AWS Partner Clumio Enables Cost-Effective Cloud Data Protection for McMaster University

Executive Summary

McMaster University (McMaster) and AWS Partner Clumio achieved a secure, cloud-centric data storage and protection solution for the McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences, reducing costs by 50 percent. Built on AWS, Clumio’s software-as-a-service solution for enterprise data backups uses a variety of AWS services without running resources through the customer’s account, enabling cost control. In just seven hours, McMaster migrated to the Clumio solution from on premises backup architectures consisting of software and hardware stacks. As a result, McMaster gained 85 percent more efficiency and achieved reliable data protection, mitigated risk, and improved performance capabilities.


McMaster University (McMaster), one of Canada’s top-ranked research institutions, saw the need to migrate from its on-premises backup hardware to a more effective data storage and protection solution for valuable health sciences research datasets. The McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences information technology team sought ways to reduce infrastructure costs and move to a more secure, cloud-centric model using software as a service (SaaS).

McMaster and Amazon Web Services (AWS) Advanced Technology Partner Clumio, an innovator of SaaS for enterprise backups, teamed up to achieve stronger data security and mitigate the risks of managing on-premises infrastructure. Clumio offers the industry’s first cloud-native data solution to protect public, private, and SaaS clouds in a single service built on AWS. Migrating to Clumio’s cloud-native data-protection solution enabled McMaster to refresh its existing backup hardware and defend against threats such as ransomware. With a cloud- and SaaS-centric information technology model, the university achieved cost control, more reliable data storage and protection, and improved performance. “McMaster sees AWS as a key enabler for much of its critical infrastructure,” says Joe Ferguson, Cloud Sales Engineer at Clumio. “The idea that Clumio is an AWS Partner with strong technical experience gave the university confidence that it would succeed with the SaaS solution.”

“McMaster sees AWS as a key enabler for much of its critical infrastructure. The idea that Clumio is an AWS Partner with strong technical experience gave the university confidence that it would succeed with the SaaS solution.” 

- Joe Ferguson, Cloud Sales Engineer, Clumio

Enabling Secure Data Backups on AWS

Clumio was founded in 2017 with the goal of simplifying data protection in the public cloud. Its resulting SaaS solution, launched in 2019, harnesses the cloud’s scalability, elasticity, and flexible economics to protect data at scale. The solution enables public organizations such as McMaster to shift to a cloud-centric model for better security inside their inherent practices. For McMaster, this was critical because the university’s backup architectures consisted of software and hardware stacks running on premises—risky in the event of a disaster. Because McMaster’s infrastructure was managed within its logical domain, anyone with malicious intent gaining account access would also have access to the university’s backup server and backup storage. In addition, the per-terabyte pricing model of the backup solution McMaster used at the time had become cost prohibitive. “We were almost at the point where we’d have to decide which data was most important and which we weren’t going to back up,” says Graig Kelly, Technology Manager of Infrastructure at McMaster University. “That’s not a fun game to play.”

Since McMaster was already an AWS customer, Clumio’s SaaS solution built on AWS was a natural choice. Clumio’s workflows are driven through stateless functions and use AWS Lambda, a serverless compute service, to write functions for in-memory operations. This enables Clumio to apply independent task-level resources for each job. Clumio captures data through a lightweight, ephemeral connector using Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2)—a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud—and then copies the data into Clumio’s air gap–secure repository on AWS. All data is encrypted both in transit and at rest, spawning Amazon EC2 instances that can reproduce simply and cost effectively. In addition, Clumio has automatic scaling groups that can deploy multiple instances, so resources are available when needed. The Clumio solution protects customers’ existing native AWS resources, such as Amazon EC2 instances, as well as Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS), a high-performance block-storage service, and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), a service for managing relational databases in the cloud.

“We enable organizations to begin their cloud journeys by adopting a SaaS solution for data protection while migrating to the cloud, at the same time as they’re optimizing their other applications to migrate to the cloud individually,"

- Joe Ferguson, Cloud Sales Engineer, Clumio

Through intelligent design, Clumio has removed all fixed resources from its data path. The solution sends data directly into an endpoint on Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), an object storage service, enabling Clumio to parallelize all data transfers and use private Amazon S3 endpoints in the customer’s AWS account backend to move data. Clumio uses a variety of AWS data services—such as Amazon EBS to transform snapshots into readable volumes for deduplication, compression, and encryption before sending data to Clumio’s secure storage on the backend—but does so outside of the customer’s account, reducing resource costs. This is especially relevant inside VMware Cloud on AWS, a service that delivers an optimized path to the hybrid cloud. Clumio uses the AWS backbone network to move data securely, and data does not need to exit through its internet gateway. As a result, the data path is high performing and cost effective in VMware Cloud on AWS. “That’s what’s fundamentally different about our approach,” says Ferguson. “We’re a single cost center for the customer.”

Benefitting from a Cost-Effective Cloud Migration

After McMaster University decided to test Clumio, onboarding took just 30 minutes. In fact, Clumio has been able to onboard customers with over one PB of data in as little as two weeks. McMaster’s infrastructure team initially backed up six virtual machines totaling eight TB, a process that took just seven hours to complete—an 85 percent improvement in performance compared with an on-premises backup solution that took 48 hours. In addition, incremental backups on Clumio took less than six minutes each—less than other competing solutions.

Additionally, the university was able to reduce the infrastructure that it manages and maintains, and it estimates that it has achieved a 50 percent cost savings with Clumio. Through AWS, Clumio can support massive growth, so its customers gain the capacity to scale exponentially. That means McMaster University can continue to achieve cost savings and performance as its health science research data repositories grow. 

Enjoying Data Protection without the Complexity

Clumio will continue to help its customers, including educational institutions and other public organizations, realize the benefits of the cloud. “We enable organizations to begin their cloud journeys by adopting a SaaS solution for data protection while migrating to the cloud, at the same time as they’re optimizing their other applications to migrate to the cloud individually,” says Ferguson. “Then we can protect that data when it gets here.”

McMaster University plans to continue its journey to the cloud, having achieved a more secure, optimized, and cost-effective data storage and protection solution. “The Clumio service seamlessly takes our backups offsite with the security and data sovereignty we require,” says Kelly. “SaaS for data protection is the best model for our budget planning, as it removes the cost and complexity of on-premises hardware from the equation. Getting a performance boost in the process was the icing on the cake.”

McMaster University

About McMaster University

McMaster University is a public research university in Hamilton, Ontario. Ranked among Canada’s top research-intensive universities, McMaster University operates the DeGroote School of Business and the Faculties of Engineering, Health Sciences, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Science.

About Clumio

Clumio is a secure, scalable backup as a service delivering turnkey airgap ransomware protection, fast disaster recovery, and compliance driven data retention for AWS.

Published August 2021