This article was created and contributed by Commvault.

Why should you protect your cloud data?

In this guide, we'll go deep on cloud data protection, including what it needs to look like today, how to get there from here, and how to address key use cases like IT modernization and multi-cloud management,  migration and disaster recovery. We'll also look at Microsoft 365 data protection, since that's one of the most common — and commonly misunderstood — requirements facing organizations now.

What does it mean to be cloud-ready? 

It means being ready with cloud data protection. No matter where you migrate, store and use your data. It means not assuming that cloud providers will handle the protection and recovery of your data – because that's your job, not theirs. It means being smart and thoughtful about the way you'll manage the backups, rapid recovery, search and availability of the workloads in your cloud and multi-cloud environments.

You've got a lot riding on your cloud strategy. Applications, databases, files, hypervisors – the resources that run your organization. As you move them into and across environments — on-premises, Microsoft® Azure™, Amazon® AWS™, Google® Cloud Platform™, Oracle® Cloud Platform™, whatever's coming next — it's up to you to make sure your data resources will still be there when you need them. Available. Searchable. Recoverable — fast.

Why do we need a new way to manage and protect cloud data?

You hear it – and live it – every day: in the digital world, the only constant is change. New customer needs, changing market conditions and emerging revenue opportunities can turn today's winners into tomorrow's "where are they nows?" Your business depends on data to stay on top – and it depends on you to keep that data available and ready for action. Every minute. Every day. Every time.

But there's a brutal irony at the core of digital business. The same transformed infrastructure that helps your business scale, pivot and innovate at lightning speed also make it harder and harder to protect data. Multi-cloud and hybrid environments can be costly and challenging to work with, making it difficult to move, manage and use your data.

Here's what that means

More risk
Regulatory compliance becomes a complex struggle. Data recovery can be slow and painstaking.

More work for IT
Meeting SLAs is hard enough in a traditional environment – and now you've got to do it across multiple disparate systems. That's on top of writing scripts to move workloads to the cloud and trying to figure out an effective data recovery strategy.

More compromises for the business
It's hard to put your data to work for customers and innovation when it's scattered across silos, clouds, and on-premises storage, all managed with different backup and recovery products. You end up working with the data that's easiest to get your hands on – and never knowing what potential riches might be hidden from view.

  • Streamline: Move, manage and use data more easily no matter where it's stored – cloud or on-premises.
  • Scale: Get large amounts of data and workloads to the cloud quickly and securely so you can get all the agility, cost efficiencies and IT modernization that your cloud strategy was designed to have.
  • Protect: Secure your cloud data wherever it goes, in flight and at rest. Be able to recover it fast, in a usable format, no matter what happens. And hit those SLAs to keep your business flowing at digital speed.

Moving on from slow, costly backups

If you feel like your legacy backups are a burden, you're not alone. The industry is full of IT pros running at least one should-be-decommissioned backup alongside their production data protection solution. But they still need the backup and archive data sets it holds for compliance or retention reasons, so they're stuck paying maintenance for that ugly, outdated silo – and hoping they never have to try to pull actual data from it.

Your data deserves better. By migrating legacy backups to the cloud, you can free them from silos, include them in enterprise search, improve their availability and streamline your own IT workload at the same time.

Making that move is simpler than it might seem. You can migrate entire archives or just a subset directly to cloud storage without the need for gateways or extra hardware. In fact, you can even automate the capture and migration of backups and archives to the cloud while preserving key metadata like retention/expiry dates, client information and created/modified information.

How cloud data protection fits into IT modernization

Modernize, modernize, modernize – you've got that voice in your head all day long. Meanwhile, you know you've got to do something about cloud data protection. As it happens, there's a natural fit between the two initiatives.

By moving backups and archives from tape or disk to the cloud, you can shift focus (and budget) from maintaining legacy hardware to efforts around modernization and transformation. At the same time, as IT modernization pushes data into more types of environments, cloud data protection helps you avoid carrying forward outdated silos and processes – or creating even more of them – as you advance into your digital future.

The move from tape or disk to cloud has a lot to offer. Better access to critical data. Cost savings. New technologies like self-driving backup, machine learning and artificial intelligence that give you more confidence in the quality and availability of your backups. Automation that improves productivity, speed and accuracy. Tools to streamline operations and improve security – for example, by alerting you to check an application or file system for ransomware if it shows sudden or abnormal activity.

Cloud data migration: Where to begin

Some organizations wonder how to start moving data to the cloud. Moving even huge volumes of data to the cloud can be quick and secure. All you need is the right plan and the right partner to help you execute it.

Before you start moving data, make sure you've got a clear understanding of your needs. What are the main drivers for your project? Extending your existing on-premises storage with the cloud? Finding a better way to run and back up critical applications via Azure, AWS, or Oracle Cloud? Ensuring fast, reliable disaster recover for your virtual environments?

Based on that assessment, what is the data you'll need to move to the cloud? How will you prioritize and tier it based on departmental and overall business needs? What are the technologies you'll need to support – SaaS and cloud native applications, hypervisors, storage options, large files, databases?

Weighing your options

Once you've got your requirements and specifications nailed down, you can start evaluating your options for cloud data migration and protection. Here are a few considerations to guide that process.

  • Avoid point solutions that increase infrastructure and management costs
  • Clean and dedupe data before migration for a more efficient network transfer and more cost-effective cloud storage environment
  • Tier data within your cloud storage platforms so you're paying the best price for each type of data
  • Encrypt data for transfer and at rest to help ensure security

The key to cloud migration success is to have a coordinated, collaborative strategy in place. When you're clear on the best way to proceed, the migration itself can be a fairly simple and straightforward process to execute.

Managing data across your multi-cloud environment

When you're using multiple clouds to support different use cases – and who isn't these days? – you need a multi-cloud approach to cloud data management. That begins a single view into the current state of your cloud data across public, private, and hybrid cloud environments.

You also need the flexibility to move data and workloads across every type of infrastructure, both on-premises and cloud, to best meet ever-changing business requirements.

Don't forget about data conversion

There's more to multi-cloud than simply copy-and-pasting across environments. Moving from one cloud or hypervisor to another involves data conversion as well—and that's not necessarily easy to do. There are more types of platforms than ever these days. That diversity means you'll need to take steps to make sure you can protect, move, recover, and transform your data from one cloud or hypervisor to another without bogging down in complexity.

For example:

  • How do you avoid having several overlapping and platform-specific products to manage the data?
  • How will you consolidate your view of the data across all these potential locations?
  • How can you migrate or recover data from one cloud or virtualization platform to another?

The common theme here is having the ability to focus on the data itself, not on the underlying platforms. That way, you can avoid getting boxed in to a specific platform so you can move data wherever it makes the most sense for IT and the business.

Move, and recover data to the cloud, from the cloud, and between clouds.
Move data between hypervisors as well, whether on-premises or in a hybrid configuration.

Cloud data migration: why and how?

Multi-cloud environments shouldn't mean just creating a new set of silos. To get the most from the strategy, you need to be able to move apps, databases, VMs and large data sets across clouds and on-premises storage with ease. Data encryption is critical for cloud data migration. When moving data to the cloud, data protection drives security and helps data to be rapidly recoverable wherever it resides.

Simplifying disaster recovery across multiple clouds

Having your data spread out across multiple clouds doesn't mean you can relax about data protection and availability. To meet on-premises and cloud SLAs, you also need a way to recover specific data quickly following a disaster – wherever that data might reside. By automating disaster recovery and testing across multiple clouds, you can reduce cost, effort and risk while gaining confidence that you'll be able to restore data quickly and easily – from a single file to entire databases.

Where does Office 365 data protection fit?

Microsoft 365™ is a critical part of the modern enterprise data environment – but many organizations leave it out of their cloud data protection strategy. That's partly due to a common misconception that Microsoft handles this kind of thing. After all, the Microsoft 365 subscription includes high availability and data replication between Microsoft 365 data centers. But don't confuse replication and availability with backup and recovery. If the data in your primary site is compromised or corrupted, that's what will be replicated to the secondary site as well. And having two sets of bad data isn't going to help anyone.

There are other potential risks for Microsoft 365 data. Aside from the usual risks of hacking, malware and malicious insiders, there's always a chance of accidental deletion. If someone hits the wrong key and critical business information goes missing, will you have a way to get it back quickly, before it disrupts operations?

As you're developing your backup and recovery plan for Microsoft 365, here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • This isn't just about email
    You'll also need to be able to recover the rest of the data within the mailbox, including messages, contacts, calendar items, chat histories, deleted items and so on.
  • Think beyond the mailbox
    There's more to Office than mailboxes. Make sure you're also covering SharePoint, OneDrive, Project Online and Teams.
  • Keep it simple
    Avoid point products and use a single solution to manage on-premises and cloud data.
  • Be flexible with storage targets
    You should be able to back up and recover Microsoft 365 data to Azure, on-premises, disk, tape, or the cloud of your choice.
  • Be ready for compliance
    Design your Microsoft 365 backup and recovery plan to support eDiscovery efforts and address risks around sensitive data.
If you made it this far, you are officially a cloud pro!

Share this useful information with your team – developing a cloud data protection plan is a team effort. Reach out –  WWT and Commvault have worked with customers of all sizes, all verticals, all around the globe.

This is a big decision and all organizations have unique needs. Let's set up a demo conversation – we'll discuss your unique requirements and see how Commvault can help save money, prevent downtime, and give your organization the confidence and flexibility it needs now and into the future.