Beyond Traditional Backup Services: The Evolution of Workloads

By on
backup expert Dave Russell
Read more about author Dave Russell.

Between 2020 and today, we have seen a tumultuous and transformative shift in the technological world. Of particular concern among organizations was a growing interest in new ways to manage invaluable data. Traditionally, data was stored in legacy backup services, including physical data centers, so when digital transformation accelerated, ensuring data remain secure and accessible became a primary concern for organizations. Remote work lent itself to increasing cyberattacks due to unsecure networks and easier access to data, and ransomware, phishing, identity theft among other attacks reached a global scale. It became evident that traditional data protection and recovery strategies needed a huge overhaul. 

Cybersecurity was a primary concern in 2022, and the subsequent response is an evolution in data protection and recoverability. Most organizations delegated their data protection, backup, and recovery processes to vendors, relieving them of the burden of cloud administrators and specialized expertise. This past year we saw a wave of migration as organizations pivoted from traditional backup to cloud services for data protection and production, escalated by the transition to remote work and hybrid work environments – and to no small degree. 

From Independent Clouds to Backup-as-a-Service Providers

According to our Cloud Protection Trends Report 2023, 98% of the 1,000-plus surveyed IT leaders currently utilize a cloud-hosted infrastructure as part of their data protection strategy, including cloud-storage tiers, cloud infrastructure as their disaster recovery site, or the use of Backup/Disaster Recovery as-a-Service (BaaS/DRaaS) providers. BaaS ensures data survivability and improves overall efficiency. Approximately 58% of organizations now rely on BaaS, most of whom started with self-managed cloud storage before switching over. 

In comparison, 42% utilize cloud storage for data protection. DRaaS, for its part, has gained niche subscribers of specialized experts seeking to build out their business continuity disaster recovery (BCDR) strategies.

Looking back at the previous year, more customers are becoming interested in outsourcing their backups and gaining a “turnkey” or “white-glove” level of management service versus depending on internal IT staff to manage BaaS-delivered infrastructure. On the one hand, this paints a positive picture of growing trust and experience in providers; on the other, it may indicate challenges over the past year with the IT talent supply chain.

Over time, we have seen enterprises’ strategies evolve, moving beyond the cloud alone to a more hybrid approach that allows workloads to move fluidly from data centers to clouds and back again. Over 90% of organizations run file services and/or databases from one or more cloud providers. Going hybrid and/or having multiple provider-owned databases allows companies to enjoy benefits like increased accessibility, efficiency, and engagement, and opens the doors to new opportunities for growth and innovation.

A Growing Digital Divide

Although this is a step in the right direction, it’s not enough. For one, taking a hybrid approach is costly, and not everyone has been able to adapt. Nearly 90% of respondents have brought their workloads from the cloud back to their data centers for one or more reasons, including cost and performance optimization or disaster recovery. 

For another, lack of proper understanding about these new services has hindered effective data protection – 34% of organizations don’t back up their cloud-hosted file shares yet, 15% don’t back up their cloud-hosted databases, and only half of the organizations surveyed retain backups of their cloud data up to/beyond a year. The latter stems from a misconception among some Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) administrators that the native durability of cloud-hosted services eliminates the need for additional or alternative backup. Consequently, this undercuts their security efforts to protect their attack surface from infiltration and data theft and/or loss.

Another problem is that not everyone has the capacity to embrace an aggressive data protection strategy involving costly investments, such as security and backup software and the training to use it. Many struggle to transition away from their legacy infrastructure, leaving them susceptible to security threats and contributing to the growing divide between tech-savvy organizations and conservative ones.

Still, rapid advancements in intelligent technology are paving the way for a richer mix of data protection solutions. Affordable alternative options in software, training programs and workshops, and support for shifting infrastructures will likely become the norm and widely available at some point, especially with the growing consumer demand for equity and inclusion across all fronts. While this digital divide is a point of concern right now, we anticipate a brighter future, where everyone is brought along for the ride.

The Crux of It All: Things Are Looking Up

Overall, these findings highlight a growing need for data protection strategies in 2023 to ensure organizations have proper education on the services they use, consistent protection, and the ability to migrate their data as needed, without loss or complications. The growing diversity in approaches reflects a need for data protection strategies to focus on effective backup of cloud-hosted workloads, and on protecting the range of file shares and databases running in these environments.

As we go into 2023, enterprises should focus on building a holistic data protection strategy that covers all levels and departments, with the flexibility to customize their operations and services per their workloads and with the comfort of guaranteed protection and backup.