Should you backup your cloud storage?

TLDR answer: Eggs, baskets, infallibility; YES.

One would have thought that with the wonderful advent of the cloud and all the platform and applications that came with it, our lives would be infinitely better. More butterflies in a meadow, more unicorns on candy mountain. No more backups, no more contingencies, no more sitting in my IT cave nervously petting the 10 year old server whispering, ‘please don’t die, baby, we have so much still to do together’. Ok, well you probably don’t need to do that last one anymore, but unfortunately, backups are still a thing.

As more organizations move off prem and into the cloud, we discover that the almighty magic that is the internet brings us new challenges. It also isn’t the be-all end-all cure we were hoping for some of the old challenges. So backup your data people! Not going to do it just on my say so? Oh well, I guess I’ll have to explain…

Reason 1 — The Fatal Flaw

It’s really important to remember that even giants like Google and Microsoft have gone down in the past, and they will go down again. Now, there is a 99.99999…% likelihood that no matter the cause, they will go back up again (see what I did there?), but you know what they say about eggs and baskets. More importantly, there is also a 99.99999…% likelihood that the hour Google goes down is during a mission critical meeting or hours before a company life or death deadline, it’s just the nature of the beast.

So as dramatic as I tried to make this headline, no one knows what that fatal flaw will be. But I would bet on there being one, and it biting you in the ass at the worst possible moment.

Reason 2 — Ransomware! (dun dun dun…)

Let me tell you a story about a little-known IT Manager who begged borrowed and stole to get his first department off the 15 year old servers and onto Google Drive Sync — me. This silly man was so euphoric with victory over his luddites he had forgotten all about his worst nightmare: Ransomware (dun dun dun…)!

You see the legal department was making strides. Less downtime due to old servers, less weight on the network, and the instant save directly into the cloud. Which was, of course, the problem.

When a legal assistant received an email that looked like it came from a former employee and a benign little attachment that started to instantly take over her machine, and the rest of the machines on the network, casually writing over the files with the death-kiss of encryption. A pro like me caught this calamity in under 10 minutes *pats self on back*, and the ransomware only got a few thousand files. The tricky part came during cleanup. Google Drive Sync, in its infinite AI wisdom saw the encrypted files and ‘updated’ the ones in the cloud to match.

Now you may ask, but what about revision history? Well, as of yet, there is no way on Google, not even in the backend to restore multiple files to a previous version. Trust me, I looked, and spent hours on the phone with the enterprise team (there may or may not have been tears involved in that conversation). Nope, it’s a one at a time kind of deal. Not gonna work for a few thousand files.

Thankfully one of the managers had forgotten his Surface at home that day, unplugged. Kissing human error directly on the mouth I was able to restore those files to the previous day. Let’s be honest, if I’m relying on human error (see reason 3), the files were never in any danger to begin with. But just in case…backups!

Reason 3 — PICNIC (problem in chair — not in computer)

I don’t know about you, but I find the hardest part of my job to be luddites (shameless plug: we dealing with this topic extensively at our conferences). For you, the IT guy (or gal), the early adopter, the cyborg, it’s not really all that difficult to switch gears. You’re eager to move to the cloud, you’re excited to get your hands on the shiny new toy. Your users…not so much. There is no end to what your luddites may do to your pretty new systems. Hitting delete once by accident — and then for some reason clicking ‘yes’ when the computer asks if they’re sure — could result in the elimination of some very precious bytes. And once its deleted, not even the cloud can save it.

Reason 4 — Evil

We don’t want to talk about it, and our bosses certainly live with the belief that it’s not possible, but sometimes there lurks evil beneath the depths. Despite best efforts sometimes a hacker can get through, or Tony finally cracked and decided to blame the CEO for his girlfriend leaving him. Malcontents can wreak havoc on your precious files. Having backups that only a select few can touch prevents those claws from causing too much harm.


Some of the situations I’ve presented here may seem a little farfetched to you, and maybe I’m just paranoid, but isn’t that our job? User education and good virus protection will get you pretty far. But screwups only need to happen once for you to lose everything. Maybe one day the giants will solve for these problems, but for now, do yourself a favor: Backup early, backup often.