The Three Key Trends Driving Cloud Data Backup

When Justin Stravarius wrote about Backupify last week, he said that Backupify “has put skeptics to shame.” Backupify is a company that many people think has no market, when the truth is, this is the first startup I’ve done where the market keeps pulling the product along faster than we can keep up. The question is why? Why do people want to backup data in the cloud? Don’t you move to the cloud so you don’t have to worry about things like backups?

When we first started doing this two and a half years ago, very few people saw the need. But if you come work in our customer support department for a week, you would be shocked not only at how much data loss happens in the cloud, but all the other data protection services users request that we can’t deliver on given our current engineering budget.

In the past year, we have begun to see many more startups enter the market that are variants on the cloud backup/archive theme, for both consumer and business applications. A lot of people are probably still scratching their heads as to why, so I wanted to take some time and write about the three key reasons we hear from customers about why they are interested in backing up cloud data, and the trends driving those concerns.

1. Fragmentation of Data Access. Last week on a call I heard an I.T. administrator describe to me why he wanted to backup his Google Apps installation to a separate location. “Here’s the problem,” he told me, “my users are plugging all kinds of devices in to sync calendars, contacts, email, and everything else, and I have no idea what these devices will do, what other apps are on them, or anything else. I can’t risk a synchronization mistake wiping out important data.”

We backup well over 100,000 total accounts on Google, and very very few of those people worry that Google will lose their data. Even when Google does lose data because their multi-data center replication fails, like last weekend, it eventually gets restored from a tape backup they keep. It isn’t the cloud providers people worry about, it’s the users, devices, programs, and other entities that have access. And yes, we have seen real cases of data loss caused by all three (although user error is by far the most common).

2. Regulation. If you want to bet on long term secular trends, regulation is a good one to pick. It is almost guaranteed that the world will become more regulated, not less. All of this cloud data, all of these apps with internal messaging systems, it all will need to be archived and subject to search for various legal and compliance reasons. The cloud app vendors don’t want to get into that themselves (for the same reason the on-premise software vendors didn’t), and it makes sense to have an independent third party do your archiving.

3. Data Control and Black Swan Events. One of my first angel investors told me “Rob, I’m not really worried Salesforce will lose my data. But let’s face it, there is some very small non-zero probability that it does happen. If you are telling me that for a few thousand dollars a year I can make that probability zero, I would sign that deal and I think every CEO in the country would too. No one wants to be the guy who goes to his board of directors and says all the sales leads are gone because the company was hit by a statistical outlier.”

Nothing is 100%. But if you replicate your data in a totally separate system, the probabilities of being 100% failsafe go from very high to very very very high. And we have plans at Backupify to take them higher by letting you tap into multiple storage platforms and save copies of your data wherever you like. Having control of your data makes you feel good, makes you feel safe, and makes you feel like you can avoid lock-in, loss, malicious deletion, or anything else that might happen.

We are in the first half of the first inning of what is going to be a very long and high scoring game. So when you see more and more startups focused on cloud data backup, and more established companies get into the mix, don’t scratch your head and wonder why, just look at the trends and understand that it is inevitable.