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back to article Cloud storage survey FAIL: May have to, er, back up

The self-seeking company-commissioned survey is anathema to all right-thinking people. This is especially so when journos simply repeat its assertions without examining it for bias and agenda. However, when the research conducted by said company actually undermines the very case for the service that the company is trying to sell …

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Nothing to do with the price of disk space

I am a satisfied (so far) customer of CrashPlan, which has a backup of most (ie everything that is not easy to replace) of my family's data. This tots up to about 1TB. I have paid about $300 for the next four years. That is much more than a 1TB disk would cost.

However, that's not why I use CrashPlan. I have full local backups of all of our data too but if my house burns down, I'm stuffed without the cloud. I could faff about taking backups off-site, but I have nowhere secure to store them. CrashPlan keeps my data up-to-date more or less in real time and trying to mirror that with off-site backups is just not possible.

I don't really care about the cost of disk space. I do really care about the possibility of losing all my photographs of my children growing up.

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Not the only problem

How long will it take to download 1Tb over your Internet connection should all go wrong? (At 10Mbps, that's about 10 days, I think). And how long did it take you to upload all that (I'm guessing a LOT longer)?

Not that that's a massively important metric in backup, but hell is that inefficient and slow, and seriously knocking up your bandwidth allowance (which in the UK isn't exactly great). Hell, with some ISP's, you would get kicked off their monthly plan before you got 3% of the way to downloading that data again.

There is more to backup than just safety - convenience is also a factor in anyone that cares about their data, e.g. business. If you told a business that it would take a week to get their data back, after they'd paid for very expensive daily backups, they'd cut their ties with you - unless it was absolutely their last resort to get that data back.

Family photos - not a big problem. Your tax/sales data - potentially a big problem. Household backup is nowhere close to commercial backup and even in large companies, I'd expect the local tech to have LOTS of on-site and off-site *PHYSICAL* copies. Hell, I make one backup to a drive that sits on top of the computer it backs up - when I *do* need to restore for anything other than complete catastrophic failure of that room, it'll be cheaper and quicker to do so from that than from any of the other professional backup solutions in place. It only takes hours to restore from a local disk, it can take WEEKS to restore from an off-site host. Plus, you have absolutely NO way to verify that the backups are uncorrupted - unless you *want* to do a two-week-long restore for every backup.

Cloud backup is a silly idea, except as one tool in the "If I have half-a-dozen different ways to do this, and use them properly, something will *definitely* restore should I need it" armoury. And personally, for the price you're paying, I could probably rent a server / hosting package cheaper and at least then I could check that things were being stored properly myself.

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Happy

Re: Family photos

"Family photos - not a big problem. Your tax/sales data - potentially a big problem."

Without wishing to disagree with the thrust of your reply, I feel obliged to point out that you clearly haven't ever lost any family photos. If you lose your tax records, the worst that can happen is a short holiday in jail. If you lose your family's photos, you might as well kill yourself now, to save them the effort.

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Re: Family photos

That part was more about the timing - takes a week to get your photos back, who cares? Takes a week to get to your sales data, that's more of a problem.

Though I have to say, my family rule is "If YOU don't have it in at least two places, it doesn't exist"... doesn't matter if that's on a laptop and on a USB stick, or on a backup server and on a CD somewhere - if they don't have it in at least two places, it doesn't exist, and even the cost of data recovery wouldn't be worth it for a family photo (I've only ever been quoted in the realm of £1000/Gb for professional recovery, and everything else was something I could do myself - i.e. just stitching bits that read okay back together).

Even if I take a copy of their photos for them, they are idiots if that's their only backup (THEY have to have it in at least two places, I will also have it in at least two places, anything less than two is stupid, anything more than two is sensible). When I backup files for work, they go to at least five different "places" (tape, off-site tape, other servers, external backup hosts,etc.) , and it's not that hard to do even for 100's of Gb's. But if a family member comes to me with an accidentally-zeroed USB stick? Unless they had backups in at least two places (in which case, why do they need anything recovered?), or they pay me something approaching professional data-recovery rates plus a generous commission, they can revel in their own stupidity.

YOU need to keep copies of YOUR data in at LEAST TWO places and not rely on anyone else to supply those. Everything else above and beyond that (giving your data to me, or random family member, or random cheapy-backup-place to keep) is optional but recommended and DOES NOT count towards the AT LEAST TWO that you need to keep.

It's amazing that 90% of people will ask you where they can download MP3's within minutes of them getting a new computer, and nobody has EVER asked me what would be a decent way to backup (even if they HAVE lost files before) when they do so. Hell, I've never been consulted until after a dataloss, when they are shocked that the cheapest-bidder 3.5" USB hard drive they cart to work every day in their bag died or was so full of bad sectors it wasn't storing anything useful, and they lose everything they thought they'd backed up.

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Go

Children's photos...

My strategy is to burn to CD and mail a copy to interested relatives.

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Anonymous Coward

@Lee Dowling, RE: copy time

We do this sort of thing for DR purposes - if your primary site dies you send a portable storage device to the backup site and copy the data locally. You then courier the backup device to your recovered site and restore locally. If you have tiered data you send multiple storage devices accordingly.

You can shift as much data as you want in the same sort of timescales it takes to recover the rest of your primary site (by this I mean replacing hardware or resolving the effects of the original disaster) - certainly you can have your data on site within a few business hours, depending largely on courier time.

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Moore's Law

Moore's Law doesn't say anything about storage capacity.

There is a copycat law sometimes called Kryder's Law which applies the same principles to disk storage, however.

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confusion..

Seems to me your confusing bandwidth speed with bandwidth amount in relation to costings.

Regardless of speed a drop in £/Gb would have more of a change on product cost than a swap from 10Mbs to 100Mbs.

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The thing the "cloud" perps aren't telling you ...

When I own the storage media, I control the data.

When I don't own the storage media, I don't control the data.

Ipso facto, QED ... Can we stop with the "cloud" meme, already?

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Drive prices?

The trouble is that drive prices are falling so fast, that they are an almost insignificant part of your overall storage cost. Drives are cheap: SANs, backups, replication... not so much.

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Coat

Not to mention the price of that

weekly cross-continental courier to store your 2nd set of offsite backup tapes in a secure location in case of a major asteroid strike in your local time zone.

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Paris Hilton

huh?

Why exactly is that a problem? Would you rather have those components *not* fall in price?

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FAIL

Moore's Law journalistic FAIL

Moore's Law:

The number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years.

That's it. Nothing about disk capacity or speed. Certainly nothing to do with network bandwidth. Please don't write crap.

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Linux

Cost of management is the key.

..as it probably dominates the cost of RELIABLE data storage far more than disk space or bandwidth...

The question is, do you trust a cloud to do a better job at less cost than the geek you hired last year to keep the computers rollin'. ?

For many smaller businesses, and domestic users, the answer is probably yes. For most larger business that are already multi-location, the answer is you've been stuffing your multi-terabyte databases in someone's data centre for years anyway.

For IT aware companies with decent IT departments the answer is probably no, especially if security is an issue.

Cloud computing is yet another piece of marketing BS, designed to re-brand yet another trivial twist in the client server model to make it sexy for the unsophisticated.

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Boffin

it isn't about just about bandwidth

> We would expect a company which provides online backup to thus be telling us that bandwidth is falling in price faster than those local disks ..

I would have thought that off site storage would be it main selling point. For people who don't understand that you can't keep your entire companies storage on a portable hard drive ..

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I think you missed the point. BackBlaze is Online Backup - quite different from a cheap hard drive.

Wow, I didn’t read that survey the same way you did. I am the CEO of Remote Backup Systems, the company that more or less founded the Online Backup business in 1987.

BackBlaze is a well-respected company of smart people who are in the “online backup” business, not the “find the cheapest way to store your data” business. If they were the later type of business your points could be well taken. Fortunately for them, they are in the former.

Online backup services provide far more than storage space, and (IMHO) will never be cheaper then local disk space. They provide secure offsite storage for copies of data that you may also have onsite.

Data are stored in secure facilities which are, unlike your parlor, impervious to damage from natural disasters. Your housecat is not going to relieve himself in BackBlaze’s data center, ruining years of your Aunt Maud’s famous rhubarb pie recipes. But he might be doing that in your house right this very minute. Better check. If you have your data backed up offsite, your housecat isn’t such a problem.

Online backup services verify your data is correctly backed up, they keep redundant copies in redundant geographically separate data centers, they keep multiple versions so you can restore to last month’s version of that spreadsheet, you know, the one WITHOUT the virus. Your cheap hard drive can’t do that.

Online Backup services manage their hardware and rotate it out of service when it gets old, without impacting your data at all. When your super-cheap hard drive gets old and starts dropping sectors you’re going to lose data, irrecoverable data. And you’re going to have to go out and buy another drive and worry with properly copying what’s left of your data to the new drive. That takes time, expertise, and money – things some users won’t have.

Online Backup services monitor your backups to make sure they are done properly and on schedule. They send you status emails. Your local hard drive will not do that.

The software that comes with Online Backup services is pretty great stuff. It usually has built-in automatic agents to back up open and locked files, your email, Active Directory, System State, Sharepoint, and other special file types. It usually backs up data in real time as it is changed, or on a convenient schedule. To do all this with a cheap local hard drive you would have to purchase, install, manage, and maintain several applications, each of which is a point of failure and might be a management nightmare

Online Backup services maintain far higher standards of security and privacy protection than you do. If someone breaks into your house and steals your cheap hard drive, they will have all your information – bank records, credit card numbers, phone numbers, and yes, Aunt Maud’s secret recipes.

On the other hand, Online Backup services store your data in encrypted form, inside secure facilities that are often protected by armed guards. These facilities have backup generators, special fire suppression, redundant security systems, man traps, monitored cameras, and all manner of secret gadgets to protect your data. Nobody is going to steal your data from an online backup company – even by hacking into their systems. Your data are tightly encrypted. Even if it were possible to steal it, it would be useless.

What about regulatory compliance? Most countries have laws that govern how and where data are kept and transported. Many types of businesses are required by law to handle data in very specific ways. In NO country is a cheap, unencrypted hard drive in your parlor compliant. Most Online Backup services comply with security and privacy regulations.

You could spend far more time and money maintaining correct local backups to a cheap hard drive than you could by using an Online Backup service. So, that super-cheap hard drive you mentioned in your article might end up costing you many times more than you think, while failing at performing the important task of backing up your data.

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Holmes

No Sh*t

My bandwidth cost has NEVER decreased, and I can pick up a 1Tb hard disk for £40-50. Nuff said.

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