In today’s world, the importance of backing up business resources can hardly be overstated. Whether you are running your environment in an on-premises data center or in one of the public clouds like AWS, the need to protect your data is a universal concern. Security—and the cost of it—must be prioritized in order to ensure business continuity. In order to establish adequate security, you must decide on the tool you plan to rely upon and now that there are new ways to manage backups within the public cloud, using AWS for backup must be explored.
In this series of articles, we are going to focus on AWS Backup, an Amazon service dedicated to securing your cloud resources. We will start by talking about the importance of backups in general before discussing the options available for backing up resources in the cloud and why you should consider using AWS for backup. Subsequent posts will provide detailed how-to guides to help you implement backup processes that meet your specific needs and requirements.
Keeping Your Business Safe With Backups
Backups are a foundational element of any disaster recovery (DR) plan. From malicious moves by a competitor to human-caused mistakes and natural disasters, there are numerous risks to your data out there, and you need to protect yourself from all of them. These days, this is becoming increasingly hard to do.
Consider a business that completely relies upon serving proprietary data of high value or storing data for a client. A rival company could attempt to hack into that data—an action that has occurred in the past and resulted in companies going out of business.
Companies also need to be aware of the risks posed by their own employees, as there are situations where a disgruntled staff member (perhaps someone who was passed up for a promotion) might want to hurt the organization. These scenarios are especially dangerous, since the employee not only has access to the various resources inside the cloud infrastructure, that person also knows how to target aspects of the business that will cause the maximum amount of damage.
Businesses can count on their employees to make unintentional mistakes as well. Admins in a hurry will delete the wrong folders, and unskilled staff members will create bad retention policies. If this can happen to Amazon’s engineers who are routinely praised for their skills, as it did in this recent case, it can happen to anyone. Ransomware attacks have also become more common. These attacks are simple blackmail hacks, and while you can often avoid damage by paying the perpetrator’s demanded ransom, in many cases, a partial or complete loss of data can be expected—in addition to the loss of cash. The latest ransomware attack on the city of Baltimore, back in May, brought to the world’s attention just how severely these events can impact people’s lives and livelihoods.
Furthermore, when working with IT infrastructures, you also need to worry about outages. AWS cloud does have certain redundancies in place; however, historically, there have been outages that have taken down entire regions for a period of time. One such outage happened back in June of 2016, when the Sydney region was hit by a severe storm that led to an extensive power outage. For ten hours, Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances and Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes were unavailable, causing massive damage to the businesses that relied upon them.
The impacts of these incidents could have been lessened had the companies backed up their data in a way that would have allowed them to easily restore it. Whether or not anything ever happens to your data, backups also serve the function of maintaining a proper Recovery Point Objective (RPO). Most businesses have very strict requirements in place for RPOs, and the various data protection laws and regulations that are in place have established a multitude of compliance procedures that must be adhered to. For example, companies working with banks are required to keep data for long periods of time. Because a customer might ask for documents from three or four years ago, backups are a must for these types of businesses. The healthcare industry has similar standards. Long-term patient document storage is crucial, and secured backups are an industry expectation.
What Are Your Options for Backing Up Data and using AWS for Backup?
When it comes to backing up various resources on AWS, multiple options are available to you.
While the wide selection of tools is, in many ways, beneficial, it also requires that you understand which one is best for you. Some are easy to set up but offer only basic features. Others provide many features but are very expensive.
One option for backing up data on AWS is using AWS Backup, which is dedicated to backing up and restoring resources. Data Lifecycle Manager is another service that is used for EBS volumes and EC2 instances. You can also rely on simple tools like RDS automated backups. These services are generally easy to use, and they often provide sufficient features for your backup needs.
Another option is to perform manual backups for most of the services running on AWS. You can initiate creation of RDS backups, EBS snapshots, EC2 AMIs, and others. You can also automate these processes and create custom solutions if needed.
The most comprehensive option to consider is using a third party tool. Products like N2WS Backup & Recovery have matured greatly over the last few years and offer a multitude of features that can greatly simplify backup procedures. The tool is native to AWS, and provides advanced backup management features such as cross account disaster recovery to protect from your AWS account being compromised, archiving to S3, multi tenancy, infastructure backup, application consistency and file-level recovery, just to name a few.
AWS Backup Overview
If you are looking to trade in fine tuning and in depth funcionality within individual services and go with a high level centralized tool, AWS Backup is worth considering.
AWS Backup offers a centralized location for backing up various AWS services like RDS instances, EBS volumes, EFS file systems, and DynamoDB tales. With this service, you can also back up your on-premises data if you are using AWS Storage Gateway. AWS Backup works by defining policies that automate both backup schedules and data retention. AWS Backup offers a single location from which you can manage these backups while helping you stay compliant by enforcing necessary policies.
The AWS service is still in its beginning stages and has quite a few limitations, particularly for enterprises who are looking for a more comprehensive management solution. For example, at the time of publication there is no support for Amazon EC2, you can only use it on a single account, scheduling is restricted (no accurate time of backup) and there is no straightforward recovery process. Another major issue is that auditing and reporting is not supported, which makes it challenging for organizations with compliance requirements.
N2WS Backup and Recovery brings fine tuning to your backups
N2WS Backup & Recovery is cloud-native fully managed solution so the user only has to define various backup schedules to get started, providing quick and easy backups and the ability to restore within any region or account nearly instantaneously. Some of the more prominent features include:
- Cross account and Cross-region Disaster Recovery — Essential for any organization looking for maximum protection against both outages and malicious attacks
- RESTful API—This is a must-have tool for easily tying backup and recovery to a third party solution.
- VPC Capture and Clone—As we all know, network infrastructure setup takes both time and knowledge, and replicating that infrastructure requires manual work or writing a CloudFormation template. With VPC Capture and Clone, you can capture and perfectly replicate everything with only a couple of clicks.
- Database Management—such as automated backups of DynamoDB as well as full cross-region and cross-account disaster recovery for AWS Aurora.
- Direct backup to S3—This provides optimization of long term storage including significant cost savings (up to 60%).
- EFS backups—With this feature, there is no more need for custom scripts. Now you can easily backup and restore your EFS to another region or even another AWS account if desired.
On top of these are the enhanced file level recovery, many reporting features, resource control which allows a user to schedule the start/stop of their instances, and application consistency, just to name a few. These features are unique to the N2WS Backup And Recovery tool, so you won’t find them elsewhere. Given the existing trend, you can expect to see more features to be released in the near future. N2WS offers a free 30-day trial, which turns into a free-forever edition automatically.
N2WS Backup & Recovery will be soon have a complete user interface redesign making it even simpler to use, often requiring almost no prior AWS experience.
Considering your needs for backing up in AWS
This introductory article in a series of posts dedicated to backups considered the importance of backups in today’s business world. A variety of options for securing your data were examined, including AWS Backups and N2WS’s Backup & Recovery tool.
In the next part of this series, we will focus on AWS Backup in more detail, looking at how it works, what features it provides, how it’s priced, and more.