Data and mobile: backup in the cloud or internally?

To back up the content of their mobile devices, some companies will opt for a solution in-house with backup software designed for laptops, while others will prefer a backup in the cloud. There is no right or wrong solution, but each has its advantages and disadvantages. The purpose of this article is to weigh the pros and cons of different on-premises and cloud-based backup solutions for laptops.

When are the data saved?

One of the first criteria to consider is when data is saved. In the case of in-house solutions, the answers to this question are varied. Some backup solution providers launch the operation at fixed times, but laptops may not be powered on at the time the backup is scheduled. What’s more, the scheduled backup will not start at a time when the computer is connected.

To solve this problem, some recent backup applications offer a Continuous Data Protection (CDP) system. The backup software then uses a modified block tracking system and downloads it when the computer connects to the target of its backup.

Another option is to perform on-demand backups on external media, such as an external hard drive. This possibility is unsatisfactory because it requires the user to actively participate in the backup process. In addition, users sometimes have the bad habit of keeping their backup device next to their computer, at the risk of seeing it disappear with the computer in case of theft, while the purpose of the backup is specifically to retain a copy in case of theft.

A third, and growing, possibility is to use the DirectAccess feature of Window 8. This automatically establishes a connection to the corporate network as soon as the computer is turned on, allowing administrators to launch scripts. backup when the connection is established. If some backup applications offer similar functionality – knowing that they are trying to automatically link to the target of the backup as soon as the computer is connected to the Internet – DirectAccess presents the additional benefit to be an integrated component at the operating system level. It therefore allows laptops to access corporate network resources without the administrator needing to open ports at the firewall or change a configuration; operations that would decrease security.

In the case of laptops, if they are sometimes scheduled at certain times, some cloud backup applications work as CDP solutions. In this case, they use backup clients that scan laptops for new or changed storage blocks, and then download those blocks to cloud storage resources.

Like any cloud-based solution, this type of backup requires a connection to the Internet. The difference between the cloud backup and the backup to a server installed on the company’s site is that the first only requires an Internet connection, while a VPN connection is usually required. the second (with the notable exception of DirectAccess connections).

End user interaction

A few years ago, the end user almost always had to be active in the process of backing up their laptop. Current solutions, both in the cloud and on the company’s website, can now manage this process without its intervention.

Of course, this does not mean that backups are completely neutral: scheduled backups are often disruptive for the end user. Paradoxically, if the computer is turned on at the scheduled time for backup, it is probably the user is using it. The backup process may then slow down the computer and its connection to the Internet, to the point that the user will have trouble working. Mobile and cloud-based backup applications solve these problems in two ways. First of all, all the solutions know how to regulate the bandwidth, which contributes to reducing any excessive nuisance induced by the backup. Second, these types of backups usually run continuously as soon as a connection is available, rather than downloading large amounts of data at once. Functions such as source deduplication or automatic recovery (which allows you to resume an interrupted backup in the middle of a large file) help to limit bandwidth consumption.

The installation process

Whether it’s cloud or on-premise backup, you need to install backup software on your computer. In the case of the internal solution, the software may consist of a full backup application, but it will most often be a simple backup agent used to back up the contents of the computer over the Internet.

For cloud backup solutions, you will usually need to install a client component on the laptop. The client component acts as a backup agent, but allows the user to configure certain settings such as regulating network bandwidth and excluding certain files or folders.

In any case, both on-premises and in the cloud, administrators will need to deploy the backup software on their laptop fleet. In the case of cloud backup, it will usually be backup software that can be provided to the user by email or download, or deployed using a software distribution server. To deploy the necessary agents for an on-site backup, a software distribution server will often be used, but it is sometimes possible to use a backup management console.

deduplication

Deduplication has become a standard feature of backup solutions for laptops. In both cloud and on-premise, applications perform deduplication at the source of the data that needs to be backed up, which reduces the time it takes to transmit data to the server.

In the case of on-site backup, some products also provide file-based target deduplication, eliminating duplicate data that may exist on multiple laptops at a time. Most cloud providers are likely to use target deduplication as well, but the process remains invisible to users and does not affect their interaction. Target deduplication in the cloud only serves to reduce the storage costs of the provider.

The recovery process

When it comes to cloud backup, the actual recovery capabilities vary greatly. Some cloud-based backup services offer bare metal recovery and application-level recovery, but most focus exclusively on files and folders.

Most current cloud solutions also offer a self-service portal that allows users to retrieve their data without requesting support services. On the other hand, in the case of complete recovery, the use of the self-service portal is unavoidable.

Like Cloud solutions, some in-house backup solutions offer a self-service interface that allows the user to find files and folders on their own.

Conclusion

Cloud backup applications used to be completely different from on-premise backup applications, but that era is over. Cloud backup technology is improving and is starting to compete with the capabilities of on-premise tools. At the same time, organizations are beginning to discover that internal backup often involves remote resources, which means using techniques that are very similar to those used in the cloud.

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