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Cloud backup is very common for businesses and individuals. However, vendors are pouring resources into development of better cloud-based backup and recovery (BUR) and disaster recovery (DR) for mid-sized and the enterprise. The goal is to evolve from simple departmental or ROBO backup to high RTO and RPO service levels, application recovery and virtual data centers in the cloud. These services are already available for smaller deployments in private and hybrid clouds, and hyperscale clouds are pursuing similar development.
The stakes are high. The enterprise spends serious money on remote hot sites. IT owns or leases hot sites with sufficient energy and room for hardware that is identical to the protected data center. IT must not only build the same equipment, it must install and upgrade the operating systems, applications, upgrades and patches every time there is a change in the data center. The advent of virtual machines at hot sites has helped to solve data replication issues but IT must still support the hypervisor servers and the VM’s physical hosts.
The current development phase is placing DR in the cloud with enough scale and performance to replace expensive hot sites. However, the cloud is not a magic wand. Cloud-based DR certainly offers big advantages of scalability and flexibility, and over time saves on CapEx and OpEx over hot sites. But moving DR to the cloud also adds complexity and expense at the beginning stages of the process. Changes on this level require investment, planning, and careful implementation.
Managed Service or DIY?
Companies must also decide whether to go with a service provider or build in-house resources. Both have advantages and disadvantages: SP’s have the expertise and vendor connections to move DR wholesale to the cloud, but add expense and a loss of IT control. In-house is not for the faint of heart but once the initial research and deployment are complete, IT retains control and will save on SP expenses.
Working with a managed service provider or professional services is a good plan for many companies, particularly those who are looking to the benefits of hyperscaled public clouds. At this point in cloud development, optimizing public clouds for application and data protection is not a common skill. Many other companies will choose to work with managed services. Some of these SPs will lease space on the public cloud for their clients; others will provide their own clouds for their customers.
The opposite side of the coin is self-service portals to administrate cloud DR in-house. This level of administration takes sufficient staff and expertise on Amazon or Google cloud offerings. These staff experts will need to understand the basics of cloud architecture including security, availability, location, provisioning, consolidation ratios, and performance patterns.
Remember too that cloud DR choices are not black and white. Match the speed of recovery you buy to your budget and business needs by thinking in terms of cold, warm and hot recovery environments. Cold DR is traditionally vaulted tape; in the cloud it might be Amazon Glacier for very long-term retention. (And incidentally, slow and expensive recovery.) Warm cloud-based DR corresponds to warm cloud DR sites with a pilot light design, which spins up virtual servers when needed. This is a less expensive option than hot failover sites and will provide RTO in hours, not minutes. This service level nevertheless suits many Tier 2 applications, even business-critical ones. Hot DR in the cloud corresponds to nearline tiers, providing RTO within minutes and immediately spinning up virtual servers in the cloud for business continuity. Companies can mix and match these tiers to best suit business needs.
Whatever IT decides, cloud platforms must meet the customer’s overall business goals. Do not merely look at the fact of cloud-based backup and recovery; look at service levels, backup and recovery performance, DRaaS offerings, flexibility, and a tiered computing environment in the cloud. Understand the level of cloud services you need to fit your business goals.
Cloud Backup Vendors
It would be difficult to find a vendor who does not backup to a cloud today. The trick is to match data and application recovery needs to the level of backup service. This is simple to do with SMB where leading vendors include Acronis, Zetta and Barracuda. It is not so simple with vendors who are leading the evolution for the enterprise to hyperscale clouds. Four leading examples of cloud BUR/DR software vendors include Symantec/Veritas, Veeam, Unitrends and Zerto.
Symantec’s Veritas Resiliency Platform is in a hybrid cloud starring NetBackup, which catalogs VM application objects from an image backup. Auto Image Replication (AIR) replicates backup and metadata to remote location for failover.
Veeam Backup & Replication for virtual machines offers Cloud Connect, which sends forever-incremental backups to the cloud. Users can recover data directly from a backup console.
Unitrends Cloud takes Recovery-Series backup appliances and Unitrends Enterprise Backup (UEB) products and extends them into the cloud. Cloud capabilities include backup, archiving, physical and virtual server instant recovery and recovery assurance. CloudHook technology also enables connections to AWS, Google and Rackspace.
For Zerto, cloud replication is its DNA. Zerto Virtual Replication (ZVR) software replicates production workloads to hybrid or public clouds and automates the management process within the cloud. Replicating from the hypervisor instead of storage maintains performance levels over bandwidth that may be less than optimal.
For more, Taneja Group’s BrightTalk channel has an hour-long panel discussion with Symantec, Unitrends, Veeam and Zerto to discuss the ramifications of moving DR to the public cloud.
There will always be a role for private and hybrid clouds but development is increasingly towards large public clouds with their flexible architecture, usage-based cost, and massive scalability/hyperscale. As yet public clouds are not the best solution; they are good solutions and rich investment into continued development is making them better. They key is that the public cloud vendors are actively developing for software-defined data center models for maximum customer scalability and flexible offerings. The model is in its beginning stages but adoption rates are accelerating. At the same time, developing more flexible clouds ad inter-cloud movement means that customers will not be locked-in so easily.
If you are not already using the cloud to meet your BUR/DR goals, start now. Look well beyond simply copying backup to the cloud. Research cloud backup offerings for backup, RTO/RPO, and spinning up servers in the cloud for DR. It’s up to you if you choose an SP or deal directly with a cloud backup vendor. Either way, go with a pilot project for replicating data and for cloud failover.
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