Comparison between cloud backups and on-premise backups

There are several options for Google Apps backup: Spanning and Backupify can backup Google Apps data to another cloud, while CubeBackup can backup your Google Apps data to a local storage inside your company. When you are looking for a backup solution for your Google Apps domain, you might not sure which backup solution is more suitable for your company. So, the comparison of these two different backup strategies might be helpful to you.

cloud-vs-local

Cloud-to-Cloud backup solutions:

Pros:

1. Easy configuration
Cloud-to-Cloud backups employ web interface which is pretty easy to be integrated with Google Apps marketplace.  Only a few steps are required to setup the backup process.
2. Less administration work
All backup jobs are running on backup vendor’s servers. As a Google Apps domain administrator, you can relax with ease in most of the times.
3. A more natural choice
Google Apps is a cloud collaboration platform, with all data stored online. Backing up cloud data to another cloud sounds to be a more natural choice for most companies.

Cons:

1. Higher cost

The pricing for Backupify and Spanning is about $40-50 USD/user/year, which is not so affordable.
2. No physical files accessible
With a cloud-to-cloud backup solution, all backup data are stored in another cloud with a vendor-specific format. Except restoring from the backup, you can almost do nothing with the backup data.  For example, migrating email message backups to another mail system is just impossible.

On-premise  backup solutions:

Pros:

1. More affordable
Comparing to cloud-to-cloud backup solutions, the cost of local backups solutions are much lower.
2. Keep your data in your own hands
All backups are stored in a local storage (a hard disk or a NAS) inside your company’s firewall, totally under your control.
3. Get physical backup files
Backup data are stored locally as physical files, which means that you can easily export these files into another system.  For example, open docs backup files with Microsoft word/OpenOffice, read email messages using Outlook, etc.
4. Keep data from being exposed to any third party
Cloud-to-cloud backups open your data instance onto another cloud vendor which create privacy concerns. Cloud-to-local backups, which only preserve a copy of your data locally, keep you from this security concern.

Cons:

1. Initial configuration is not easy
Local backup solutions require a desktop app to access the local storage. Due to the limitation of Google Apps Marketplace, desktop apps cannot be easily integrated into Google Apps marketplace as web apps do.  To setup a local backup, domain administrators need to create a Google cloud project in Google Developers console and authorize data access to GDrive, Gmail, Contacts and Calendar.
2. A reliable physical server and a local storage are needed
Unlike cloud-to-cloud backup solutions, which are completely disk-free, on-premise backup solutions require a reliable server as well as a large and robust local storage.

Conclusion:

If you do not have enough budget, or you’d like to fully control your backup data, or there is any possibility that your company might migrate your cloud platform from Google Apps to Office 365, an on-premise backup solution, such as CubeBackup, should be your best choice.

If you want an easier and effortless backup solution, you might consider a cloud-to-cloud backup solution.

How to backup Google Apps data to Dropbox

Dropbox is undoubtedly one of the most widely used cloud storage.  It is available on almost all platforms, from Windows, MacOSX, Linux to nearly all mobile operating systems.  Dropbox guarantees that all your files will be protected by 256-bit AES encryption, and all files are transferred through SSL/TLS secure tunnel.  What’s more, compared with Google’s privacy policy, privacy terms of Dropbox are more strict and reasonable – “Your Stuff is yours. These Terms don’t give us any rights to Your stuff except for the limited rights that enable us to offer the Service.  We need your permission to do things like hosting Your Stuff, backing it up, and sharing it when you ask us to… ” . 

As a Google Apps users, you might are seeking methods to backup Google Apps data to Dropbox. Actually, using CubeBackup, it is quite easy to add a backup copy to Dropbox with very little expense.

Step 1:  A Dropbox Pro or Bussiness account.

For small or middle size businesses, whose data in the whole Google Apps domain is less than 1TB (1,000GB),  a Dropbox Pro account is a reasonable choice.  It only costs $99 per year.

For comparatively large organizations, Dropbox for Business might be your best choice. The basic plan for Dropbox Business is 5TB for 5 users, which costs $750 per year. Dropbox for Business starts off with 1TB of space per user, however, you can ask for more space by contacting Dropbox’s sales. Theoretically, you can get as much as possible space from Dropbox for Business as long as you would like to pay for the extra storage. The pricing of Dropbox for Business is higher than Dropbox Pro, but is still much cheaper than other Google Apps cloud-to-cloud backup solutions, such as Backupify or Spanning.

Step 2:  Set the backup location to the Dropbox sync folder.

After installing Dropbox client, a folder named “Dropbox” will be created. If CubeBackup has already been running on your computer, please stop the backup process first, then copy all the backup data to the “Dropbox” folder – This may take a considerably long time if you have tons of backup data.

When the moving of data completed,  open the “Options” dialog of CubeBackup and set the backup location to the new place.

set-backup-location

After this simple configuration, your Google Apps data will be automatically synced to Dropbox cloud storage as they are backed up locally with CubeBackup.

CubeBackup 2.6 released

We are proud to announce the release of CubeBackup version 2.6.  If you are using an old version of CubeBackup, you may have already received a prompt to upgrade. You can easily upgrade to the new version at any time by using the “Check for update” feature.

New features in CubeBackup 2.6

  • Support for secondary domains and domain aliases.

As a Google Apps administrator, you may manage one primary domain along with one or more secondary domains.  CubeBackup 2.6 makes it convenient to manage all backup users in one place, whether they are in a primary domain or secondary domain. Domain aliases are also well supported in the new version.   For example,  in the user management window, domain administrators can manage all users in one list, including user1@primary.com, user2@secondary.com  and  user3@alias.com.

  • Support multiple primary domains.

If you are a Google Apps partner or reseller, you may manage several Google Apps domains for your clients. The new version of CubeBackup allows you to backup multiple domains in one application.

  • Option to back up “Shared with me” files in Google Drive.

Old versions of CubeBackup always back up shared files by default, with no way to disable the feature. For some Google Apps domains, it may cause considerable data duplication and backups could potentially grow to unmanageable sizes. The new version allows you to choose whether or not to backup these shared files.

  • Option to backup “All mail” messages

The domain administrator now can choose whether or not to backup the “All mail” folder/label in Gmail.  Generally, if messages in “All Mail” folder are duplicates which already exist under other folders/labels, including them again would be a waste of time and space.  However, if the “All mail” folder is used to archive mail messages, while the “Inbox” or other labels are reserved for active messages,  the “All mail” option should, of course, be used.

  • Database performance tuning

SQLite database is used in CubeBackup to record the backup metadata. Performance and transactional security are both improved in the new version.

  • Bug fixed

A number of bugs have been fixed in the new version.

 

How to fetch users in secondary domains after the update?

Because secondary domain users were not visible in previous versions of CubeBackup, you need to refresh the user list in order to fetch the users in secondary domains (or domain alias) after the upgrade.

Open the menu item “Settings” -> “User management” , and click the Refresh button. All users, in both primary or secondary domains, will now show up in the users list.  Click the Save button to save all the settings.

user managment

 

From time to time, we receive emails from our customers asking new features. Thank you for all of your suggestions and feedbacks!   The most commonly asked question is:

What to expect in the future versions?

  • Parallel backup

This will be the most important feature in the next version of CubeBackup.   Parallel backup for multiple users can greatly accelerate backup speeds and should be available soon.

  • Google site backup

Google site data backup will also be added in future versions.

  • Restore backup data to another account

Restoring data to another account can be very useful in some circumstance. Look for this feature in future versions

  • Linux version

CubeBackup for Linux will be a service without UI,  and we are confident that Linux administrators will love it! Most features in the Linux version will be almost identical to those in the Windows version.

How to speed up backups for large organizations

Schools or large companies with hundreds of users can easily accumulate terabytes of Google Apps data, including tens of millions of Gmail messages. This presents a serious problem for backup strategies – the initial backup may take months or even longer!

One reason for this is that CubeBackup performs user backups one by one in a non-parallel manner. We plan to include parallel backup algorithm in the next version of CubeBackup, but in the meantime, there are still methods that can be used to greatly speed up large backups by working with the user data in parallel.

Before presenting some of these solutions, I’d like to give an introduction to how backup data is saved locally.  Simply put, all backup data for each user, including the actual Google Apps data and metadata used to record the backup progress for each user, are stored in that user’s own directory. For example, data for user “somone@yourcompany.com”  would be stored in the directory “someone@yourcompany.com” like this:

Folder structure for one user

Folders like “calendar”, “contacts”, “docs”, and “mail” are used to store the actual backup data for Google Apps. There is also a hidden folder named “_config”, which is used to record important metadata, like timestamps for the last backup, the cloud ID of the local backup files, etc. CubeBackup itself only stores general settings for the whole app, all user data, whether actual backup data or metadata to describe a user’s current status, are stored in that user’s own directory.

This design makes the backup data very portable, as well as bringing an extra benefit: several CubeBackup instances can run simultaneously while sharing the same local storage. This means that, for large companies with hundreds of employees, the best way to speed up the backup process is to split the users into separate CubeBackup instances on different computers. Let me illuminate this method with a specific example:

An Example

Assume there is a large Google Apps domain “example.com” with 1000 users, 200 of whom are located in the subdomain “sub.example.com”. There are also several organization units in the main domain (for example, 100 users in marketing 100 in dev, 50 in HR, etc.). The whole structure of the domain looks like this:

domain structure

For such a large domain, a complete initial backup may be so enormous that it would take months to back up all the data locally, which, of course, is unacceptable. In most cases, a professional local storage unit, such as a NAS or SAN, will be used to store the backup data. Usually, these devices have excellent write speeds and are capable of handling very high data throughputs. In this case, you can split the users into different CubeBackup instances running on separate computers, while setting the backup location for each instance to the same NAS/SAN device.  Since CubeBackup can be run on almost any computer, one powerful server and several low-speed desktop computers make a good combination for this strategy.

parallel backup

This parallel backup strategy can speed up the backup process tremendously. Since CubeBackup consumes very little memory and CPU resources, it can run in the background on almost any computer without interrupting the user. This makes it is very easy to add more computers to this kind of parallel backup system.

How many computers should be used to speed up the backup?

In most cases, the bottleneck of the parallel backup system lies in the speed of the NAS/SAN. Since most Gmail message backups are small files, the speed at which these small files can be written to local storage is the key factor in deciding how many computers can be added to the parallel system. Due to the wide spectrum in the performance of different storage devices, it is difficult to predict the optimal number of computers.  We suggest starting small, with 4 computers, and then adding more running instances to the parallel backup system to find the best combination.

Merge all users into the main server after a few backups

Because CubeBackup employs an incremental backup algorithm, subsequent backups after the initial full backup only store new or modified data, which is much less time-consuming.  Therefore, it shouldn’t be necessary to keep so many CubeBackup instances running after the first several backups; the main server should be sufficient to handle most of the load.
final structure

Another option for parallel backup:

In some cases, there is no NAS/SAN available within your company. Instead, each department is responsible for maintaining their own set of backup. In this situation, CubeBackup can be run directly on computers within the department, with backups split according to organizational units, like this:

OU backup

This method does not require high-performance local storage and can use existing PCs for the backup. However, since there is no central data storage, and local storage within each PC is not as stable or reliable as a NAS/SAN, maintenance of the backup data may become a problem.

We plan to add parallel backup and multi-domain support in the next version of CubeBackup.  If you have any suggestions for our product, please let us know!

 

Price for educational organizations

Google Apps Logo NewRecently, we’ve received a lot of emails inquiring about the pricing for Non-Profit/Educational organizations. Since Google Apps is so popular among students and educators, these users are also very important to us at CubeBackup. We are pleased to offer a discount for Non-Profit/Educational organizations:

$99   USD/year      Up to 50 accounts

$499 USD/year      51-500 accounts

$999 USD/year      501-2000 accounts

$1999 USD/year     2001-5000 accounts

$2999 USD/year     more than 5000 accounts

These prices are heavily discounted and only available to non-profit or educational organizations.

Non-profit and education purchases can be made at https://www.cubebackup.com/pricing-siteprice.html .

Reseller Program: 

We are also looking for new members for our reseller program. If you are a Google Apps reseller/partner and are interested in introducing CubeBackup to your clients, please contact our sales team for more information.

Why a backup solution for Google Apps is necessary?

It is said that Google’s service is so secure that massive data loss has never happened on Google’s cloud platform. Why do we still need a backup service?

The answer is that most data loss is due to user errors! Here are a few common scenarios:

  1. Employees might accidentally delete an important document or email without even noticing. This is an easy-to-make mistake, especially on mobile devices, where an unintentional gesture is sometimes all it takes.
  2. Disgruntled employees may be able to destroy important documents or data.
  3. Hackers can break into your cloud system and ruin your data.
  4. Google sometimes blocks accounts due to a policy violation. For example, an employee in your marketing department could accidentally send too many emails in a relatively short time and be automatically blocked.
  1. When employees leave the company, data loss can sometimes happen.
  2. Power outages, earthquakes, hurricanes and other disasters can cause data loss or make the internet inaccessible. A local backup is indispensable in such situations.

Though Google’s platform is very stable,  a  backup solution, such as CubeBackup, definitely adds more security to your business data.

Windows+Office vs. Google Apps+Chromebook

Personally I don’t like most Microsoft’s products, even their most important one – Windows. After using MacBook Pro for several months, I found it’s hard to go back to the Windows platform : the shabby search capability and the awkward UI on Windows 8 often drive me mad. Honestly, Mac OSX is the best desktop Operating System that I ever met. With an excellent desktop UI plus Linux-compatible core, OSX is far user friendly, especially programmer friendly than Windows.

However, for MS Office, I must admit that it is one of the few excellent products made by Microsoft. Combined with Active Directory architecture, Server softwares like Exchange, SharePoint, it can handle almost all office work nicely and efficiently. Today, most companies use MS Office solution to handle their daily office work and  are happy with that. I don’t see any strong competitors of Microsoft in this field. ( Actually, there are a few other options, but none of them can really compete with Microsoft Office Suit.)

Things might change in the future. Microsoft now need to seriously consider the threat from Google Apps + Chromebook, which offers a lightweight office solution with much cheaper cost and better collaboration. Based on Google’s statement, there are already more than 5 million businesses on Google Apps, and the number is still increasing fast. At the same time, Chromebook has become the most popular notebook in Amazon. At least, I know several of my friends went Chromebook and has no plan to go back to Windows.

For most companies, Google Apps platform is already good enough to handle their office job nicely, and cheaper! Here I made a simple comparison between Microsoft office solution and Google Apps solution.

To setup the Microsoft Office environment:

  1.  A small data center, which requires a physical place with good security.
  2.  Several Windows Servers, like Domain Controller, Exchanges Server, Web Server, Database Server, Security Server …. They are expensive on both hardware and software!
  3. Desktops or laptops with Windows and Office.
  4. An IT group to maintain the above hardware and software.

This solution is a classical solution for most companies, and usually it works great. However, there is one problem: the expense! Though the cost may differ for different type and different size of companies,  it does cost a fortune to set all things up. Not every company can afford that. To lower the expense, some companies have no choice but unwisely lower the security and the maintenance cost, which may cause disastrous results in the future.
To setup a Google Apps working environment:

  1. 50 bucks for each employee each year.
  2. One Chromebook for each employee. The price of a Chromebook is much cheaper than that of a normal desktop or laptop.

See, Google’s cloud solution is A LOT cheaper!  Using Google’s solution, you can setup a similar office working environment for your company with much less money.
Some companies still worry about that the features of Google Apps cannot match Microsoft’s solution. However, based on my experience (might not right), this shouldn’t be the major concern. Google Apps covers most features, if not all, of Microsoft Office solution, with better collaboration capability. The biggest concern to move to Google Apps should be the migration cost, because this migration requires to retrain all employees for the new system and take the risk of data lost during the migration. For companies that have already invested in Microsoft solutions and have been accustomed to that environment, I don’t see any good reason to move to Google Apps.

Will Google Apps beat Microsoft Office? Maybe not in the next few years. However, it may happen in the future, with a great possibility.