Data loss can be pretty expensive for businesses, with just one single instance possibly attracting costs of up to $15 million for large organizations.
To safeguard against permanent loss, it's critical to use backups — storing copies of data in external storage locations to be used for recovery later on. Sadly, there are still problems with this.
Avast reports that a whopping 60 percent of backups fail, and 50% of data recovery projects are unsuccessful. Why?
It turns out this is due to the incapacity of hardware, software, and peopleware in the entire backup and recovery process.
To address this challenge, Backup-as-a-Service has emerged as a specialized solution to ensure backups are more reliable than ever. It is becoming the go-to for organizations around the world, so much so that the global BaaS market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 33.15% between 2021 and 2026.
What is Backup as a Service?
Backup-as-a-service (BaaS) is a model that involves an outsourced, third-party service that takes over an organization’s entire backup process.
A BaaS provider is a specialized service that offers to manage the transfer, storage, security, and access to an organization’s back up.
Instead of having your internal IT personnel execute and maintain the backup of essential company and customer data, you outsource this whole process to a BaaS provider.
Oftentimes, the BaaS provider also takes care of the recovery of this managed backup in case of a disaster event in the organization.
How BaaS works
The BaaS model works like every other managed SaaS model. If your organization wishes to dispose of the burden of continuously monitoring and backing up new data, you simply seek a reliable BaaS provider.
The organization subscribes to the BaaS provider, which may either be a provider of only backup services or a provider of both backup storage and other services.
Once the organization subscribes to the provider’s services (typically based on how much data is involved), it then chooses the frequency of backups and the data it wishes to back up.
From here onwards, the BaaS provider takes over. The BaaS provider transfers data to the backup storage location based on the constraints set by the organization.
Although the organization still has access to the transferred data, the BaaS provider is in charge of keeping data continuously updated, secure from theft, and safeguarded against disaster.
In all this, why is BaaS important for organizations? Practically speaking, it all comes down to the typical backup problems that organizations face. BaaS, then, solves these problems — and this makes it very important.
Common backup problems that BaaS seeks to solve
When you consider the most common factors that cause backups to fail, it's easy to understand just why BaaS is crucial.
As mentioned earlier, backups are mostly unsuccessful due to the failure of hardware, software, and peopleware.
More specifically, BaaS helps organizations eliminate internal incapacity in the following ways:
1. Poor backup strategy
Poor backup strategy is caused by human-related factors. The major human-related factor here is the lack of skill or experience of IT personnel to know the perfect strategy for managing the backup process.
Based on the volume and frequency of backup needed, is a full backup, which covers every piece of data, the best? Or will backing up only data that has changed be better? When you choose to backup only changes, will an incremental backup be better, or will a differential backup prove to be more valuable?
A lot of times, organizations get their choices wrong. For instance, a full backup gives you the most security against loss. However, if the volume of data managed by your business amounts to hundreds of terabytes, opting for a full daily backup only increases the chances of incompletion and failure.
For more clarity on the different types of backups, please refer to this comprehensive guide where we discuss the various types of backups.
Also Read: What are Segregated Backups?
2. Software errors
Software factors also come into play and, here, we consider the software solution to execute the transfer of data as well as the solution to manage stored data. There are two hurdles here.
One is the incompatibility of the chosen solutions to work with the organization’s existing data and IT infrastructure components. The other is unreliable patch management constraints around these solutions. For instance, the software solution may have not been installed properly or may be out of date. Also, an update of the software may introduce significant changes that affect the already configured backup process.
Organizations typically make mistakes when choosing the right software or managing software changes.
3. Hardware failure
The hardware needed to make the continuous backup operation a success also proves to be ineffectively managed by a lot of organizations.
This is more alarming when you consider that, in cases of data loss, part of which backups are included, hardware failure serves as the primary culprit 42% of the time.
On one hand, organizations may choose to use hardware with inefficient specifications, causing the transfer to lag or perform poorly. On the other hand, hardware components may be inappropriately maintained, like placed close to heat, unprotected against power surges, or subjected to continuous physical impact. These then cause them to wear out quickly and encounter a sudden crash during high-demanding backup processes.
Misconfiguration is another factor caused by the inefficiency of internal peopleware. Serving as the cause of data loss 30% of the time, the inexperience of internal IT employees could result in poor IT and software integration or a failure to cover essential data.
For instance, poor archival logging configuration will affect the effectiveness of continuous incremental or differential backups as well as the reliability of data recovery operations.
In light of these possible internal mistakes, Backup-as-a-Service serves as a reliable solution. Through specialized expertise, a BaaS provider understands the best strategy for an organization’s data volume and backup frequency.
They then adopt the best-in-the-market software and hardware tools for data transfer, and integrate the best configuration for specific IT backup needs. These then result in certain cost and operational benefits for the organization to reap.
Benefits of adopting the Backup as a Service model
The top benefits of adopting a BaaS model are increased convenience and reduced cost.
High levels of convenience
Alongside transferring and storing data, the entirety of backup management also involves the following:
- Scanning data
- Identifying duplicates
- Deleting obsolete data from backup locations(deduplication).
The IT team is responsible for the following tasks:
- Identifying, choosing, and prioritizing data to backup
- Scheduling backups
- Monitoring backup status
- Ensuring the whole setup is sufficient for full data restoration.
BaaS providers take these time-consuming tasks off the hands of the organization’s IT team. The organization no longer has a proactive hand in the backup process. As a result, fears about data loss are eliminated and employees can focus on perfecting other areas of IT management.
What’s more, the organization doesn't have to always worry about meeting regulatory compliance standards as top BaaS providers take care of this.
BaaS also helps organizations optimize backup costs efficiently thanks to the pay-as-you-go pricing schemes common with BaaS providers.
Popular providers offer pricing based on either the number of devices covered or the amount of data transferred and stored during the backup operation. This scalable pricing scheme helps to save capital expenses (CapEx) and operational expenses (OpEx).
CapEx is needed to acquire hardware and software tools while OpEx is needed to maintain access to SaaS tools and for the wages of dedicated backup administrators.
Yes, the benefits may look enticing. However, note that not all BaaS providers are capable of delivering these benefits. To gain big from the BaaS model, it is important to choose the right BaaS service provider. What should you look out for to help you find the best? We look at this next.
Dig deep into how you can effectively reduce your IT costs with this insightful guide into IT Budgeting.
Key considerations when searching for a Backup as a Service provider
Please be sure to look out for these characteristics when in the market to look for the most suitable BaaS provider for your organization.
1. Secure transfer and storage
A report on Statista indicates that over 6 million data records were exposed in Q1 of 2023 alone. Astra reports that45% of data breaches are cloud-based, while Statista, in another report, says the average cost of data breaches is $4.45 million, which is as high as $9.44 million in the US. These numbers show the importance of security to every operation involving enterprise data.
When choosing a BaaS service provider, always opt for one with a track record of security or one without a record of significant, costly data breaches. Check out how each provider in your shortlist protects data. Specifically, look for features like encryption, strict access control measures, and comprehensive malware/ransomware protection.
If a BaaS provider uses its own on-premise physical hardware to facilitate backup operations, having the hardware physically protected by security personnel is also a key consideration. You don’t want to hand over sensitive data transfers and storage to a provider that cannot ensure its physical or virtual security and privacy.
See more cybersecurity stats in our latest comprehensive report.
Also Read: Data Loss Prevention Best Practices
2. Data availability
Data availability is all about ensuring that every piece of backed-up data is available at all times and instantly on demand.
Even as you outsource the entire data backup process to a third party, you still shouldn’t rid your organization of the control of this externally managed data. Instead, a framework that permits high availability should be existent.
The availability of backed-up data determines the speed and efficiency of the data recovery process in case of a disaster.
3. Transparent and reliable Disaster Recovery Plan
Just like any regular organization or business, a BaaS provider also doesn’t have complete immunity against power outages or natural disasters like earthquakes and floods.
What it should have, however, is a robust disaster recovery plan. A good BaaS provider should show clients, in clear terms, what it will do or the framework it has against power outages, natural disasters, and human-related errors. Do they have an alternative power source that allows them to operate off the grid? If they don’t, then you should be wary of choosing them as your BaaS partner.
In the case of natural or unnatural disasters, does it adopt a reliable backup strategy of its own? Here, the 3-2-1 backup strategy is a simple and effective one to look out for. It involves maintaining three (3) copies of data, two (2) different storage mediums (cloud and physical storage), and one (1) offsite location away from the organization's premises.
- Disaster Recovery Testing Best Practices
- What is RPO and RTO in Disaster Recovery?
- IT Resilience vs. Disaster Recovery: What is the Difference?
- Business Continuity Planning Checklist
4. Relevant Regulatory Compliance
Any good BaaS provider should satisfy regulatory compliance requirements. No one wants to lose $1.5 million because of a bad data management framework. Noncompliance with HIPAA regulations in the healthcare industry, for instance, will get organizations fined this amount on average. For compliance and depending on your industry, look for certifications like the ISO 27001, SOC 2, GDPR, PCI-DSS, or HIPAA.
What is the difference between SOC 1 and SOC 2? Please check this critical analysis of SOC 1 vs SOC 2.
Now, it isn’t enough that a BaaS provider has a compliance certificate. It is also important that this regulatory agency is relevant to your organization’s industry or location of operation.
For instance, while GDPR compliance isn’t necessary in the US, it remains a requirement for organizations that wish to deal with consumers in Europe. This means organizations should look for a GDPR certificate if the BaaS provider operates in Europe, regardless of if it has an ISO certificate.
Other factors to look for include a scalable pay-as-you-go pricing model, the coverage of important organizational data formats, and a schedule that fits your organization's optimal backup frequency.
Backup as a Service case studies
To show how beneficial adopting the BaaS model can be, here are two real-life case studies from Dropsuite and DPSolutions.
The Dropsuite case study involves Hutchinson and BloodGood LLC (HBCG), an IT consultant, advisory, and managed-services firm.
HBCG, through Christopher White, revealed that internally setting up backups and access control for its clients proved to be too cumbersome for the firm. This remained true even when the firm incorporated PowerShell automations for setting up its backups and restores. What’s more, its initial backup service vendor failed to ensure high and flexible data availability, preventing the firm from accessing and restoring certain data at any time.
Due to advice from Pax8, the firm then resorted to Dropsuite as the provider to manage its cloud backups, eDiscovery, data archiving, and data restore operations. The results?
HBCG reported improved data availability, as not only did they have seamless access to stored data, but there was no hindrance to moving this data to another platform. For compliance purposes, HBCG's need for backup documentation was also met by Dropsuite through an intuitive email alerting system.
As you can see here, HBCG didn’t just pick a service that offered basic backups and a collection of unnecessary features. Instead, the firm, through careful consideration, chose a BaaS provider that gave them access to solutions that were exactly tailored to its needs, hence, solving its problems.
You can find the full Dropsuite BaaS case study here.
DPSolutions, through its proactive managed backup services, provided a Baltimore-based non-profit organization a cure for its fears of data loss.
The organization, or the client, needed to troubleshoot its on-site server and adopt a more reliable and secure database management approach without trading away its control over data.
To solve this, DPSolutions helped to reconstruct the on-site server and set up reliable internet circuits to improve the stability of remote connections. It then offered network configuration, data deduplication, application monitoring, and SQL/Exchange backup and restoration services. DPSolutions also took care of logging and incremental data backups through block-level snapshots.
With this tailored solution, the BaaS provider gave its non-profit organization client the much-needed security against data loss and a lot of extra time to focus on research. It also ensured the client had instant access to data, and eliminated the stressful and expensive need for a full-time staff to manage data backups and recovery.
You can find the full DPSolutions BaaS case study here.
What about BaaS limitations?
The adoption of Backup-as-a-Service certainly comes with a lot of operational and cost benefits. However, there are some key challenges we need to be aware of while adopting this model.
Some of the reservations that organizations are having in relation to BaaS revolve around data security, compliance, and transfer speed.
- A majority 75% of respondents in a Checkpoint survey say data privacy and security are their top concerns when adopting cloud-based solutions. A Thales Group survey also shows a majority of its respondents identify cloud subscription services and cloud storages as the top two targets for hackers. Interpreting these stats, we see that BaaS providers are definitely in harm's way, and giving the control of data to a third-party raises security concerns even higher.
- The complexity of the data regulatory environment is another challenge to BaaS adoption. The ever-expanding regulatory checklists make meeting intricate compliance requirements more challenging for BaaS providers. Failure of a provider to adapt then presents a compliance risk to outsourcing organizations.
- There is also a seemingly general difficulty in meeting bandwidth requirements. This causes the backup and recovery process to run slowly and increases the chances for failure.
Other challenges include vendor lock-in and the complexity of data governance over hybrid cloud.
Thankfully, choosing the right BaaS provider for your backup process will go a great way to help these complications. It’s a question of doing the right way and many companies are already doing it right, which explains why the BaaS market is expected to gain over $17 billion in value between 2021 and 2026.