Data Centers

Google adds free cloud 'backup' to Apps, feature that reduces risk of data loss

Google launched a free service called synchronous replication to the Apps suite as a way of boosting more interest of the productivity suite in large enterprise businesses.

This is a guest post from Sam Diaz of TechRepublic's sister site ZDNet. You can follow Sam on his ZDNet blog Between the Lines, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Google, in its continued quest to lure enterprise customers to switch to the cloud-based Google Apps suite, is upping its offering with a free feature called synchronous replication.

In its simplest form, it's the process of backing up data within Apps to multiple data centers so that, if there's a disruption, the amount of data lost or the amount of time without access to the data is minimized. In a blog post, Google explained that a disaster recovery solution is measured in two ways: by the Recovery Point Objective (RPO), which is how much data a company is willing to lose in the event of a disruption, and the Recovery Time Objective (RTO), which is the amount of time a customer is willing to go without service.

In most cases, the more money you spend on backup, the lower the numbers. For most large enterprises, the RPO and RTO targets are usually an hour or less. Google has larger goals in mind - starting with making the service free (up to 25 gigabytes per employee) and reducing the numbers significantly. From the blog post:

For Google Apps customers, our RPO design target is zero, and our RTO design target is instant failover.  We do this through live or synchronous replication: every action you take in Gmail  is simultaneously replicated in two data centers at once, so that if one data center fails, we nearly instantly transfer your data over to the other one that's also been reflecting your actions. Our goal is not to lose any data when it's transferred from one data center to another, and to transfer your data so quickly that you don't even know a data center experiences an interruption.  Of course, no backup solution from us or anyone else is absolutely perfect, but we've invested a lot of effort to help make it second to none.

In its post, the company said there are three reasons why it can offer this service for free:

  • Google operates many large data centers simultaneously for millions of users.
  • Because Google's data centers don't sit idly waiting for something to go wrong, the company can balance loads between data centers, as needed.
  • Google's high-speed connections between data centers allows it to transfer data quickly from one set of servers to another, allowing the company to replicate large amounts of data simultaneously.

The feature is available now through Google Apps.

Related coverage:

[ From: ] Google announced synchronous replication for Google apps. Of course, Google has a multi-million dollar marketing budget ? so they didn?t announce replication, they announced ?backup and disaster recovery? for Google apps and used terms such as RPO and RTO. When you?ve been around a while, you see that the technology business cycles. One of my favorite services is Gartner?s ?hype cycle? various analyses, simply because of the name (note: Gartner?s hype cycles aren?t really cyclical, but they are pretty useful for technology strategists.) In the mid-1990?s, cloud computing was going to be the end-all and be-all with computing delivered as a service. Cloud-based computing has gotten hot and cold since then ? and I?m hoping it has more staying power this time. Actually, I?m more than hoping - the company in which I work is investing a lot in cloud-based services. In any case, I think that the Google announcement should help with a major issue that people have with the cloud ? the fact that their data is ?out of their reach and control? in the case of an issue. Now ? the truth is that there are far fewer ?disasters? on an on-premise basis than there are ?disasters? on a cloud architectural basis ? so this will only go so far ? but it?s certainly a step in the right direction. However, what I really want from Google apps is a true disaster recovery service that handles my concern with errors and attacks on the Google infrastructure overall. What that means is that I want an on-premise appliance with DR handled in the cloud. That way I can get to my data regardless of the status of the cloud. That?s the reason I?m such a believer in on-premise/off-premise backup and disaster recovery architectures. Talking about RPO and RTO (recovery point and recovery time objectives), as Google does, is wonderful ? but I noticed that the RPO/RTO discussion doesn?t take into account either logical failures or the fundamental availability of the data when Internet disruptions take place. For more on true cloud backup,


Google is certainly upping the ante in terms of data backup and restoration. I'm sure there are very few IT departments, even in Enterprise class organizations, who can claim an achievable "Zero" RTO and RPO as defined by Google. Here's the difference as I see it, and one of the reasons that I think we won't be adopting Google Docs as the solution in our K-12 School Division any time soon... Google Docs is providing email and calendar, some very basic office productivity in terms of word processing, spreadsheet and presentation, and some communication/social networking/instant messaging/collaboration capability. Their Google Docs solution does not nearly encompass the breadth or depth of service that our network users are currently experiencing. So the Google pitch that goes "We can replace all your expensive infrastructure and offer much better service for $X per user" just doesn't add up for us. We'd still need to maintain all (or most)of that infrastructure in order to support the stuff that Google doesn't offer. If our users only expected us to deliver the apps and services that Google is offering then our jobs in IT would probably be very easy indeed, and we probably could afford to work toward a zero RTO and RPO. As it is, our users have much higher expectations and we'll continue to work hard to meet them. And we'll be doing it without the help of Google Docs. Our RPO will approach zero and our RTO will probably be measured in hours, not seconds.


This is a great idea for Google to start, I look forward to hearing more.


Several places in my post I mentioned "Google Docs" but I guess I should have said "Google Apps". My opinion is still the same though - it ain't no Swiss Army Knife.

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