What is Cloud Backup and How Does It Work?

What is cloud backup?

Cloud backup is an off-site facility either owned by a company or a service provider that manages the cloud backup environment. Also referred to as online or remote backup, it involves preserving a copy of a physical or virtual file or database to a secondary, off-site location in the case of equipment failure or disaster. Online or remote data centres are specifically designed for preserving and securing data and usually have advanced security systems.

A cloud can either be private or public. A public cloud sells services to anyone on the Internet, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), while a private cloud supplies hosted services to a limited number of users.

Against this background, there are various approaches to cloud backup including:

Backing up directly to the public cloud

Public cloud architecture is virtualised in an online environment where shared resources are provided as needed. A pivotal advantage of public cloud architecture is access to a service or application on any Internet connected device. Duplicating resources in the public cloud entails writing data directly to cloud providers, such as AWS or Microsoft Azure. The cloud storage service provides the destination and safekeeping for the data, but it does not specifically provide a backup application.

Backing up to a service provider

Backing up to a service provider involves copies of documents being stored or backed-up by off-site, third-party service providers, who charge a fee based on storage space or capacity used, data transmission bandwidth, number of users, number of servers or number of times data is accessed cloud. Cloud subscriptions are charged monthly or yearly depending on the need of the user. In addition to consumers and home offices, online backup services are used by small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) as well as larger organisations to backup data or use as a supplementary form of backup.

Cloud-to-cloud (C2C) backup are relatively new services in the cloud backup arena. Providers specialise in backup services that copies data from one cloud to another cloud. The cloud-to-cloud backup service typically hosts the software that handles this process.

How Data is stored?

The first step when using a cloud back-up service is to do a full backup of the data that needs to be protected, which can sometimes take days to complete as a result of the large volume of data that is being transferred.

Cloud seeding is when a cloud backup vendor sends a storage device such as a disk drive or tape cartridge to its new customer, which then backs up the data locally onto the device and returns it to the provider. This process removes the need to send the initial data over the network to the backup provider.

After the initial back-up, cloud backup services are based on a client’s software application and schedules are determined by services bought and the customer’s requirements. If the customer requires daily backups, the application collects, compresses, encrypts and transfers data to the cloud service provider’s servers every 24 hours. After the initial full backup, the service provider might only provide incremental backups to reduce the amount of bandwidth consumed and the time it takes to transfer files.

Types of backup

Full backups provide the highest level of protection because the entire data set is backed-up every time a backup is initiated. However, most organisations cannot perform full backups frequently because they can be time-consuming and take up too much storage capacity.

Incremental backups only back up the data that has been changed or updated since the last backup. This method saves time and storage space, but can make it more difficult to perform a complete restoration of data. Incremental is a common form of cloud backup because it tends to use fewer resources.

Differential backups are similar to incremental backups because they only contain data that has been altered. However, differential backups back up data that has changed since the last full backup, rather than the last backup in general. This method solves the problem of difficult restores that can arise with incremental backups.


      It is cheaper to back up data using a cloud backup service compared to building and maintaining an in-house backup operation.

      The cloud is scalable, so even as a company’s data grows, it can still be easily backed up to a cloud backup service.

      Managing cloud backups is simpler because service providers take care of many of the management tasks that are required with other forms of backup.

      Cloud backups help lower the risk of common data backup failures caused by improper storage, physical media damage or accidental overwrites.

      Backed up data is accessible from anywhere.


      The backup speed depends on bandwidth and latency.

      Costs can escalate when backing up large amounts of data to the cloud.

      As data is moved outside of an organisation’s buildings and equipment and into the control of an outside provider.

Security of cloud backup

Three key security considerations for cloud backup are confidentiality, integrity and availability. Because data is sent over public Internet, encryption is an important feature of cloud backup. Backups are generally more secure against ransomware attacks because they are performed outside of the office network.

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