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How to create a robust backup strategy with cloud services

Paul Mah | June 4, 2015
Love it or hate it, cloud storage is here to stay. Yet the fact is that cloud storage providers, like all IT companies, can experience outages or even go out of business. Moreover, the ever-present threat of data-corrupting malware and ransomware means that synchronizing to the cloud no longer offers adequate protection against data loss.

File versioning

One feature not often discussed, but highly pertinent when it comes to protecting work documents, is file versioning. Used to track the various changes made to a file, it could potentially be used to recover from malicious edits or mistakes.

In addition, having more than one version of a file around can allow recovery from mistakes that were not immediately discovered, or to retrieve an early snippet that has been deleted. The downside, though, is that most cloud services offer relatively limited support on this front.

Below is a summary of some of the top cloud services.

  • Dropbox: The paid-for Dropbox Pro service offers version history, though older versions are kept for only 30 days. You can bump it up to a year by paying for Extended Version History, or unlimited revisions by signing up with Dropbox for Business.
  • Google Drive: Will save changes made to a file for up to 30 days or 100 revisions. Note that older versions of a file will count toward the storage space used.
  • SugarSync: The last five versions of a file are saved.
  • Box: Depending on the plan subscribed to, the last 25, 50 or 100 versions of a file will be tracked.
  • OneDrive: Only works for Office documents; all saved versions count toward utilized storage space.

Of course, file versioning is no guarantee that an earlier iteration of a file can be recovered in time. Ultimately, separate backups are still very much necessary.

Let's back up a bit...

Regardless of the eventual choice of a public cloud or a private cloud option, there is no running away from the fact that proper data backups offer protection against multiple threats, including mistakes, sabotage or even malware that is designed to deliberately encrypt or overwrite work documents.

On this front, we outline three primary ways in which you can create a backup from your primary cloud service below.

Cloud-to-cloud backup

The easiest way to create a cloud-to-cloud backup would probably be to sign up for cloudHQ, a cloud service that synchronizes data between multiple cloud services in real time. CloudHQ supports almost all of the cloud storage services in use today, as well as Evernote, Basecamp, Salesforce and SharePoint.

To get cloudHQ to back up your cloud files, simply set up a one-way sync instead of the usual two-way sync. Select the "Archive files" option for files that are changed or deleted, and cloudHQ will now create the appropriate backups of file in the cloudHQ archive folder of the destination cloud service.

The service is not free, though — it will set you back $9.90 per month to synchronize an unlimited number of files. In limited tests, a new folder containing almost 6,000 Word documents and assorted images totaling 5GB took almost two days to complete its first sync from SugarSync to Dropbox. Of course, the fault could well lie with one of the cloud storage services, and is unlikely to be noticed even under normal usage scenarios.


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