Backup Made Easy: How to Use Amazon Cloud Services for Reliable Data Protection


Data growth has increased exponentially. Small to large enterprises are tasked with backing up huge data stores, and AWS customers are in the perfect position to do just that. AWS offers cost-optimized backup solutions for reliable data protection.


Cloud backup is a company’s data insurance policy in the event of hardware failures. This works through cloud service providers (such as AWS) backing this data up in its entirety elsewhere. From the perspective of a data center, cloud backup is an off-site location to store complete copies of itself. This means guaranteed business continuity in the event of a data failure.

This article aims to map out all the available cloud backup services at AWS, alongside how to set up, configure, and restore that data on command. Let’s get to it.

AWS backup use cases and storage options

The first question any business needs to ask is what needs to be backed up, and why? Are there legal requirements involved? The analysis starts with use cases, of which four are worth noting:

1. Compliance archival: Compliance archival is for companies operating in heavily regulated industries (healthcare, financial services, etc.), where legal teams will team up with IT experts to identify which silos of data need real-time and constant backups to be created.

2. Media asset preservation: Other customers, particularly in digital media streaming and distribution, may require a massively scalable solution for a significant volume of large files. These can be easily shifted from storage to distribution with no upfront cost (i.e., pay for what you use). The best part is that the backup data integrates with adjacent AWS services – like live video encoding.

3. Enterprise Backups: Most businesses will prioritize this use case. Simple archiving solutions for all data, with no upfront costs (like onsite solutions). Object storage is done through Amazon S3, which will be discussed in detail below.

4. Disaster Recovery: A typical inclusion in enterprise backup is a disaster recovery option, which replicates ‘cold data’ in its entirety. Any disruptions to the main data center can be restored to the present state of the most recent backup. 

While other niche use cases exist, and backup and restore services can vary widely, most companies will focus on one of these four broad use cases. The next question is how much it costs and how safe data is in the cloud.

AWS backup pricing and security

The primary difference between cloud backup options and more traditional onsite set-ups will be the massive upfront fixed cost and depreciating assets. For typical enterprise backup solutions within Amazon Simple Storage Service, the price runs as low as $0.00099 per GB-month for S3 Glacier Deep Archive (or about $1 per terabyte every month).

Price will vary, depending on features like instant retrieval, minimum object size, APIs for direct upload, lifecycle management, automation, and overall throughput performance. Comparing and contrasting plans can be intimidating, so bringing on board AWS migration experts is a good idea at this point.

Data security is arguably even more important than data affordability, and it comes prepackaged with Amazon S3. This includes:

  • Block Public Access: Closing off access to any existing or new buckets
  • Object Lock: Customer-defined data retention policies for compliance purposes
  • Object Ownership: Update ownership at any point.
  • Identity and Access Management: Limits access to the owner of the connected AWS account
  • Amazon Macie: Machine Learning scanning, identification, and categorizing of sensitive data
  • Encryption: Use SSE-S3, SSE-KMS, DSSE-KMS, and SSE-C, as well as client-side encryption
  • Integrity: SHA-1, SHA-256, CRC32, or CRC32C checksum algorithms

AWS offers significantly lower costs while handling most of the security required to maintain safe and compliant data. These are two strong reasons to consider cloud backup options. The next question is the ease of migration, and how customers can get started capitalizing on these services.

Setting up an Amazon S3 bucket

The first step is setting up a free AWS account, which you can do here. AWS offers a pretty robust Free Tier product suite, allowing customers to get a solid feel for the possibilities AWS can bring to the table. 

AWS functions off of a command line, which is a program aptly named AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI). To get a real feel for how to play inside the AWS sandbox, this is a highly recommended tool. Getting started for any general use purposes can be set up fairly quickly. 

Once up and running, the Amazon S3 is the next tool we’ll be looking at. The goal is to create a bucket, and then upload some data into it. Amazon S3 provides an excellent tutorial, which we’ll quickly run below:

1. Sign in and open the Amazon S3 Console

2. Choose Buckets from the navigation pane on the left

3. Choose Create bucket, which should open a new page

4. Name the bucket, and set it within the AWS Region you want that bucket to reside

5. Check the menu Object Ownership to enable or disable key privacy and ownership settings
a. It’s also a good idea to select Block Public Access settings for this bucket for security purposes

6. Select Default Encryption (Edit)
b. Configure default encryption via Amazon S3 managed key

7. Complete the process by choosing Create Bucket

With that, new users can upload an object to their brand-new AWS bucket. This is done by following these simple steps:

1. Open the Buckets list, and find the bucket you just created
2. On the Objects tab, simply choose Upload
3. Add Files through the Files and Folders tab
4. Choose the file you want to upload, and select Upload

It’s that easy. Downloading an object, as well as copying or deleting an object, are similarly straightforward. Feel free to experiment with non-sensitive data before moving on to the next section, where we discuss configuring a backup.

Configuring an AWS backup

Backup configurations vary widely, depending on the scale and the scope of the business needs. A good starting point for newcomers to AWS cloud services is a hybrid backup model. This uses AWS Storage Gateway to link an existing on-premises data center directly into Amazon S3 and AWS Backup. 

The more general use case is simply called Database Backup. This focuses on three key steps:

1. Amazon Relational Database Service, which automatically creates and retains backups via Amazon S3.
2. Amazon DynamoDB, to create backups of DynamoDB tables.
3. EBS Snapshots, which allow point-in-time backups for easy system restoration

These two models check all the boxes of virtually any modern business, with hybrid being more appropriate for on-site setups and Database Backup for cloud-based data infrastructures. The last step in this journey is versioning and restoring from an AWS Backup in case the worst happens.

Versioning and restoring with AWS elastic disaster recovery

AWS makes disaster recovery easy and as stress-free as disaster can be. Applications and data can be recovered within minutes, using the most up-to-date stored state. The term ‘elastic’ is key to this service offering, as the storage price can be increased or decreased based upon removing or replicating servers based on need.

This works through four simple steps:

1. Set up the process by initiating continuous data replication (at desirable and flexible intervals)
2. Test data recovery prior to relying upon (tests are non-disruptive)
3. Maintain readiness through monitoring and periodic tests (i.e., see step 2)
4. In the event of a failure, simply initiative Failback to the most recent replicated state

Best practices are all embedded within these simple steps. S3, where the data is stored, already operates on user-defined encryption. AWS Elastics Disaster Recovery continuously replicates data, and tests failback states periodically to ensure regular operation. This truly is the best value in enterprise-level backup and recovery, and it’s so easy and cheap to get started that there really is no reason not to take out this AWS data insurance policy today.

Streamline AWS backup process with CloudHesive

CloudHesive can help get Amazon S3 and AWS Elastic Disaster Recovery set up right away. Thanks to the hybrid backup model, customers are not required to move their entire database into AWS cloud servers. They can capitalize on this opportunity through the AWS Storage Gateway. 

Executives will rest easier every night knowing the entire data infrastructure has an extra failsafe layer. Contact us today and sleep easier tomorrow. 

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