Disaster recovery using the cloud

September 30, 2013 in Cloud

Disaster recovery (DR) using cloud-based services, such as data backup and failover servers, can be a faster alternative to on-premise DR. Keep in mind your DR environment — the size of your company, its budget, the amount of data, and the criticality of your applications and settings should drive your plan.

The Business Case for Cloud DR

It’s important to understand your DR environment and the expectations in the event of a disaster. If your business cannot accept any downtime, then you’ll also need to consider what you’re backing up—file-based backup or image-based backup. Whether on premise or in the cloud, file-based backup gives you granular control over what files to back up. It could also reduce DR costs compared to image-based back up, which includes OS, applications, settings and configurations — basically recreating the server. Image-based backup could cost more to build in the redundancy needed, but serves as an insurance policy against downtime.

Think of it this way: your email server goes down. You can recover the data, but don’t have your email application. That means you’re still down. Recovering data is good, but recovering data and being able to use it is even better. That may not be an issue for your business, depending on the criticality of the application, but it should be addressed in your DR plan.

Benefits of Cloud-Based DR

For many mid-sized businesses, cloud-based backups – including data and server virtualization – are the only affordable means of protecting the business in the event of a disaster. There are several clear benefits for a cloud-based DR system:

  • There’s no upfront capital expense for a DR infrastructure.
  • Using a cloud service provider, the pay-as-you-go approach allows you to better predict your DR costs — and it can also scale up or back as the business dictates.
  • Often cloud-based services provide greater efficiencies than doing it yourself.
  • Testing is often conducted by service providers.

Drawbacks of Cloud-Based DR

Although security in the cloud remains one of the key issues, network bandwidth runs a close second. For most data centers, bandwidth usually isn’t an issue; however it should be a consideration for smaller sites where cloud synching may occur.

  • Applying a “set it and forget it” DR plan will fail to address your changing business needs. You don’t want to wait for disaster to strike before revisiting your DR plan.
  • Service level agreements that come with termination fees or other fees could add up to significant amounts. Read the fine print.
  • Security is a major concern for many IT teams when it comes to cloud storage. While it’s important to view your provider’s security policies, which are often based on international standards, you may want to encrypt your data before backing it up.
  • Consider the retention time for backups, particularly in regulated industries. That may tie you to your back-up provider for a period of time. Also, make sure you know how to obtain your data if the provider goes out of business.

The cloud definitely plays an important role in disaster recovery, but is only as effective as the DR plan and the business requirements. Know the benefits and drawbacks of cloud-based backup as it relates to your business needs and then seek the right cloud-based solution.

Have you tested a disaster recovery plan using cloud providers? Share some insight in the comment section!