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NetApp Cloud Backup

Cloud Archive Storage: How to Lower Archive Backup Costs with NetApp Cloud Backup

With the average size of the data estate growing exponentially, storage admins are faced with a challenge to overhaul their traditional backup strategies, especially when it comes to archive data. One option to store this expansive archive data is to leverage cloud backup storage.

In this blog post we will explore some of the demands archive data puts on backups and show how NetApp Cloud Backup’s new support for the archive tiers on AWS, Azure, and GCP can help optimize your data archival strategy and costs.

Read on as we cover:

Data Backup and Archival Challenges

Why Tape Doesn’t Make Sense Anymore

In the past, organizations have invested in hardware appliances and disk- and tape-based backup devices to keep redundant point-in-time copies of data. However, with the exploding data landscape fuelled by digital transformation, these traditional techniques often fall short. In addition to short-term and long-term backups, organizations would also need to store archival data for many years for audit and compliance purposes. Note that this data also keeps increasing every year, resulting in a need for huge CAPEX investments for disks/tapes/appliances to store that data.

In the long run, this is not a very economical choice to say the least.

File-level backup poses another challenge for archiving data.

With NAS data, the backup solution accesses the data to be backed up through protocols such as SMB/NFS or NDMP. There is no truly incremental file-level backup methodology, as the technology needs to scan the entire landscape for updated files, then back up all of those updated files in their entirety again. Depending on the size of the file, open state, file locks, etc., there could be additional complications. Those complications lead to missed backup windows. Organizations often end up taking full backups on a constant basis to ensure data integrity, which is both a network strain and another cost concern.

Additionally, NDMP-based file transfers don’t support encryption in transit, thereby leaving a window open for man-in-the-middle attacks as the data moves to backup storage. So it's not just the data size and cost that are impacted in file level backup strategy, but also security of the data.

Modernizing Data Archiving in the Cloud

The solution to these archival backup issues has been to turn to the cloud.

All the major cloud service providers offer an archive tier for object storage. These tiers are fast becoming the destination of choice for backup data with long-term retention requirements. This includes all of the major archive offerings on AWS (Amazon S3 Glacier and Glacier Deep Archive) Azure (Azure Archive Storage), and GCP (Google Cloud Archive storage).

Cloud Archive solutions are the least-expensive object storage tiers available today and can scale on demand to petabytes of storage as the archival data size increases. Organizations that follow 3-2-1 backup strategy where one copy of backup data needs to be stored offline can use the archival tier to store the third copy of the data.

There are four ways that a cloud-based archive can be a gamechanger:

1. Tape Replacement/Modernization

Cloud object storage is now considered a less-expensive alternative for tape drives, as modernizing older archival strategies is the need of the hour. This is aligned with the rise of cloud consumption and IaaS services in place of traditional compute and storage solutions.

From an economic standpoint, the transition from tape to archive storage offers a switch from CAPEX to OPEX spending, as well as a lowered TCO. Beyond the cost benefits, cloud object storage also offers a more holistic approach to the data lifecycle: active data which needs to be accessed frequently can initially be kept on standard tiers, and then later transitioned to cold and archival tiers for long-term backup and archival.

2. Optimize Costs by Tiering

Object storage offers much lower storage rates than block-based storage in the cloud, but that doesn’t make all object storage tiers right for archival data. The standard tiers of object storage or block storage—which once were the only object storage options available— might not be cost-optimal for large amounts of backup data.

Archival and cold tiers address these concerns by combining the scale and cost effectiveness of cloud storage. Depending on the frequency of access of data, backup data can be tiered to the cheaper cloud object archival storage with the ability to restore on a file/volume level at a lower cost. Archival tiers are also highly resilient and eliminate the management overhead associated with tape storage.

3. Long-term Backup Storage

Archival tiers are less expensive, but the data retrieval time is always longer than those on the standard tiers. The associated charges for retrieving this will also be higher. While this may not be optimal for live data, it works extremely well for archival data.

Archival data isn’t retrieved very frequently—if ever—but still needs to be stored for longer durations, possibly indefinitely. This can be the case for historical data, regulatory compliance, and finished projects. Normally, restores from backup data are from the latest point-in-time backup; data that needs longer retention can be archived into a cheaper tier, regardless of the retrieval time.

4. Third Sites (“Just in Case”)

For organizations that follow 3-2-1 backup strategy, archive storage can offer the ideal location for the copy of the data that needs to be stored in an offsite location (the 1 in 3-2-1).

Such copies require zero management, and once stored offsite, are generally not dealt with again. Until now, such copies were stored on tape and physically shipped to different sites, all of which came at much higher costs.

Using cloud-based archival tiers for these third copies is a much more efficient solution. You get a dedicated offsite storage process and location. It also reduces the associated costs as archival tiers are the cheapest and there’s no need for complicated updates, upgrades, and physical shipping.

Archive Storage with NetApp Cloud Backup

NetApp Cloud Backup can be the perfect solution to replace your tape infrastructure and modernize your backup strategy.

NetApp Cloud Backup offers a comprehensive service for protecting your data across heterogeneous environments, whether it’s across clouds, data stored in on-prem ONTAP storage devices, or any hybrid combination of those platforms. Unlike traditional file-based backup solutions, Cloud Backup uses block-level backup, implementing cost- and storage-efficient incremental backups. Most importantly when it comes to archiving, NetApp Cloud Backup supports the archive storage tiers on AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud as targets for your long-term backup and archival data, Azure Archive storage, Google Cloud Storage Archive, or Amazon S3 Glacier and Glacier Deep Archive storage

The data life cycle is automatically managed without additional overhead of choosing the right tier for the archival data. It simplifies the overall archival data management process by seamlessly integrating with the low cost archive tier, irrespective of the cloud platform that you wish to use. The TCO is considerably reduced, i.e. up to 10-13x times when compared to using a standard storage class for backup data. Cloud Backup is delivered in a convenient SaaS model with centralized management of your backup across environments.

Benefits of Using Archival Tiers with Cloud Backup

Let’s explore some of the common benefits to using archive storage with NetApp Cloud Backup.

Hybrid cloud Archival tiering: Customers with existing on-prem investments in on-prem ONTAP can leverage NetApp Cloud Backup to move data backups to cloud object storage. They can later use Information lifecycle management(ILM) policies and tier data that needs long-term retention in cloud archive storage. This allows users to both reduce maintenance overheads while improving overall TCO in many cases.

Cost effective public cloud archive data storage: Cloud Volumes ONTAP is the data management platform that brings trusted ONTAP technologies to the cloud service platform of your choice—AWS, Azure or GCP. NetApp Cloud Backup can be used by customers to back up the data in block-based Cloud Volumes ONTAP volumes to any supported object storage in the cloud. The data can then be tiered using ILM policies to cloud archival tiers.

Automated backup management: Cloud Backup supports automation of the backup process through API calls that can integrate with your existing DevOps processes. With data in the petabyte scale, this can make a storage adimin’s job much easier.

Agile recovery processes: Cloud Backup supports recovery of data to a specific point in time. The restore process is agile and done at the block level. Customers can restore data volumes directly from archive tier back to Cloud Volumes ONTAP or on-prem storage based on their restore requirements.

Enhanced security: The archival data is stored in a customer-owned cloud storage bucket. The data at rest is encrypted using TLSv1.2/AES256. The service supports customer managed encryption keys for organizations that need more control over data encryption process.

Dark site support: For users with extremely strict requirements to store data offline, Cloud Backup makes it possible to store backup data in a dark site environment without any internet connectivity using StorageGRID® appliances.


If you’re modernizing your backup strategy and tools, NetApp Cloud Backup can help with its full support for cloud storage archive tiers.

NetApp Cloud Backup can be used to replace your legacy tape infrastructure and take care of your long-term archival data retention needs. Tiering to archival storage is supported for all ONTAP customers running version 9.10.1 or above.

Sign up for a free trial of NetApp Cloud Backup to leave tape behind and start lowering your backup costs today.


What is archive storage?

Organizations have a lot of data, and some of it will not be used—even on an infrequent basis—but also cannot be deleted. The reasons this data needs to be retained can include regulatory compliance and internal record keeping, among others. To store such data cost-effectively, inexpensive storage formats must be leveraged. In the past, that has been on tape drives. Today the cloud offers a better target for archive.

What is the difference between storage and archiving?

Cloud storage is used for data that is used day in day out by line of business applications. The data access should be fast and meet the IOPS requirements for the applications. Standard object storage tiers in the cloud are designed to meet these requirements. Archival storage on the other hand is for data that needs to be retained for longer periods of time for audit, compliance or reference purposes.This data is usually accessed very rarely , and hence low cost cloud archival tiers are best fit for this use case.

How does archive storage work?

Cloud storage archival tiers are custom-built for data that needs to be stored for longer periods of time and not accessed very frequently. The use cases for which the data is used should be able to tolerate longer wait times for rehydration and data access. Most of the archival data access use cases fall under this category and customers can greatly benefit from the low cost of this storage without any considerable shortfalls.New call-to-action

Semion Mazor, Product Evangelist

Product Evangelist