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform do not offer backup as standard .

As former Scotland Yard investigator and internet security specialist Steve Santorelli commented in this article, when you use any cloud service “you are abrogating responsibility for your data. Someone else has access to it and someone else is responsible for keeping it safe.”

Whatever the vendors might claim, failing to add an alternative dedicated backup as a service in cloud computing constitutes clear and present danger to your data!

Here’s what happens when you don’t back up the cloud…

Businesses often tend to have a perception of cloud providers – because of the latter’s sheer size, scale and profile – as being somehow immune to the kind of incidents that befall us mere mortals.

But it’s simply not true. In June and July of 2019 alone, a whole shopping trolley-full of cloud companies and services were hit by outages, including Cloudflare, Google, Amazon, Shopify, Reddit, Verizon and Spectrum.

The companies that, in turn, relied on these businesses to support their business were instantly cut adrift from their data, without warning.

The consequences of lost or inaccessible data can be extreme. When tech company CodeSpace’s Amazon Web Services cloud platform was hacked, for example, and the data in it maliciously deleted, it led to the eventual shutdown of the company.

Security risks of cloud computing: backup fights back

What the CodeSpace disaster clearly shows is that data backup is not just a housekeeping issue or an audit requirement – it’s vital security against the most pernicious forms of data-compromising cyber threat. Ransomware loves nothing more than an unbacked-up cloud service.

Indeed, as this post-mortem article about CodeSpace urges, “In the cloud, off-site backups… could be key to survival.”

Why not ask your cloud services and cloud apps providers what kind of backup they offer?

Then show them this blog and ask them again…