Another day another “cloud” back-up company…

Lately there has been a large number of online “cloud” back-up companies popping up and announcing large funding commitments from their venture partners. From a business strategy perspective it seems to make a lot of sense, as essentially online back-up providers are selling customers the promise of data preservation, and using economies of scale to maximize profits for their shareholders. While I can certainly understand and respect this cloud back-up strategy from a business and finance perspective, as a user I question the effectiveness for many reasons. I am most concerned about the security of the actual data transfer as well as how secure my stored data actually is.  Is your data secure and encrypted when you transfer it?  Is it safe once it is sitting on your provider’s servers?  What happens if your provider’s infrastructure isn’t quite as robust as they have advertised? What happens when your cloud back-up provider goes out of business?

History proves that fashionable companies such as this come and go and today’s in vogue cloud back-up provider is yesterday’s pets.com, or other defunct dot com bust of years past.

Companies such as Carbonite (www.carbonoite.com) like to promote “worry free back-up” which is great until your hard drive is fried and you need to restore your collection of files, photos and videos.  How do you know your data will be there for you, and if it is, how long will it take for you to get the critical files you so desperately need?

I was reading documentation from Carbonite’s SEC filing last year where they had to release inherent business and technology risks before their public offering, and I found the following statements to be very disturbing.

The company wrote that a disruption in service could be very harmful for its business, indicating that there have been occasional interruptions, but nothing serious so far. However, the company does not keep separate redundant copies of customer files, meaning that a Carbonite data center failure, at the same time as a customer failure, could mean a loss in data.

“Our systems provide redundancy at the disk level, but do not keep separate, redundant copies of backed up customer files. Instead, we rely on the fact that our customers, in effect, back up our system by maintaining the primary instance of their files. We do not intend to create redundant backup sites for our solutions. As such, a total failure of our systems, or the failure of any of our systems, could result in the loss of or a temporary inability to back up our customers’ data and result in our customers being unable to access their stored files,” the company wrote.
Via: http://www.crn.com/news/storage/231002967/carbonite-prices-ipo-at-106-million-outlines-business-risks.htm

No redundant files?  Who is accountable for your data if they do have an outage, or data corruption?  That’s right.  It is still your responsibility to have a local back-up or archive or you will have little recourse if your data is corrupted by a 3rd party provider.

A few of my personal key worry points:

  1. It will take a very long time to upload the data.  If you have over 200GB’s it could take weeks to upload.
  2. It will take a very long time to restore all data if needed. If I need everything back, I want it quickly.
  3. How secure is the data being sent out to the internet?
  4. How secure is my resting data on 3rd party cloud back-up provider’s servers?
  5. How robust is the capacity and infrastructure planning?

I am not 100% against online back-up.  I do think there is potentially a place for it in your workflow, and the most notable value I would say is having a copy of your data completely offsite in case of a natural disaster.  With that said I am far from sold on this model from an overall data integrity point of view and question the validity of the long term effectiveness of this model. And isn’t that what your back-up or personal archive plan should be about anyway, the long term?  Your back-up and personal archive plan shouldn’t be about a trendy business model or marketing tactic, it should be a way of protecting precious memories and files for the rest of your life.

Related posts: