Cloud-Based Disaster Recovery Tools

Is protecting your data with a disaster recovery solution accessed over the cloud a good choice for your enterprise?


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As with so many other enterprise-focused technologies (CRM, ERP, collaboration), the cloud is upending the disaster recovery (DR) status quo. For end users, this is good. Prices are dropping – putting DR in reach for much smaller organizations than in the past – and choices are multiplying.

However, the cloud is no panacea, and for many organizations, cloud-based DR may even be the wrong, or at least, an incomplete choice.

To help you craft a cloud strategy that will match your organization’s goals, consider these five questions:

1. Which data will be of the highest priority after a disaster?

As CIOs start planning for disaster recovery, their DR plans quickly butt up against Big Data realities. Employees have more storage than ever at the fingertips – on PC hard drives, mobile devices, cheap thumb drives and online repositories like Dropbox – and the cost of storage has dropped through the floor. A GB of storage that cost nearly $10 in 2000 costs less than 10 cents today. The result: people now save everything.

In the age of Big Data, clearly you can’t backup and recover every bit of data, at least not in the initial recovery phase. It wouldn’t be practical, and it’s not necessary. For construction firm Graniterock, having their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software back online as soon as possible after a disaster is a must. ERP helps them dispatch trucks, coordinate work crews at high-priority construction sites like airports and even make sure that concrete doesn’t set before it’s delivered.

The company previously had an on-premise ERP solution from Oracle, but the on-premise solution was too much of a burden for the Graniterock’s small IT staff. Graniterock switched to the hosted ERP solution from Velocity. Part of the advantage of a cloud-based ERP system is that disaster recovery can be a feature, instead of a long, involved, resource-intensive special project.

“ERP is our priority, but we hope to have other applications rolled in eventually,” said Steve Snodgrass CIO of Graniterock. To achieve that goal, the company recently replaced a mixed-vendor storage environment (EMC, NetApp, Data Domain and Buffalo) with a SAN from Nimble Storage.

As of now, the Nimble SAN backs up data locally, but operations manager Ken Schipper hopes to have a remote disaster recovery site online soon, which would offer true DR capabilities for Exchange and a variety of virtual machines and databases.

2. What does your region’s disaster profile look like?

When companies turn to cloud-based storage, regional exposure is often one of the big oversights. If you don’t sign up for data recovery services to a different region, a major event, such as Katrina or Fukushima, could unravel your DR plans.

“So many people forget that for true disaster recovery, you need to get out of the facility, and out of the region. People just assume their cloud provider is doing this when typically they aren’t – unless you pay for it,” said with Ginnie Stouffer, a Master Certified Business Continuity Professional with IDC Partners, a business continuity firm in King of Prussia, PA.

“Katrina was great teacher in this regard,” she added. “So many businesses had data backed up off-site, but off-site in New Orleans. Many banks even passed audits that approved of these plans, and we saw how that worked out.”

Graniterock, for instance, is based in Watsonville, CA, about 45 minutes south of San Jose. This is, of course, an area with a high risk for earthquakes. In fact, local IT infrastructure in Watsonville and data stored with Velocity in Seattle are both in regions with high earthquake risks. Now, one earthquake probably wouldn’t knock both offline, but a series of earthquakes associated with volcanic activity could.

It’s a low-probability event, but so was Katrina. So was Fukushima.

“We’re now backing up data in real-time from Velocity’s data center in Seattle to one in Denver,” Snodgrass said. “Moving data to a lower-risk region limits our exposure significantly.”

If an event knocks out San Jose, Seattle and Denver? Well, recovering data will be the least of Snodgrass’ worries. Fending off aliens or surviving the zombie apocalypse will take precedence.

3. Have you signed up for disaster recovery or just data replication?

Many services that people consider – and vendors even sell as – disaster recovery are really just data replication services. Data replication helps, certainly, but it doesn’t give end users the ability to mirror their infrastructures. Users replicate data, but not the systems that data resides in.

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Tags: cloud computing, security, disaster recovery, DR planning

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