Small Business Disaster Recovery in the Cloud - Page 2

By Pam Baker
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Disaster Recovery Options

Cloud-based disaster recovery companies provide a wide range of solutions. Jerry Irvine, CIO at Prescient Solutions, shared the options and their definitions:

Cold disaster recovery sites

Cold solutions are typically the most affordable and cost effective. The small business provides the inventory, operating systems (OS) and application and systems requirements for the set of data defined as crucial to recover quickly. The remaining, less urgent data can be recovered afterwards.

On a daily basis, the SMB performs off-site data replication and backup to the cloud provider to maintain up-to-the-minute data sets. In case of disaster, the disaster recovery provider spins up the system, installs the OS applications and restores the data so that the small business can continue its operations within a defined time frame.

You can separate these cold disaster recovery environments based on application, and because of the flexibility of cloud solutions, different providers with specific application expertise can step in. The advantage of this approach is that you (or your IT person) don't have to wrangle with the complexities of reinstating everything personally. Further, time to recovery is often faster when professionals who know the applications best handle the recovery of that application and data for you. 

Hot disaster recovery sites

You need hot solutions for mission-critical applications that can't be down for any extended time period. Traditionally organizations had to buy their own hardware, pay to house and maintain it in an off-premises location, handle all the data replication and related recovery activities themselves. That increased costs significantly.

Thanks to cloud providers, the expense of hot disaster recovery facilities can now be shared by all the occupants who use it instead of just one company paying for the entire thing. That makes hot disaster recovery much more affordable to the average company.

Additionally, hot solutions can provide increased resources in case of excessive systems peaks. This allows companies with seasonal products to tap the extra capacity they need without having to buy more hardware and software to handle peaks in their business—only to find those things sitting unused for the rest of the year.

Three layers of disaster recovery

Keep in mind that you can, and probably should, use more than one provider or technology for your DR plan. Some are cheaper than others; some are faster in getting you back to business. By using more than one, you have options on speed and cost after a disaster that can make all the difference in how well you rebound in the aftermath.

The best backup systems in the industry today combine three technologies into their disaster recovery solutions: a hybrid storage solution, image-based backups, and virtualization.

A hybrid storage solution keeps all the backup data on the local network as well as in the cloud.  Image-based backups take snapshots of the entire server at once, rather than backing up all the individual files.

"Virtualization converts that backup image into a fully functional ‘virtual' server that people can use while the physical server is rebuilt," says Singleton.  Combining these three technologies lets a company get back up and working (if not at optimal speeds) in a matter of minutes than days.

Disasters hit clouds, too

Don't assume that since you use cloud services such as Google, Microsoft Office 365, or Salesforce, that your data is safe where it is.

"As more SMBs store their data in the cloud, executives neglect to consider that services like Salesforce and Google Apps are also at risk of losing important information in the event of user error, service outages and natural disasters," says Rob May, CEO and co-founder of Backupify.

May acknowledges that cloud disaster recovery is an essential tool for preventing on-premises data loss. However, he believes businesses that rely on cloud-based services, such as Google and Salesforce, should also consider a cloud-to-cloud backup as an extra layer of protection.

What to Look for In a Cloud DR Provider

According to Heinan Landa, CEO of Optimal Networks, a solid disaster recovery plan should include "a full data backup of your email, servers, and workstations every night, file restoration, and off-site storage, plus backup verification and notification for added peace of mind."

Specifically, Landa offered this checklist of features to look for in a cloud DR provider:

  • Full Backup. It should back up your files, your desktops, your laptops, and your servers.
  • Data Restoration. Does it easily restore data and files from a user dashboard?
  • Daily Backup. A comprehensive, automatic backup of your systems should happen every night- with no questions for users to answer and no tapes.
  • Off-site Storage. It should store your data at two separate, highly-secure data centers. Even if you want to keep your current backup solution, this feature provides you with an off-site disaster recovery option.
  • Data Retention. Default is 60 days, but you can customize it to your business needs. Efficient, block-level backup technology minimizes your retention costs.
  • Tapeless Solution. You save money by not having to pay for 21 tapes each year, buy a new tape drive every two years, pay for off-site tape storage, or invest in upgrades for your tape backup software.
  • Backup Verification. Insist on email verification on which backups have been performed and when. In addition, you should receive access to a dashboard from which you can track the backups yourself.

Pam Baker has written for numerous leading publications including, Institutional Investor magazine, CIO.com, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, the NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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This article was originally published on October 10, 2013
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