Local vs. Cloud Email Backup Storage: Can Both Be Right?
June 7, 2018
We are happy to present an article from Brian Thomas of Enlightened-Digital covering email backup storage options.
Email is considered the backbone of modern business. In 2017, 269 billion emails were sent worldwide every day, a number that is expected to increase to as much as 319 billion by 2021. With the massive wealth of information circulating on the web, it’s easy to take our most valued communication method for granted.
Email communication is essential for businesses of all sizes, and properly storing and securing those emails is crucial for organizational growth and protection. Setting up the right email storage solution for your business can be difficult without the correct information. Let’s cut through the noise to outline why email storage should be a priority and explore your options.
Why Are Backups Important?
Why take the time to make copies of your emails at all? There are three main reasons why every organization should be storing and backing up their emails.
Documentation is key to any legal or human resource issue that will inevitably arise at one point or another. Regardless of how the emails are stored, having digital, time-stamped copies of internal and external communication will be critical in making your case. These emails can protect you in litigation or help you combat fraudulent customer complaints.
Companies must ensure that emails are backed up to retain and protect the data that is exchanged. Email is the most popular form of communication for a reason: It makes sending and receiving data within an organization much easier. Reports, client communications, and policy changes are generally handled through email. Storing an organization’s digital communications protects them from data loss due to technical errors, such as corrupt PST files, along with intentional or accidental deletion. Users often delete their email upon leaving a company, so having the data backed up elsewhere allows the company to easily recover the information.
Email is the most common and preferred method of communication worldwide, so it makes sense that it’s also the method of choice for malware and ransomware encryption attacks. The number of successful malware attacks continued to trend upward in 2017 in spite of the increasing number of anti-malware solutions.
As previously mentioned, employees can delete important emails on accident, but that’s not the only reason an employee might delete their emails. A disgruntled employee could wipe out all their correspondence in an attempt to retaliate against their employer before they leave, or they could systematically remove emails they know could be harmful to themselves throughout their tenure at the company.
Email Backup Storage Solutions
Which solutions are most effective? When talking about backing up and storing emails, there are mainly two options. You can store them locally on a private network that is maintained and serviced by IT personnel, or you can store them in the cloud through a third-party provider.
1. Local Storage
Setting up a private on-site network storage solution seems to be the logical way to go about storing your emails and saving them in the event that the files are corrupted or deleted. For one thing, recovery is incredibly fast. All the files exist locally on a hard drive, so it’s unnecessary to download them from a third-party provider. When the organization’s network is controlled in-house, the uptime of servers is much closer to 100 percent.
Conversely, when relying on cloud storage providers, the networks are only accessible when the providers’ servers are up, meaning outages can occur sporadically. Although 25 percent of all data breaches are from internal sources, local networks can still be very secure. Some companies, like Retrospect, offer AES 256 encryption capabilities. This encrypts the stored data, rendering the data useless even if there is a data breach from inside or outside the company.
However, there are some drawbacks to storing your emails locally. For example, there is no way to restore just one email without doing a full restore of the system. In doing so, all emails exchanged since the most recent backup will be lost. You would need to decide whether it’s worth losing days, weeks, or months of correspondence for one piece of mail. Businesses also need to keep a closer eye on user habits when storing mail locally, because they are much more likely to delete messages to free up space. They may not understand the implications, but a substantial amount of data can be lost if the importance of hanging on to emails is not communicated clearly.
2. Cloud Storage
Local storage may offer more direct control, but cloud storage solutions offer some great benefits as well. If 25 percent of all data breaches come from inside an organization, that means 75 percent of them come from outside hackers. Cloud storage companies can use advanced AI auto-patching technology to automatically find and fix vulnerabilities within their systems. Oracle CEO Mark Hurd recently wrote that, “85 percent of security breaches take advantage of system vulnerabilities for which a patch was available for more than a year, but was not applied. Cloud-based autonomous systems will patch those vulnerabilities almost instantly.”
Unlike local storage, Cloud storage backs up individual messages rather than the entire system, so restoring a single email is an easy task. The backup system is always up-to-date when using cloud storage, so recent emails won’t be lost when a restoration is performed. Cloud storage also protects companies from potential physical destruction by fires and floods. If something should damage the physical network of a business, all the emails would still reside safely in an offsite location.
Naturally, cloud-based storage also has its drawbacks. Storage providers still need to perform regular maintenance, which can result in unexpected and lengthy downtime for businesses. Some providers only back up the messaging itself, neglecting other data like calendar information and contacts. Recovery speeds are much slower because all the data is stored in the cloud, meaning it needs to be downloaded rather than pulled in from a local hard drive.
Considering all the above information, which solution is best? That depends on the needs of the organization in question. If a company is larger and has the budget to build a local network for storage and employ the IT professionals needed to maintain that network, local storage may be the right decision. Smaller businesses that want the security without the sizable price tag and that are willing to sacrifice some control might lean toward a cloud storage solution.
A blended option, wherein the organization utilizes both local and cloud-based systems, is gaining popularity. In this system, companies set up local networks where employees can access their data and emails quickly and efficiently. At the same time, the email communication and data contained within it are backed up in a separate cloud-based system to protect against malware or physical damage that could affect the local system. This migrational IT trend is being described as movement toward the “Fog” as opposed to the “Cloud” — it’s closer to the ground, but not directly adjacent to it.
Email is the most important and preferred method of communication in the world today.
It’s critical to back up email communications.
Cloud and local solutions offer different benefits for different prices.
The current trend is combining these solutions in a “Fog”-based system.
Contributor to Enlightened Digital, long-distance cyclist, and lifelong advocate for women in business from Philadelphia. Tech and business are my lifeblood, but I’m also a fanatic of brewpubs and just about every sports team in Philadelphia.