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Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: Article

Recovery in the Cloud: A Cloud-Connected Approach to Disaster Recovery

Recent advances in cloud recovery technologies have made disaster recovery more reliable, efficient, and cost effective

Data is the lifeblood of any organization, and its loss can be a serious blow to the business. If your systems and data are not adequately protected and supported by a well-tested disaster recovery plan, chances are you are placing your organization at risk. As more and more data is stored on computers and servers, properly planning in the event of a disaster is becoming an increasingly important part of the IT mandate for business continuity. While implementing a solution or service to protect your organization's valuable digital assets is important, the ability to quickly access your systems and data in the event of a site disaster or outage - as to not hinder workflow and productivity - is even more vital to the livelihood of your business.

There are several different approaches that can be taken to protect and recover systems and data in the event of a disaster. Tape-based solutions have of course existed for years as the way to backup and protect an organization's data, but the desire to decrease Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) in the event of a disaster is causing IT managers to look for more agile solutions.

A second option is disk-based solutions. This approach opened a new world of possibilities for distributed, highly accessible disaster recovery infrastructure. A warm or hot recovery site is yet another choice. They duplicate the original site of business, with full computer systems as well as near-complete backups of user data. They can be up and running within moments of an outage, but have heavy infrastructure expenses and IT is burdened with managing the process.

One approach that is gaining a real foothold in the market is a cloud-based approach to disaster recovery. A cloud-connected DR approach leads to what can be called "Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service" (DRaaS) or Recovery in the Cloud, which gives an organization the ability to run its applications remotely in a cloud-connected environment.

Forrester analyst Rachel Dines recently discussed DRaaS in an article for ComputerWorld UK. In it she stated: "DRaaS has the potential to make your DR implementations less expensive and more automated. Enterprises should be taking a close look at their open-systems business-critical (i.e., Tier II or mid-tier) applications to see if they would be a good candidate for DRaaS. DRaaS most likely won't work for all of your applications, but it can be a powerful tool in your continuity portfolio."

Why Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service?

As Dines reported, DRaaS is a compelling approach for protecting your systems and data. It offers numerous benefits that far outweigh the earlier strategies mentioned.

For one, it is more dependable and easier to manage than a tape-based solution. If your tapes are near the disaster, they are subject to the same risks as your primary site. If they are far away, you'll have RTO issues. On the other hand, DRaaS is usually based on infrastructure that leverages virtualization to protect systems and data across geographic risk zones. By leveraging the cloud as a remote recovery site, an organization is protected against disaster at home. You can reconstruct your network and keep the service running remotely as long as it takes you to rebuild your own facility.

Some DR alternatives require costly duplication of your entire infrastructure in a second location. This approach can also involve many servers, so time restraints typically cause IT technicians to test only a handful of them. On the other hand, virtualized environments have far fewer provisioning and hardware requirements, so IT can test the entire system to ensure every aspect is working optimally.

However, not all recovery in the cloud services are the same. If your organization lacks disaster recovery expertise in-house, then look for a managed service offering that provides a team of disaster recovery experts to provision, configure and test the DR infrastructure with you. If disaster strikes, a remote DR service team would be unaffected by your disaster, and can guide and manage the recovery process for you.

With DRaaS, you will likely recover more quickly too. A recent report from the Aberdeen Group ("Small and Mid-Sized Organizations Gain Disaster Recovery Advantages Using Cloud Storage," October 2010) revealed that organizations with a formal disaster recovery plan that used cloud storage in that plan found that they recovered from downtime events almost four times faster than those that did not use cloud storage in their disaster recovery plan. That's a pretty compelling time advantage.

What to Consider When Moving to the Cloud?
When you trust your data backup and disaster recovery to a cloud vendor there are a few important factors to consider to ensure it is deployed and managed effectively:

  • Infrastructure: What happens if your vendor goes out of business? Look for a solution that will allow for onsite redundancy so that you can experience the benefits of the cloud while retaining a copy of your data.
  • Security: It's your system and information; how do you know that they're protected and that no one else can access them? Encryption, security standards compliance and data redundancy are all things to look for when choosing a vendor.
  • SLAs: What kind of recovery times can you expect when system information and data are transferred over the wire and reside somewhere in a different geographic location? Look for published SLAs for service guarantees and planned service outages so you know when and how your information is being handled.
  • Recovery process: If the recovery infrastructure is out of my control, how can I be sure it will perform as expected? Make sure your vendor will work with you to perform DRs test so you are ready and fully understand the recovery process before disaster strikes.

Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan
The benefits of a recovery in the cloud approach to system and data protection are plentiful - from time and cost savings to freeing your IT department to focus on other initiatives. However, before jumping into the cloud as part of your disaster recovery plan, it's essential to consider all the potential impacts of a disaster on your business and really work with your provider to create the right plan for your company. In fact, some DRaaS vendors include this as a part of their service to help keep your business compliant with auditors. After your system is set up, make sure you continuously maintain, test and audit the process to ensure that it remains appropriate to the needs of your organization.

Natural as well as man-made disasters have serious financial impact on businesses. According to a recent NFIB National Small Business Poll, man-made and natural disasters impacted 40 percent of small businesses in the U.S. Having a disaster recovery plan in place to protect your systems and data is fundamental to the success of your business, and recent advances in cloud recovery technologies have made disaster recovery more reliable, efficient, and cost effective.

More Stories By Valerie Fawzi

Valerie Fawzi manages the worldwide marketing function for i365. She brings nearly 20 years of software marketing experience to the role. Before joining i365, she was Senior Director of Marketing for Corticon Technologies, where she built and managed the product marketing, channel marketing, demand generation, and corporate brand functions. Prior to Corticon, Valerie was Director of Marketing for financial analytics startup DecisionPoint Software, in which she positioned the company for its ultimate acquisition by Teradata.

Valerie holds a bachelor’s degree from University of California at Berkeley, and an MBA in International Marketing from San Francisco State University.

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