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Should Cloud Be Part of Your Backup and Disaster Recovery Plan?

How Cloud enables a fast, agile and cost-effective recovery process

Recent times have witnessed a huge shift in paradigm of data storage for backup and recovery. As the legendary Steve Jobs said, "The truth lies in the Cloud" - the introduction of the Cloud has enabled the fast and agile data recovery process which is can be more efficient, flexible and cost-effective than restoring data or systems from physical drives or tapes, as is the standard practice.

Cloud backup is the new approach to data storage and backup which allows the users to store a copy of the data on an offsite server - accessible via the network. The network that hosts the server may be private or a public one, and is often managed by some third-party service provider. Therefore, the provision of cloud solution for the data recovery services is a flourishing business market whereby the service provider charges the users in exchange for server access, storage space and bandwidth, etc.

The online backup systems typically are schedule-based; however continual backup is a possibility. Depending on the requirements of the system and application, the backup is updated at preset intermittent levels; with the aim of efficient time and bandwidth utilization. The popularity of the Cloud backup (or managed backup service) business lies in the convenience it offers. The cost is reduced due to elimination of physical resources such as hard disks from the scenario with the added benefit of the automatic execution of the backup.

Cloud-based disaster recovery are a highly viable and useful approach for ensuring business continuity.  Using a completely virtualized environment and techniques such as replicated data, services such as LAN Doctors, Inc., a New Jersey-based managed backup service was able to provide 100% uptime when one of their largest clients - a major processor of insurance claims, was hit by a hurricane, lost internet connectivity - and was unable to process claims.

This kind of near-realtime "off-site" disaster recovery capability is now available to organizations of all sizes - not just those large enough to afford redundant data centers with high speed network connections.

The use of Cloud for backup and disaster recovery will grow - the increase in demand of the cloud storage is due mainly to the exponential increase in the more critical data amounts of the organizations over time. Increasingly, organizations are replicating not only data - but entire virtual systems to the Cloud.  Adding to the Cloud's advantages is the reduced price, flexibility of repeated testing and the non-rigid structure of the Cloud which gives you full opportunity to scale up or down as per your requirements.  The flexibility to restore from physical to Cloud-based virtual machine adds to the attraction.

Why Cloud Is Better
The most common traditional backup mechanism used is to store the data backup offsite.  For small business owners, sometimes that means putting a tape or disk drive in the computer bag and bringing it home.  For others, tapes/disks are sent overnight to a secure location. The most common problems with this approach are that either the data is not being stored offsite (due to human or procedural error), or else the data and systems are not being backed up frequently enough.  Furthermore, when a recovery is necessary, the media typically need to be transported back on-site.  If the data backup is stored locally, then there is the chance of a regional problem impacting the ability to recover. In retrospect, cloud offers a complete regionally-immune mechanism for online data recovery by creating a backup online at a remote site and enabling prompt data recovery when required.  Backups can be done as often as required.

Other Cloud-based recovery services include fail-over servers. In this scenario, in the event of server failure, a virtualized server and all the data can be spun up - while the failed server is recovered.

The Cloud provides significant advantages to many organizations - it enables a full data recovery mechanism by using backups, fail-over servers and a storage site remotely placed so as to keep it safe from the local or regional factors.  Meanwhile, the organizations avoid the cost and effort associated with maintaining all that backup infrastructure.

The large corporations - those which can afford redundant and remote compute capacity, and typically already have sophisticated recovery mechanisms running, can benefit by leveraging the Cloud where appropriate - and hence experience even better results than before. Of course, for a large organization to exercise and experience benefits of Cloud to its full in this area, it would need to consider the architecture and applications of their systems and the kind of technology deployed.

Or Is It?
The biggest concern for people and enterprises when it comes to the Cloud is the security of their data and the issue of their privacy.  Data from IDC show that 93 percent of US companies are backing up at least some data to the Cloud; whereas that number falls to about 63% in Western Europe and even further (57%) in Asia-Pacific region.  The biggest reason European and Asia-Pacific organizations give for not leveraging Cloud for backup?  Security.

There can also be latency issues in dealing with effectively streaming large amounts of data to the Cloud - versus (for example) having a data storage appliance with built-in deduplication and data compression.

Cloud or Local?  The Verdict
The answer is clearly "it depends".  Backup should never be treated as a "one-size fits all" thing.  Your backup and recovery mechanisms need to be matched to your particular technological and business needs.  There's simply no substitute for knowing your own requirements, the capability of various technologies, and carrying out a thorough evaluation.  Don't be surprised if you end up with both Cloud and local - some systems simply require local backup (either for business, regulatory or technological reasons).

With the average size of an organization's data growing at 40% a year, one thing is certain -  there is a lot of backing up that needs to get done, both locally and on the Cloud.

More Stories By Hollis Tibbetts

Hollis Tibbetts, or @SoftwareHollis as his 50,000+ followers know him on Twitter, is listed on various “top 100 expert lists” for a variety of topics – ranging from Cloud to Technology Marketing, Hollis is by day Evangelist & Software Technology Director at Dell Software. By night and weekends he is a commentator, speaker and all-round communicator about Software, Data and Cloud in their myriad aspects. You can also reach Hollis on LinkedIn – linkedin.com/in/SoftwareHollis. His latest online venture is OnlineBackupNews - a free reference site to help organizations protect their data, applications and systems from threats. Every year IT Downtime Costs $26.5 Billion In Lost Revenue. Even with such high costs, 56% of enterprises in North America and 30% in Europe don’t have a good disaster recovery plan. Online Backup News aims to make sure you all have the news and tips needed to keep your IT Costs down and your information safe by providing best practices, technology insights, strategies, real-world examples and various tips and techniques from a variety of industry experts.

Hollis is a regularly featured blogger at ebizQ, a venue focused on enterprise technologies, with over 100,000 subscribers. He is also an author on Social Media Today "The World's Best Thinkers on Social Media", and maintains a blog focused on protecting data: Online Backup News.
He tweets actively as @SoftwareHollis

Additional information is available at HollisTibbetts.com

All opinions expressed in the author's articles are his own personal opinions vs. those of his employer.