What is cloud backup and how does it work?

Digital clouds against a blue background.
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Blackboard)

Cloud backup is a method of storing copies of your data, documents or files in an offsite location, preserving it in the event of an incident or emergency. Also known as online backup or remote backup, cloud backup usually relies on third-party cloud providers that offer the use of their servers for backup services. The fees charged for backup will usually depend on the amount of space required, the data transmission bandwidth needed, the number of users or the number of times data is accessed.

As with cloud storage, there are a large number of cloud backup providers on the market today. Fortunately, we’ve reviewed the best cloud backup services available, evaluating the likes of iDrive, Dropbox Business, and CrashPlan

Of course, individual consumers could create their own backup system using rugged SSD, USB flash drives, or external hard drives, but this isn’t really practical for businesses. Their scale means they need a robust, efficient recovery plan - of which cloud backup is a key part. 

For most modern organizations, cloud backup is essential. Natural disasters ranging from earthquakes, fires, tsunamis or any other catastrophic event may be infrequent but when they strike can have a devastating effect on your operations. There are also a huge number of additional incidents that businesses need to be prepared for. Cloud backup can get companies back up and running in no time even if they are subject to a DDoS attack, power failure or any other kind of disruption. 

How does cloud backup restore your data?

Generally, cloud backup solutions will vary depending on the level of service that a business has signed up for. The backup provider will usually employ a software application that will collect, compress, encrypt and store the relevant data as part of a predetermined schedule. For example, some organizations may sign up for daily backups, while weekly may be enough for some. The regularity of your data backup will affect the fees you pay to your backup provider. 

There are different types of backup offered by providers. For instance, businesses may initially require full backups, which copy the entire data set. They can employ this approach every time a backup is initiated but this is a time-consuming and storage-intensive process. Instead, after a full backup is performed, organizations may subsequently require only incremental backups. These will only backup the data that has changed since the last backup was conducted.

What features come with most cloud backup solutions?

Although you might assume that cloud backup services are all pretty similar, there are some differences in terms of the features they offer. For example, one of the main advantages of a solution like iDrive is the fact that it comes with a web-based console to inspect your backup personally. Some cloud backup providers also supply physically shipped drives as part of their offering. 

The exact nature of the storage, syncing and customization may also vary depending on which cloud backup provider you go with. Versioning is another feature that is included in some cloud backup solutions. This lets you see previous iterations of documents - usually for a set length of time.

The benefits of cloud backup

There are a host of reasons why businesses might decide to go with a third-party cloud backup provider. First, managing your own backup can be time-consuming and require resources that not all organizations have access to. Do you have the skillset in-house to manage your data backup? If not, it’s probably better to go with a trusted cloud backup solution. 

Cloud backup also provides fast disaster recovery, minimizing the risk and cost of downtime. It is inevitable that disaster will strike at some point - even the best-managed IT infrastructure cannot guarantee 100% uptime. As such, cloud backup is your failsafe. When, not if, your data becomes inaccessible, cloud backup allows you to continue working - with minimal loss of earnings or reputational damage. 

With most cloud backup solutions, you can also count on easy set-up. Many work on a “set and forget” principle, running in the backup, automatically collecting data and documenting changes. When you do need to restore your data, authorized users can log in to your backup solution’s web interface, select the files they want to restore and specify the destination.

Want to know more about cloud backup?

If you want to know more about cloud backup, it may be worth checking out this comparison article, Cloud storage vs Cloud backup vs Cloud sync, written by Jay El-Anis from UK cloud storage provider, Zoolz. It explains some of the core differences between three of the many (similarly named) cloud solutions available today. 

Barclay Ballard

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with ITProPortal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.