Blueprint for cloud-based disaster recovery


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Cloud computing, along with mobile and tablet devices, accounts for much of the high-tech buzz these days. But when it comes to hype, the cloud seems to absorb more than its fair share, which has had the unintended consequence of sometimes overshadowing its real utility.

Although the concept -- and some of the products and services -- of cloud-based disaster recovery (DR) is still nascent, some companies, especially smaller organizations, are discovering and starting to leverage cloud services for DR. It can be an attractive alternative for companies that may be strapped for IT resources because the usage-based cost of cloud services is well suited for DR where the secondary infrastructure is parked and idling most of the time. Having DR sites in the cloud reduces the need for data center space, IT infrastructure and IT resources, which leads to significant cost reductions, enabling smaller companies to deploy disaster recovery options that were previously only found in larger enterprises. “Cloud-based DR moves the discussion from data center space and hardware to one about cloud capacity planning,” said Lauren Whitehouse, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) in Milford, Mass.

But cloud-based disaster recovery isn’t a perfect solution, and its shortcomings and challenges need to be clearly understood before a firm ventures into it. Security usually tops the list of concerns:

  • Is data securely transferred

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  • and stored in the cloud?
  • How are users authenticated?
  • Are passwords the only option or does the cloud provider offer some type of two-factor authentication?
  • Does the cloud provider meet regulatory requirements?

And because clouds are accessed via the Internet, bandwidth requirements also need to be clearly understood. There’s a risk of only planning for bandwidth requirements to move data into the cloud without sufficient analysis of how to make the data accessible when a disaster strikes:

  • Do you have the bandwidth and network capacity to redirect all users to the cloud?
  • If you plan to restore from the cloud to on-premises infrastructure, how long will that restore take?

“If you use cloud-based backups as part of your DR, you need to design your backup sets for recovery,” said Chander Kant, CEO and founder at Zmanda Inc., a provider of cloud backup services and an open-source backup app.

Reliability of the cloud provider, its availability and its ability to serve your users while a disaster is in progress are other key considerations. The choice of a cloud service provider or managed service provider (MSP) that can deliver service within the agreed terms is essential, and while making a wrong choice may not land you in IT hell, it can easily put you in the doghouse or even get you fired.

This was first published in May 2011

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