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4sl Cloud Backup Survey Finds Major Gap Between Enterprise Perceptions and Cloud Service Provider Realities

UK enterprises are placing themselves at serious risk by misunderstanding their cloud service providers’ backup provisions, according to research by 4sl. In the survey of 200 large UK enterprises, the majority of senior IT decision makers believe their cloud service providers retain backup data for much longer than they actually do.

For instance, of the two most commonly used cloud services, 73 percent of respondents using Microsoft Office 365 Exchange Online believe data is recoverable for longer than the standard 14 days; and 92 percent of using Google Cloud incorrectly believe the service includes backup provision as standard.

This need not be an issue – enterprises who have made provisions for backup beyond their cloud providers’ standard offerings will not be at risk. Yet worryingly, more than half of enterprises rely on the standard backup provision of at least one service provider. For instance, 46 percent of organisations using Microsoft Office 365 Exchange Online and 51 percent of those using Google Cloud Platform believe their data is recoverable for far longer than it is – exposing themselves to the risk of permanent data loss or non-compliance.

“If this blind spot in organisations’ knowledge continues, the risks of data loss and non-compliance will only increase,” said Barnaby Mote, CEO and founder of 4sl.

“The desire to pass on responsibility for backup to service providers is understandable – backup environments are becoming extremely complex, and the peace of mind that a responsible partner is managing backup can be invaluable. However, enterprises need to understand that in the main the standard level of backup provided for infrastructure or software as a service won’t meet their needs. More than likely they’ll need to invest in the expertise or services to ensure their data in the cloud is protected and retained for long enough.”

More than three quarters of enterprises see handing over responsibility for backup as a benefit of adopting cloud services, although only 30 percent know their cloud service providers’ backup and recovery processes in detail. However, the need for support with backups is clear – 61 percent of enterprises are struggling with extremely complex backup environments. At the same time, there is a clear compliance need to ensure backup data is kept. 80 percent of enterprises say they have to retain backups for a specific length of time to meet regulatory obligations.

Without action, the issue is likely to intensify. Enterprise use of cloud services increased by 40 percent between 2017 and 2017, while backup environments are growing by 37 percent each year.

Despite enterprises reporting they spend almost £7m a year on cloud services, and £3m a year on backup, they will still find fixing the issue challenging – as the growing diversity of cloud services continues to increase backup complexity. 54 percent of enterprises say that the cloud makes backup harder, while 58 percent say that the nature of the cloud – and the fact that it can be procured across the business – makes it more difficult to enforce backup policies. This is exacerbated by 66 percent of enterprises saying a lack of skills has made backup more difficult.

“It may seem difficult or complex, but enterprises must take control of backup,” continued Barnaby Mote.

“At the very least, they need to understand the precise capabilities they have, and what data may be at risk. Yet they also need to understand precisely how technology advances such as microservices impact backup, and how to adapt to them. Whether they do this themselves or rely on outside help, enterprises need to act.”

The full 4sl report can be found at