Information Center

SaaS Backup: The Complete Guide

If you think a SaaS provider or application alleviates your need for backup, you are mistaken. Sadly, you are not alone. It’s common to find that many businesses that use a SaaS service such as Microsoft Office 365 or Salesforce do not have SaaS backup and disaster recovery in place for that data.

The reason is that because it’s a SaaS platform, many businesses get a false sense of security that the software provider protects their data in the cloud. Others think that third-party SaaS vendors provide backup and recovery with the service, which they don’t.

The data and information is always your responsibility. Therefore, the fact that you have given up control to a SaaS service does not absolve you from its protection – from a stewardship and compliance perspective.

Only a few businesses do SaaS backup because of a prevailing confusion about who is responsible for the security of that data. But despite what you may think or hope, it’s not automatic that cloud service providers are backing up your data because it’s simply not their responsibility. It’s a fine print that most people fail to read.

So if a customer loses their data in the cloud due to accidental or malicious deletion, it’s not up to Microsoft 365, Salesforce or Slack to restore it. A SaaS provider’s responsibility extends up to their software and not the information or data on it. They only guarantee the uptime of the app and its supporting infrastructure – that’s it.

Hence, the need for businesses and organizations to get SaaS backup and disaster recovery to protect their data in the cloud.

What is SaaS?

Cloud computing includes a range of tools and services that users access over the internet. Cloud technologies characteristically exploit their capabilities to respond to an increased demand for computing resources instantly. Thereby, they shorten long and tedious development cycles and eliminate the expenses of extensive IT infrastructure facilities.

SaaS is one of three cloud computing service models:

  1. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS): IaaS companies provide services such as pay-as-you-go compute virtualization, networking and storage. They offer clients cloud-based alternatives to on-premises infrastructure, allowing them to avoid investing in costly on-site resources. Examples of IaaS companies include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Digital Ocean.

  2. Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS): PaaS suggests providing additional frameworks and tooling on top of IaaS with core capabilities that allow rapid application development. Examples of PaaS providers include Heroku, Twilio and OpenShift.

  3. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): SaaS platforms make software available to end-users directly. They provide apps that run over the internet without installing and running them on their computers. The service model allows users to build management information systems without buying, installing or managing “boxed” products. Developers build SaaS on top of PaaS and IaaS models. Examples of SaaS platforms include Microsoft 365, Salesforce, Dropbox, Box and Google Workspace (formerly G Suite).

Now that you understand SaaS in cloud computing, let’s look at what SaaS backup means.

What is SaaS backup?

SaaS backup software refers to technology that stores and protects data that SaaS products create. A SaaS product refers to any software licensed out by a third-party vendor and delivered via the cloud instead of being installed on-premises.

SaaS backup software stores the data in a secondary location, either on-premises or often on a public cloud, so if the SaaS product fails, the client information is stored safely. In case SaaS products fail for any reason, the client recovers the data stored by the SaaS backup solution to restore the failed SaaS product to a functional state.

The SaaS backup software must integrate with the SaaS product of choice to store the data it produces, meaning that not every backup software is compatible with every SaaS product. Therefore, many SaaS backup solutions have specialized in backing up individual product suites, such as Google Workspace or Microsoft 365.

Other SaaS backup services aim to integrate with various SaaS software for a comprehensive outlook but lack specific features available in providers who back up particular SaaS product suites.

Many SaaS backup solutions’ features are relevant and specific to the software they back up. For example, SaaS backup software to integrate with email systems will feature data archiving features specifically for email. Still, there are some primary features present in a majority of SaaS backup software, including:

  • SaaS product integration

  • Data encryption

  • Data restoration

  • Data storage through on-premises or the cloud

  • Data auditing and search

How vendors provide SaaS backup

Today, many SaaS backup vendors offer SaaS protection or cloud-to-cloud backup. This method protects data in SaaS apps such as Salesforce, Dropbox or Microsoft Office 365 by creating copies and storing them in another public cloud, such as AWS. Some vendors opt to keep copies on on-premises disk systems.

Unfortunately, many customers don’t believe their SaaS data is critical, so they consider backup unnecessary. The reason is that they think the service provider offers backup automation SaaS services as part of its service package.

SaaS providers only guarantee uptime for users but not a granular backup that can restore individual files and data that was mistakenly deleted or corrupted.

It’s essential to note that SaaS vendors make backup copies of their data at a system-wide level to protect against outages, data corruption and attacks. In such a case, they can recover to a consistent state and get customers up and running. However, these SaaS vendors cannot know whether data changed or manipulated by someone logged into the SaaS software is valid.

You can integrate SaaS protection in traditional backup apps, but there are products available whose design backs up cloud-native data.

Why do businesses need SaaS backup?

Enterprises that decide to migrate their business applications to the cloud need to understand that adoption isn’t without challenges. Hence, the need for a SaaS backup strategy when planning to transition to the cloud.

First, you should consider your reasons for the transition. Then perform a cloud impact analysis, know and budget for your costs, identify essential compliance and security requirements, and implement thorough end-user training before, during and after the move.

After moving successfully, you then need to consider how to protect your data in its new location. SaaS data in apps like Salesforce, Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace need a proper backup and restore strategy similar to the apps you previously ran and stored on-premises.

Before moving to a SaaS cloud environment, you likely stored and managed your data and apps on-site. If a mistake or loss occurred, you could have your IT team spin up your backup drives, pull data from a specific date you requested, and manually reload it.

However, after your cloud migration, you lose your ability to manipulate data like you did on-premises. Therefore, without a backup and restore solution, you could end up losing your data.

Ways businesses and organizations lose their cloud data

As discussed earlier, SaaS service providers are focused on fixing their mistakes and ensuring their software has no downtime. However, they are not responsible whenever you make a mistake on your end or encounter a malicious act that stops your business cold. Below are ways organizations can lose cloud data:

  • Human error accounts for approximately 50% of data loss incidents. Employees inevitably delete the wrong contacts, email or critical configurations.

  • Illegitimate deletion requests. SaaS providers will honor deletion requests without question because they have no way to know if it’s a malicious or hasty request and are ultimately not responsible for unexpected results.

  • Pragmatic errors or sync errors refer to situations when powerful tools designed to streamline your business process instead ruin its critical data in a flash – without an undo option.

  • Hackers can use social engineering or other technical means to invent new tactics for accessing and stealing your data.

  • Malicious insiders refer to your employees who, for one reason or another, corrupt, access, steal or intentionally delete company data.

  • Ransomware refers to a form of industrial-scale attack designed for extortion.

  • Malware and viruses are rogue software that spread mayhem within your system with programmatic efficiency, even without an active hacker attack taking place. Many of this software emerges from existing code within your system after hibernation, making it challenging to defend against.

Best practices for moving to SaaS data backup

To fully prepare yourself to manage and protect your data in the cloud, you should understand and follow the best practices discussed below:

Understand what your SaaS provider covers and what they don’t

Understand what your SaaS service provider protects and put in place a solution to ensure you protect your data.

Cloud providers always protect your data from errors and mistakes on their end. They use high redundancy levels and excellent backup systems to protect their clients from power failure, software and hardware failures, or natural disasters. Thus, it’s rare to lose data from their end.

However, it’s a different story when it comes to your end, which is more prone to malicious and accidental data loss. Therefore, if you have no data protection and backup systems in place, you become vulnerable to permanent data loss and its associated headaches.

Implement a third-party backup solution

Do your homework when choosing a SaaS backup provider. Ensure that the option you select does what you need and is committed to service delivery. You must cultivate a trusting, transparent relationship with your cloud vendors. If possible, come up with a checklist to use to evaluate your cloud-to-cloud backup providers.

Use training and knowledge transfer to build good habits

The majority of SaaS data loss results from human errors, and it’s worth taking steps to minimize these occurrences using training, clearly documented processes and regular checkups.

However, training, knowledge transfer and general preparedness is not accident-proof and should never be a substitute for implementing a suitable backup solution. If possible, opt for a solution that allows you to restore data yourself, empowers you to become a master of your productivity and enables you to direct your IT resources towards more strategic efforts.

Set up data access policies

A primary benefit of moving to the cloud is that you get 24/7 access to your data more conveniently than before. However, to minimize security risks, ensure you clearly define users with access to different files, so only people with the correct access levels can view and edit them. Most SaaS platforms can conveniently assign roles and permissions for added protection.

Automate your backup

You have two data backup options: manual and automatic. Manual exports are less effective because they take time, and you can easily forget them. However, automatic backups run without manual intervention, so you only need to “set it and forget it.”

Test your restore

Testing your restore process allows you to assess how long it might take your systems to recover from data corruption or loss and make appropriate contingency plans. Additionally, it enables you to communicate the impact and instances of human error to your team.

You can and should create a culture of carefulness that minimizes the spectre of data loss and reduces the frequency of event occurrence. This also facilitates business continuity.

Involve app admins in your backup procedures

Cloud backup extends beyond traditional IT. Successful SaaS backup solutions must involve business application owners who will perform backup and recovery tasks to save resources and time for backup admins. It also makes the entire process flexible and agile.

Collaboration between IT and business applications owners determines who is ultimately responsible for SaaS backup.

Ensure compliance

You should know and follow the compliance standards applicable in your industry. You have a responsibility to adhere to these ever-changing standards. Note that migrating to a cloud provider does not transfer that responsibility.

Therefore, when selecting a SaaS backup solution, ensure that the provider’s services meet your industry requirements. Put in place proper controls to meet your data management responsibilities – as part of your due diligence.

Benefits of SaaS backup

Businesses that keep an active SaaS backup solution enjoy many everyday benefits beyond data protection for a rainy day. These include:

  • Compliance: Business continuity from data losses is a crucial pillar of modern compliance standards.

  • Easy on- and off-boarding: Clever businesses and organizations use SaaS backup and restore to ensure critical data does not come and go with employees.

  • Data quality checks: Regular data backups help businesses identify problems with their data and find opportunities to fix them.

  • Restore data faster than a SaaS vendor: Businesses that get their vendors to assist with data recovery have to wait, sometimes for up to 90 days, to recover it.

  • Granular restoration: Don’t suffer the disruption and downtime of restoring whole data sets to earlier states when you can identify and restore only the problematic data.

  • Better than dumpster diving: Sorting through deleted items is a tedious and often fruitless endeavour since most vendors get rid of deleted items after a period of time, for example 30 days.

What to look for in a suitable SaaS backup solution

There are several SaaS backup options available in the market to choose from, making it challenging to decide. Below are six crucial points to consider when selecting a suitable SaaS backup solution for your specific needs.

Features and options

As a rule, always select SaaS backup solutions whose features and options are compatible with the SaaS platforms and apps you are using or intend to protect. For example, backup software intended to integrate with email systems should include data archiving features for email.

Whenever you consider hiring a SaaS backup solution to protect your critical business data, always pay attention to the essential features intrinsic to a reliable and comprehensive backup software. These include:

  • Smooth integration with the apps it’s designed to protect

  • Data restoration and export features

  • Various options for storing data on-premises or in the cloud

  • Data encryption mechanisms

  • Tailored backup schedules

  • Comprehensive activity monitoring and tracking capabilities

  • Retention configuration

  • Easy-to-use but robust management and control means

    If you use more than one SaaS software, the features of your backup vendor of choice should be compatible with all the solutions. Don’t use a solution offering SaaS backup for Microsoft Office 365 only if you also have Google Workspace, Dropbox and Salesforce.

RTO and RPO capability

The backup solution should have a reasonable RTO (recovery time objective) and RPO (recovery point objective) depending on the SLA (service-level agreement). Consistently rate the SaaS backup provider based on what they can deliver regarding RTO and RPO. RPO adequacy is due to point in time recovery, while RTO efficiency results from frequent backups. Ask yourself, can the provider enable you to recover from the backup using a few clicks?

Return to normalcy

This is another stand-out point among vendors. After the backup is complete, it’s normal for enterprises to wish to recover their data as it was earlier before the disrupting event. It should be in the same format, patterns and condition. A suitable SaaS backup solution should offer that.

Security and compliance

A SaaS backup service’s security and compliance is indispensable when considering what vendor to select. Where your data resides before and after backup is of significant concern. Additionally, the backup solution should remain compliant with the relevant data-centric regulations and standards worldwide. Standards like HIPPA, PCI-DSS, ISO/IEC 27001, GDPR, CCPA or CPRA all require stringent safeguards like long-term data retention and activity logging.

Granular backup and recovery

Never ignore granular backup and recovery features. Why should you want to restore whole chunks of data when you only need a small portion of the data deleted by a hacker or vexed employee? What if an employee unintentionally deletes an essential email, and it’s a challenge to find and recover it? In such cases, granular backup and recovery are necessary.

Cost factor

Never ignore the cost of a backup plan for SaaS or a SaaS backup software forecast. You should see what licensing model the vendor offers. A subscription-based licensing model is a suitable option because it’s flexible and accommodative.

The Bottom Line

The cloud is promoted as having security, ubiquity, fault-tolerance and complete backup. These are some of the potential positives encouraging businesses and organizations to move their data to the cloud. Of late, more enterprises are moving their critical applications to the cloud to take advantage of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) models.

However, the question to ask yourself is whether SaaS versions of enterprise software are secure. It’s true, the cloud versions of applications may be safer than on-premises ones, but they are not invulnerable. The data in SaaS applications is yours, which makes it your responsibility to protect it, and protection is always better and cheaper than a cure.

What’s true is that no enterprise or organization in this data-centric world can afford to lose data. SaaS backup is the best way to protect data, providing the endless benefits of the cloud while keeping a secure copy on a separate one.