How and where to backup cloud based installations?

This is a question that comes up more often as applications and services are being moved more and more into “the cloud”.


If we take our own situation of having recently decommissioned our local Exchange Server and opting instead for the $5 a month an account Office365 from Microsoft, they only offer an at a cost “archiving” while I am sure the data is secure with Microsoft, that’s not a backup, really not good enough to act as one, a simple bit of scripting, I have been able to extract PST files for each exchange account locally, and back them up to a cheap NAS. This of course is a mechanics job on his own car, but suitable for purpose. If we lost connection for any reason, wanted to move to another provider or even bring back our own local Exchange server we can be up and running very quickly. This method will not work with other Office365 applications, only Exchange mailboxes.

I have taken a similar stance with a number of CMS systems, which I will describe specifically in one case of a rather large MovableType installation hosted with Pair, and also our ImageFolio which is hosted on Amazon. In both cases the vendors are only too happy to sell a backup services (rather high in my opinion) price, but again, it’s a matter of putting “all your eggs in one basket”, so I prefer in both cases to create a job to back up on the same remote (virtual) server, overwriting the previous days backup, then connecting from a local server via FTP over SSH to collect and store on a NAS, the backups being complete, as both cases there is no useful way to create differential or incremental backups, on the original server. In the case of ImageFolio, MySQL transaction logs are stored on another Amazon instance, these are kept “locally” as they are used in day to day management, and I’ve seen little reason to include these in the “offsite” backup routine, as the likelihood and comparative risk associated with needing these and them not being available in a disaster recovery situation is negligible.

Again we have a similar solution running, in 2 cases sizable WordPress installations and the clients wanting full control of management and costs, using a simple WP plugin to backup, yes I know cPanel have an option, but end users are uncomfortable in cPanel and prefer the relative comfort of WordPress’s admin pages. As neither were originally hosted with Godaddy, I recommended they take advantage of their $2.49 a month for the 100GB option (unlimited bandwidth and simple scripting).

Again, not quite cloud, but really what is cloud? A client who we virtualized using VMWare, a dozen servers, some legacy, and I mean NT4/1996 legacy, these are all backed up to a local NAS using a combination of native backup solutions and Acronis True Image, and then “taken off site” each night over cable, in this case to a server collocated in a local data centre. We did look at using some of the excellent backup solutions VMWare offer, but the costs were prohibitive and really offer no advantages in management.

So in summary, I have no objection to quite ironically backing up cloud based data locally, but there is no reason not to also store the backups in another vendor’s remote storage.

Whatever the case, remember a good backup is only as good as the last time you tested a recovery, make sure all stakeholders that matter are aware of recovery times and that recovery procedures are well documented and accessible. And another important thing to remember is that backups must be treated with the same security controls, specifically confidentiality & integrity as the data itself, encryption and checksums are usually an option.

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