How to keep cloud-based data safe

A real-estate brokerage opts to back up critical documents stored in Google Drive.

With about 1,000 employees and more than $8 billion in home sales since 2006, online real-estate brokerage Redfin has a lot to lose if its cloud-based applications fail.

So Eric Hollenbeck, senior manager of IT and business services, decided not to rely solely on the redundancies touted by cloud providers. Instead, he deployed Spanning Backup early last year to ensure that critical documents on Google Drive could always be accessed and re-created.

"Whether you provide services to your organization via the cloud or on-site services, you should always have a robust, reliable backup service. You don't want to be that guy who doesn't have the data when someone comes asking for it," he says.

Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research, says Hollenbeck's approach is at the forefront of emerging best practices. He says IT leaders should pay attention to the fine print in agreements with cloud providers, which often don't provide timely or complete data backup.

"It's all in its infancy, so many enterprises aren't getting this backup," he says.

Redfin in 2009 moved its email, contacts and calendaring from Microsoft Exchange to Google to reduce costs and management tasks. Hollenbeck says the move to Gmail also allowed Redfin to react more nimbly and scale more easily to handle its growing business volume and expanding, distributed workforce.

After the success with Gmail, Hollenbeck implemented Google Drive for document management in 2012. He says the move to Google Drive creates a leaner infrastructure and more collaborative environment for the company's employees.

However, while proponents often tout the built-in redundancies and security that cloud vendors can provide, Hollenbeck says he saw the need for a dedicated backup service.

Redfin uses Spanning to back up Google Drive. Hollenbeck says he chose Spanning Backup for its scalability, ease of deployment and use, and competitive price. (Hollenbeck uses another backup service for email and calendar, but says he's considering switching to Spanning for those as well.)

Hollenbeck says Spanning doesn't just guarantee the documents survive in case of a catastrophe; it also ensures that Redfin can quickly access or re-create files as they were at specific times. That protects against not only technical problems but also human factors, such as a disgruntled employee who tries to doctor or delete documents.

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