How Do You Backup Your Cloud Services?

I recently came across a post on spiceworks.com that, although it’s a couple of years old, makes a great point: “IT professionals would never run on-premise systems without adequate backup and recovery capabilities, so it’s hard to imagine why so many pros adopt cloud solutions without ensuring the same level of protection.”

This is not a trivial issue. According to some articles I’ve read, over 100,000 companies are now using Salesforce.com as their CRM system. Microsoft doesn’t reveal how many Office 365 subscribers they have, but they do reveal their annual revenue run-rate. If you make some basic assumptions about the average monthly fee, you can make an educated guess as to how many subscribers they have, and most estimates place it at over 16 million (users, not companies). Google Apps subscriptions are also somewhere in the millions (they don’t reveal their specific numbers either). If you subscribe to one or more of these services, have you thought about backing up that data? Or are you just trusting your cloud service provider to do it for you?

Let’s take Salesforce.com as a specific example. Deleted records normally go into a recycle bin, and are retained and recoverable for 15 days. But there are some caveats there:

  • Your recycle bin can only hold a limited number of records. That limit is 25 times the number of megabytes in your storage. For example, if you have 500 Mb of storage, your record limit is 12,500 records. (According to the Salesforce.com “help” site, this roughly translates to 5,000 records per license.) If that limit is exceeded, the oldest records in the recycle bin get deleted, provided they’ve been there for at least two hours.
  • If a “child” record – like a contact or an opportunity – is deleted, and its parent record is subsequently deleted, the child record is permanently deleted and is not recoverable.
  • If the recycle bin has been explicitly purged (which requires “Modify All Data” permissions), you may still be able to get them back using the DataLoader tool, but the window of time is very brief. Specifically how long you have is not well documented, but research indicates it’s around 24 – 48 hours.

A quick Internet search will turn up horror stories of organizations where a disgruntled employee deleted large numbers of records, then purged the recycle bin before walking out the door. If this happens to you on a Friday afternoon, it’s likely that by Monday morning your only option will be to contact Salesforce.com to request their help in recovering your data. The Salesforce.com help site mentions this, and notes that there is a fee associated with this service. It doesn’t mention that the fee starts at $10,000.

You can, of course, periodically export all of your Salesforce.com data as a (very large) .CSV file. Of course, restoring a particular record or group of records will then involve deleting all the records in your .CSV file except the ones you want to restore, and then importing them back into Salesforce.com. If that sounds painful to you, you’re right.

The other alternative is to use a third-party backup service, of which there are several, to back up your Salesforce.com data. The advantage of a third-party tool is that it’s easier to search for the specific records you want to restore. One of these tools is Cloudfinder, which was recently acquired by eFolder. Cloudfinder will backup data from Salesforce.com, Office 365, Google Apps, and Box. It can also back up data from, say, Google Apps, and restore it to Office 365, meaning that you can use it as a migration tool. I would expect that list of services to grow now that eFolder has acquired them.

If you’ve bet your business on the availability of one of these cloud services, you may want to check them out.

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