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How to get the most out of cloud database backups

When backing up databases, the cloud can provide a secure, easily scalable target. However, don't forget important features like immutability and encryption when getting started.

Backup should be top priority for a system administrator, and database backup is no different. Cloud database backup offers useful gains for business, but it comes with some drawbacks.

The cloud is a popular backup target for files. It is a reliable, secure, accessible place to store data. Baking up databases in the cloud can not only keep them secure, but readily available in the event of a crisis.

Backing up databases into the cloud is one of the best ways administrators can ensure good backup and recovery on a budget. Most cloud providers use a consumption-based model, so organizations pay for what they use rather than stocking up on hardware that they may not need. However, along with the benefits of cloud, database backups may also face common cloud pitfalls.

Benefits of cloud database backups

Using the cloud to back up databases can help protect against ransomware when the provider offers immutability. With immutable backups, data is backed up and taken offline, where it cannot be changed. Even if bad actors were to use their backup credentials to get into the database server and wipe the contents, they would be unable to delete the immutable cloud-based backups. Even with valid credentials, it would be essentially undeletable and read only for a period of time.

Using the cloud to back up databases can help protect against ransomware when the provider offers immutability.

Other benefits to consider around cloud database backups is that, depending upon the database in question, it becomes entirely possible to stand up a new IaaS or SaaS database server and upload the database backup into it. In isolation, that may not sound useful, but if the backup administrator plans for failing over the database and supporting infrastructure to the cloud, an IaaS or SaaS provider has a clear recovery policy. These resources are also readily available in the cloud, compared to an on-site database backup that could be lost in a fire or flood.

Drawbacks to look out for

With all of these good elements, there are also downsides to cloud database backups. One of the most troublesome is that, as the database grows, so does the backup size and the time it takes to upload it to the cloud. Network connectivity must be solid, and backup admins will need to check it prior to an upload. It is also key to ensure that, in the event of a disaster, the organization can access and obtain a copy of the cloud database backup in good time to meet recovery requirements.

Keep in mind that there should always be at least three copies of data, according to the 3-2-1 backup rule. A cloud backup is a start but should not be the only form of backup available. There should be at least two more on-site methods of backup, such as disk or tape.

The confidentiality of the uploads may be a concern. All too often, simplicity is traded for security when doing backups, and administrators may slip up and not enable the encryption features of the database. Encrypting it makes it secure in transit and, in the case of data loss, creates much of a security incident. It is critical to ensure that data in flight is protected by encryption. Most vendors do provide support for encryption, but backup admins must do their own due diligence.

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