Industry Insights

Using Azure or AWS for Air Gap Protection

An off-site backup or air gap is a common practice where a company stores their data in a location other than their production space. The advantages of air gaps are that they provide better security and recovery of data in case a set of data is breached or damaged through environmental hazards or by having it ransomed by a hacker.  

More recently, hackers are targeting specific companies by gaining access to an organization’s data and deleting all backups once they are inside. When data is ransomed, it’s encrypted, then the old copy is deleted which requires an encryption key created by the hacker to access the hacked data. This is a situation companies want to avoid, since it can potentially cost millions of dollars to get their data back. An off-site backup is one protective measure put in place to recover lost data, sidestepping the need to negotiate with hackers for ransomed data since a copy of the data is inaccessible from hackers. 

At BNC, one of our favorite air gap programs is iland due to its ease of use in recovering data, and reasonable cost for larger data sets. Amazon S3 Glacier (AWS) and Microsoft Azure though, other companies can use to store air gapped backups. AWS and Azure are not the first programs that come to mind for off-site backups, but they certainly can be used for that since it’s a place to secure and store data. However, using these programs come with certain caveats.  

Recovery of Data May Be Less User Friendly 

While theoretically an organization can create an off-site backup on their cloud platform, reintegrating the data back into the production space can be more labor intensive than some companies might be willing to risk. If multiple programs and tools are using data, the data might be a complicated process in recovering and being added back to its respective program. And that extra bit of complexity and work are not in the best interest of a company wanting an easier solution.  

Costs Can Be Higher 

Depending on the amount of data, the cost for using AWS or Azure for an off-site backup can be less expensive, especially if the company already pays for the service. However, if there’s a hefty amount of data being backed up, the cost of storing data might not make the endeavor worth it, compared to a more user-friendly backup platform like iland. Essentially, iland makes backups easier to recover at a lower cost for larger data sets. To compare the pricing for air gap options, here are the different rates: 

  • Iland rates – $40/TB monthly (3 TB minimum at $120/month) 
  • Azure – $30 + $10/500 GB 
  • AWS – price varies depending on frequency of backups and size of data set, but can be the least expensive option 

Smaller data backups can cost you less with Azure since the data amounts are more customizable. Since you have to pay for 3 TB of data at a minimum with iland, it’s not as cost effective for smaller backups.  

It May Not Be More Secure Than Other Options 

Security measures exist for these cloud platforms, but thinking it’s a more secure solution than others is not necessarily true or accurate. It’s still secure insofar as it’s an air gapped backup disconnected from the cloud, but while it’s in the cloud in the production area, it’s still at risk like any remotely accessible data in the cloud. If an organization can access data in the cloud, then hackers can as well, so keeping the backups up to date frequently if changes are made is necessary. Convenience and cost are the primary reasons for using the cloud for backups, with convenience being an afterthought.  

When to Use AWS & Azure  

IT consultants might suggest these cloud platforms to companies that want a partial backup to their typical production data set. Like in the case of a company using QuickBooks and only wanting to back up financial data for that program, while not having backups for other programs at the company. The data set would not be too big to make it less cost effective, and can be recovered more easily than if they’re backing up data for multiple platforms.  

Differences Between Azure and AWS for Air Gaps  

BNC more commonly uses Azure, and it has benefits over AWS as a backup solution. For one, it’s easier to migrate in cases where data needs to be recovered. AWS can be less expensive, but at a greater cost of being less convenient to migrate, and harder for untrained professionals to use in case they need the data. So, if there are more frequent migrations or backups being updated, then Microsoft Azure is the best option. For cost savings with less frequent migrations, AWS might a better choice.  

Contact BNC For Professional Off-Site Backup Support 

BNC is an IT consulting company with offices in Austin, Denver, and Dallas. We offer local on-site and remote IT services to businesses wanting more hands-on, personable relationships with their IT provider. We can send an engineer on-site to offer consultation, and companies will continue that relationship with the engineer during future maintenance. Get in touch with BNC today if you’re looking for IT services in Dallas, Austin, or Denver.  



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