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Cloud vs on-premises: The future of data vaults

Cloud
Image: Adobe Stock / Gorodenkoff

Christopher Rogers, Senior Technology Evangelist at Zerto, delves into the world of data vaults and critically assesses the pros and cons of on-prem versus cloud.

As the cloud infrastructure and services market has continued to boom in recent years, the debate over its long-term impact has rumbled on, with many in the industry confidently predicting it signals the inevitable demise of on-premises technologies.
 
This discussion also extends to the cybersecurity market, where the growth of cloud-based solutions and services has created similar conversations, such as what it represents for the future of data vaults. For many vendors and end users alike, the idea that true data protection requires an on-premises storage solution is becoming outdated. But in the rush to the cloud, does this approach stand up to closer scrutiny and could organisations be neglecting the continued utility of on-premises systems?
 
To give this debate some context, data vaults are a tried and trusted set of technologies originally designed to meet regulatory and compliance requirements and also to augment data protection solutions. Their primary role has been to offer organisations a failsafe data protection solution in the event that their defences are breached by a cyberattack or other kind of security incident.
 
Given the inherent capabilities and convenience offered by the cloud model, it’s easy to see why vaults represent another area of technology that has quickly embraced the outsourced approach. The advantages are numerous and include ease of deployment, the fact that there’s no need for users to address hardware maintenance and the convenience of a single vendor billing which, among others, represent just a few of the cloud’s compelling selling points.
 
By way of balance, however, along with these benefits also come some disadvantages, such as the relinquishment of control when systems are managed by a third-party vendor – an approach which forces organisations to compromise on autonomy. Add to this the inherent inertia in restoring data from cloud storage to on-premises and the added cost of egress fees, and for some IT leaders, the cloud is not an automatic choice for vaults.
 
On-premises vaults, on the other hand, offer some important and contrasting positives, most notably high levels of user control, the ability to make tailored modifications, better air-gapping, and unmatched recovery speeds. Granted, this approach can result in a steeper initial learning curve, but with the aid of experienced professionals and a supportive partner community, these issues can be managed.
 
Combined with an isolated recovery environment, the on-premises approach actually puts IT and SecOps back in the driving seat because, unlike vendor-managed cloud vaults, organisations (or their designated partners) have the freedom to deploy, configure and manage however best suits their cyber resilience needs. This works in contrast to the outsourced cloud model, where the user is locked into a predetermined way of implementing data vault technology.

Delivering resilience
 
Whatever the circumstances and technology philosophy, however, effective cyber resilience depends on the implementation of isolated, offline vaults. These fulfil a crucial data protection role as well as helping to detect major threats such as ransomware in real-time, which is imperative given the ability to detect and act upon a cyber threat swiftly can prevent an incident from escalating out of control.
 
In making a strategic technology choice, it’s important to underline that hosting a vault on-premises or cloud infrastructure doesn’t have to be an either/or problem. Each organisation has its own set of unique requirements and constraints, and investment decisions should be driven by specific use cases, such as the need to prioritise cyber recovery, where on-premises vaults are unparalleled in their capabilities.
 
In this scenario, the performance and flexibility of on-premises vaults are ideally suited to delivering the real-time detection of threats such as ransomware, where speed of response is crucial. In the event of an attack, organisations should be in a position to roll systems and data back to moments before the incident occurred – a requirement that on-premises solutions are perfect for.
 
Other considerations should include Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs), which play a major role in determining the data recovery performance of vault technologies or services. These metrics are important because the consequences of extended downtime aren’t just financial, they also include issues such as reductions in productivity, brand damage and potential long-term loss of trust. As a result, strong RTOs and RPOs put organisations more in control over whether they pay a ransom or lose data by offering a way to deliver effective recovery that’s also minimally disruptive on an operational level.
 
For busy IT teams that aren’t always fully resourced, the availability of highly efficient data vault-based recovery capabilities can be transformational. When deciding which direction to follow, leaders should consider the context in which they are working – there isn’t an automatic right or wrong. While on-premises solutions score heavily for cyber recovery, cloud services are more convenient, and in a rapidly developing IT and security environment, the overriding objective should be to ensure data protection strategy is robust, comprehensive and tailored to meet specific needs. Those organisations following this approach will put themselves in a much stronger position to meet the inevitable challenges that lie ahead.

Christopher Rogers
Christopher Rogers
Senior Technology Evangelist at Zerto

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