Is Disaster Recovery in the Cloud Right for You?

May 31, 2011

Joe Long

If you think the only way to manage your business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) program properly means you have to replicate your physical data center, it may be time to explore other options. So many professionals in IT, as well as their C-suite counterparts, are firmly convinced that having a solid BC/DR strategy means giant capital expenditures and the addition of redundant physical servers to your back room.

In fact, today, IT pros are increasingly warming to the idea of disaster recovery as a service managed in the cloud. Disaster recovery in the cloud is not the answer for every business in every situation, but today’s cloud offerings can give many customers a value-priced tool with which to meet their recovery point and recovery time objectives.

The first step is to determine if your company’s data is even a candidate for a BC/DR in the cloud solution. If it turns out that your company is a candidate for BC/DR in the cloud, there are several good reasons to move forward with a full-scale evaluation of the advantages:

Cost - Imagine for a moment that BC/DR in the cloud is similar to the way you work with your residential electric company. You pay a small monthly fee for connecting your home to the utility, and then you pay for actual power usage. If you don’t draw any electricity, the small monthly fee remains; if you turn on your pool pump and your refrigerator and your lights, costs are added incrementally as you use increasingly more power.

That’s a vastly different model than the way outsourced BC/DR services have traditionally been handled, where you pay a fee commensurate with the amount of service you might need in the event of a disaster -- whether or not you ever use it. Which sounds more cost effective?

Flexibility - A great analogy here is to compare traditional outsourced BC/DR services to your cell phone provider. To upgrade your cell phone or change your coverage model, you often have to sign up for another two years or more on a new service contract. Expanding your BC/DR service levels through the cloud gives you the freedom to reserve more or less space in a shared “container” system without dramatically impacting cost, without having to renegotiate service level agreements (SLAs), and without adding new multi-year commitments.

If you’re doing BC/DR in your own data center, or outsourcing to a third party who has reserved dedicated systems for your use only, the cost can be astronomical by comparison. In the cloud, with a shared container model, you simply reserve the space you need available to you, and make changes as your business needs dictate, usually at a very minimal cost, if any, for those changes.

Security - Today’s servers are designed for multi-tenancy and can support different customers based on a variety of security settings, including advanced encryption methodologies to ensure the security of data in transit as well as at rest. As a result, data stored in the cloud is widely considered to be equally secure to information stored in a redundant local data center.

Design - If you have your own in-house data center, you can design your BC/DR plan and then redesign it to meet changing needs, and you can conduct tests at random. Often, however, with traditional outsourced BC/DR providers, the ability to customize your RPOs, RTOs, and to conduct multiple tests throughout the year is sharply curtailed according to the parameters of your SLA. But typical BC/DR in the cloud solutions offer users an unrivaled combination of price-performance and custom design options.

Managed Recovery - Does your current BC/DR strategy give you a “SWAT team" of IT professionals who can jump into action to kick-start your failover when disaster strikes? This is yet another reason to consider BC/DR in the cloud. Cloud providers are accustomed to running and managing their own systems, and when you are in crisis mode, they are often able to conduct the initial restore on the customer’s behalf, getting you up and running that much faster.

While BC/BC/DR in the cloud may not be right for every company, it is important to realize that the cloud offers an economical alternative to physical redundancies in house. And even going through the exercise to assess whether or not BC/DR in the cloud works for you is a great way to open conversations with CEOs, CFOs and department heads throughout your organization to get everyone talking about the level of BC/DR planning and protection your company needs.

Joe Long is the director of business continuity and storage solutions for Logicalis, an international provider of integrated information and communications technology (ICT) solutions and services based in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

Tags: Cloud, budgets, disaster recovery, business continuity, IT credibility,

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