Companies are recognising the increasing need to protect their SaaS environments, according to Veeam Software’s new Cloud Protection Trends Report 2023.

For example, nearly 90% of Microsoft 365 customers surveyed use supplemental measures rather than relying solely on built-in recovery capabilities.

Preparing for a rapid recovery from cyber and ransomware attacks was the top cited reason for this backup, with regulatory compliance the next most popular business driver.

The report covers four key “as a service” scenarios: infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS), and backup and disaster recovery as a service (BaaS/DRaaS).

Highlights include the following:

While new IT workloads are launching in the cloud at far faster rates than old workloads are being decommissioned in the data center, a surprising 88% brought workloads from the cloud back to their data center for one or more reasons, including development, cost/performance optimisation and disaster recovery.

With cybersecurity (including ransomware) continuing to be a critical concern, data protection strategies have evolved, and most organisations are delegating backup responsibilities to specialists, instead of requiring each workload (IaaS, SaaS, PaaS) owner to protect their own data. The majority of backups of cloud workloads are now being done by the backup team and no longer require the specialized expertise or added burden of cloud administrators.

Today, 98% of organisations utilize a cloud-hosted infrastructure as part of their data protection strategy. DRaaS is perceived as surpassing the tactical benefits of BaaS by providing expertise around business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) planning, implementation and testing. Expertise is recognised as a primary differentiator by subscribers choosing their BaaS/DRaaS provider, based on business acumen, technical IT recovery architects, and operational assistance in planning and documentation of BCDR strategies.

Unfortunately, as is often the case for new cloud-hosted architectures, some PaaS administrators are incorrectly presuming that the native durability of cloud-hosted services relieves the need for backup. Indeed, 34% of organisations do not yet back up their cloud-hosted file shares, and 15% do not back up their cloud-hosted databases.

“The growing adoption of cloud-powered tools and services, escalated by the massive shift to remote work and current hybrid work environments, put a spotlight on hybrid IT and data protection strategies across industries,” says Danny Allan, chief technology officer and senior vice-president: product strategy at Veeam.

“As cybersecurity threats continue to increase, organizations must look beyond traditional backup services and build a purposeful approach that best suits their business needs and cloud strategy.

“This survey shows that workloads continue to fluidly move from data centers to clouds and back again, as well as from one cloud to another – creating even more complexity in data protection strategy. The results of this survey show that while modern IT enterprises have made significant strides in cloud and data protection, there is still work to be done.”

The Veeam Cloud Protection Trends Report 2023 findings include:

Software as a Service (SaaS)

90% of organisations realize they need to back up Microsoft 365. The report revealed only one in nine (11%) organizations do not protect their Microsoft 365 data — a promising majority of 89% use third-party backups/BaaS or enhanced tiers of Microsoft 365 for legal hold, or both.

As data protection strategies have evolved and ransomware continues to be a top concern, most organisations are delegating backup responsibilities to backup specialists, instead of requiring each workload (IaaS, SaaS, PaaS) owner to protect their own data. This fuels the progression of backup becoming a conventional component tasked to the traditional backup admin versus the application team.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

While organisations of all sizes now embrace hybrid-cloud architectures, it is not a one-way journey to the cloud that reduces the importance of the modern data centre:

30% of cloud-hosted workloads were from “cloud first” strategies, whereby new workloads are starting in clouds at far faster rates than old workloads are being decommissioned in the data centre.

98% of organisations utilize a cloud-hosted infrastructure as part of their data protection strategy, including cloud-storage tiers, cloud-infrastructure as their disaster recovery site, or the use of BaaS/DRaaS providers.

88% of organisations brought workloads from the cloud back to their data center for one or more reasons (development, cost/performance optimization, or disaster recovery)  — highlighting a need for 2023 data protection strategies to ensure consistent protection and the ability to migrate, as workloads move from data center to cloud, cloud to data center, or from one cloud to another cloud.

The majority of backups of cloud workloads are now being done by the backup team and no longer require the specialised expertise or added burden of cloud administrators. However, while nearly every organization acknowledged having long-term regulatory mandates, only half of organisations retain backups of their cloud data for even one year.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

While most organisations initially “lift and shift” servers from the data centre to IaaS, most agree that running foundational IT scenarios, such as file shares or databases, as native cloud-services is the future for mature IT workloads:

76% run file services within cloud-hosted servers and 56% run managed file shares from AWS or Microsoft Azure.

78% run databases within cloud-hosted servers and 65% run managed databases from AWS or Microsoft Azure.

Backup and Disaster Recovery as a Service (BaaS/DRaaS)

Nearly every IaaS/SaaS environment also utilizes cloud services as part of their data protection strategy in some form.

58% of organisations utilize managed backup (BaaS) compared to the 42% that utilise cloud storage as part of their self-managed data protection solution. Of special interest, nearly half (48%) started with self-managed cloud storage but eventually switched to BaaS.

Nearly every organisation (98%) claims to use cloud services as part of their data protection strategy, though that varies from cloud storage as a repository to full-fledged BaaS or DRaaS services.

BaaS is predominantly sought for gaining operational and economic efficiencies, as well as assuring data survivability from disasters and ransomware attacks. It is notable that BaaS is no longer seen as the “tape killer” that early pundits offered, with organisations stating that nearly 50% of their data is still stored on tape during its lifecycle, regardless of their use of cloud-based data protection services.

DRaaS is perceived as surpassing the tactical benefits of BaaS by providing expertise around BCDR planning, implementation, and testing. Expertise is perceived as a primary differentiator by subscribers choosing their BaaS/DRaaS provider, based on business acumen, technical IT recovery architects, and operational assistance in planning and documentation of BCDR strategies.

This year’s report showed a significant shift from last year as customers are increasingly interested in outsourcing their backups and gaining a “turnkey” or “white-glove” level of management service instead of the internal IT staff continuing to manage BaaS-delivered infrastructure. This shift indicates that experience and trust in providers is increasing and could also point to challenges over the past year with the IT talent supply chain.

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