Protecting Cloud-Based Apps

By Christine Taylor

Data Protection for Cloud-Based Applications

Data protection as backup is one thing; data protection with active applications running in the cloud is another. We also asked which application types IT might be willing to run from the cloud if they were confident about their data's safety. The applications ran the gamut of functionality.



Non-critical apps and data e.g. file and home directories


Microsoft Exchange, GroupWise, Lotus Notes, etc.


Microsoft SharePoint


Databases (SQL, Oracle, DB2)


Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)


Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications (Oracle/Siebel, SAS, SAP, Salesforce, etc.)


Analytical Tools


Applications in the cloud choices are frequently driven by concerns about performance, particularly network and storage IO. Not every application is suitable for running the cloud in the first place. Large data sets suffer from data transfer considerations and applications sensitive to latency are usually a loss on the cloud front. Applications that are a good fit include test/dev workloads, personal productivity applications, collaborative and messaging applications, and virtualized applications.

Most of the applications listed above are provisionally comfortable in the cloud, with the exception of data analytics and ERP. Analytics on small datasets can work just fine, but large-scale analytics sucks up cloud resources. There was a reason Eli Lilly dumped its plans to launch large-scale analytics on Amazon's public cloud. ERP is also a hard choice to make for cloud, since these applications require high throughput and low latency, both requirements that cloud-based infrastructure is hard put to fill. They also contain sensitive data, large datasets, high availability requirements and compliance concerns: all requirements difficult to fulfill in the cloud.

Priorities for Data Protection in the Cloud

Our remaining question centered on data protection priorities in the cloud.

Figure 2: Data Protection Approaches

Data Protection Methods

The specific responses were in a similar range -- from 49 percent to 59 percent. The top number was continuous data protection (CDP), an interesting choice since CDP backup is usually practiced only with Tier 1 application data, not the type of data most often found in the cloud. The second most popular choice was related: Near-CDP or frequent backup at scheduled intervals (often processed as scheduled snapshots). Additional choices are driven by data types such as file, object or block-based. This indicates a desire for flexible storage platforms in the public cloud.

Last year, Taneja Group analysts Jeff Boles and Jeff Byrne asked similar questions in a report for InfoStor in an article titled, "Is cloud-enabled DR ready for prime time?" Cloud-based disaster recovery is not the same animal as cloud-based data protection (DR is a more complex cloud infrastructure) but several of the report's conclusions hold true for this recent survey as well. Would-be corporate cloud users are facing worrisome challenges around access, security, ease of use, recovery time and effort, vendor lock-in, eDiscovery/compliance and application availability.

Some public cloud vendors are tackling the challenges and providing simple, easy-to-use and cost-effective ways to get data safely in and out of the cloud infrastructure. These tend to be the vendors who specialize in supporting corporate cloud clients. However, some public cloud computing providers are unwilling to reach the level of SLAs that corporate users need. Frankly, we think they are leaving vast amounts of business on the table. Public cloud customers should always perform due diligence using SLAs before they place their data and applications in the cloud, not afterward. The public cloud vendors that are better able to serve their corporate customers will reap the benefits, and will go a long way toward spurring reluctant business consumers toward the cloud.

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This article was originally published on June 07, 2012

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