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Vendors detail cloud-based backup past, present, future

It’s safe to say cloud-based backup has gone mainstream.

In the last five years, cloud backup grew from something that organizations often greeted with skepticism to a technology that’s at least a part of many businesses’ data protection plans.

Some of that evolution is a result of users getting more comfortable with the idea of backing up data in the cloud and the security there. Some of it is a result of vendors adding functionality such as security, backup of cloud-born software as a service (SaaS) data and other enhancements. Challenges remain, though.

In part one of this feature, several experts in cloud-based backup detailed how the market has developed and what businesses can expect in the years to come. In part two, executives from backup vendors, including cloud backup pioneers, discuss their impressions of the past, present and future of the technology.

How has cloud-based backup evolved in the last five years?

Eran Farajun, executive vice president, Asigra: [Cloud-based backup has] become a lot more mainstream as a service.

Headshot of Asigra's Eran FarajunEran Farajun

Because it’s become so popular, it’s become a target. So, it’s moved from becoming a defensive mechanism to it becoming an attack vector. It’s a way that people get attacked, which has then caused even more evolution in the last, I would say two or three years, where cloud backup now has to include security and safety elements. Otherwise, you’re not going to be able to recover confidently with it.

Hal Lonas, CTO, Carbonite: We have seen a rise in the popularity of cloud, especially over the past five years as it becomes a more scalable and economical solution for businesses — particularly SMBs that are expanding rapidly. It has also been highly embraced by the service provider and solution market.

Public cloud has also come a long way, especially among highly regulated industries such as healthcare and finance. We’re seeing these organizations turn to the cloud more frequently than before, as it provides an easier and more cost-effective way to meet their recovery time objective and recovery point objective requirements.

Danny Allan, CTO, Veeam: The first perspective of customers was, ‘I’ll just take my backups and [move them] to the cloud,’ and there wasn’t really thought given to what that meant.

We’ve become a lot more efficient about the data movement, both in and out, and secondly, there are now options that didn’t exist in the past. If you need to recover data in the cloud, you can, or you can recover back on premises. And if you are recovering it back on premises, you can do that efficiently.

Headshot of Arcserve's Oussama El-HilaliOussama El-Hilali

Oussama El-Hilali, CTO, Arcserve: [There has been] tremendous evolution both in quantity and quality of the cloud backup. We’ve seen a number of vendors emerge to provide backup to the cloud. We’ve seen the size of the backups grow. We’ve seen the number of people who are interested in going to cloud backup grow as well.

I think one of the fundamental things in data protection has been creating the distance between the primary and secondary data, in case of disaster.

Where are we in the story of cloud-based backup? Is it at the height of its popularity?

Farajun: I don’t think it’s at the height. It’s still growing fairly quickly as an overall service. So, it’s not flat; it’s still growing in double-digit figures year over year.

And I think what lends to its popularity is future evolution. It’ll get more secure. It has to be more secure.

There will be new types of workloads that get included as part of your backup service. For example, backing up machines today is fairly common. Backing up containers is not as common today, but it will be in three to five years.

The cloud market is mature and is fast becoming the infrastructure of choice for many companies, whether at the SMB or enterprise level.
Hal LonasCTO, Carbonite

I think cloud backup for SaaS applications [will grow]. A lot of cloud backup services and vendors support Office 365, Salesforce and G Suite, but as more and more end customers adopt more software as a service, the data itself also has to be protected. So, you’ll see more cloud backup functionality and capabilities protect a broader set of SaaS applications beyond just the big ones.

Lonas: The cloud market is mature and is fast becoming the infrastructure of choice for many companies, whether at the SMB or enterprise level. This can be proven with the popularity of Microsoft Azure, AWS and Google along with other cloud providers.

Right now, many still equate cloud with security and while cloud solves some problems, it is not a complete cure. Rather, we will see more cloud-oriented security solutions protecting cloud assets and their specific issues in the upcoming years.

One of the biggest pain points with cloud adoption today is migrating data to these infrastructures. The good news is that there are a number of tools available now to alleviate the traditional issues related to data loss, hours of downtime and diverted key resources.

Allan: We’re not at the height of its popularity. We’re in early stages of customers sending their data into the cloud. It’s been growing exponentially. I know cloud has been around for 10 years, but it’s only really in the last year that customers are actually sending backup data into the cloud. I would attribute that to intelligent cloud backup — using intelligence to know how to do it and how to leverage it efficiently. 

El-Hilali: It’s a good step, but we’re not at the peak, or anywhere close to the peak.

The reason being is that if you look at the cloud providers, whether it’s public cloud like AWS or companies like us, the features are still evolving. And the refinement is still ongoing.

What do you expect in the cloud backup market in the next five years?

Farajun: I think there will be more consolidation. I think that more of the old-school vendors, the big broad vendors, will continue to add more cloud backup service capability as part of their offerings portfolio. They’ll either acquire companies that do it or they will stand up services that do it themselves. There will be more acquisitions by bigger MSPs that buy smaller MSPs because they deliver cloud backup services and they have the expertise.

I think you’ll see an increase of channel partners bringing [cloud-based backup] back in-house and actually being the service provider instead of just being a broker. And that will happen because it adds more value to their business.

And I think you’ll see unfortunately ransomware attacking more and more backup software, whether it’s delivered as a service or on premises, just because it’s so damaging.

Lonas: Looking ahead, we will see cloud backup and data protection continue to gain popularity, especially as businesses implement cyber-resiliency plans.

More organizations now trust the cloud to be available, secure and meet their business needs. We will continue to see Moore’s Law drive down network and storage costs so that businesses can continue to reduce their on-premises footprint. Some of this change is technical, and some is cultural, as most of us trust the cloud in our personal lives more than businesses do; and we expect to see this trend continue to shift for businesses in the future.

Allan: I think there’s going to be a whole emergence of machine learning-based companies that exist only in the cloud, and all they need is access to your data. In the past, what was the problem with machine learning and artificial intelligence on premises? You had to install it on premises to get access to that data or you needed to pick up petabytes of data and get it to that company. If it’s already there, you can imagine a marketplace emerging that will give you value-added services on top of this data.

El-Hilali: I think the potential for DRaaS will continue to grow and I say that because the availability of the data, the spontaneity of recovery, is becoming more of a need than a good-to-have.

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