Disaster Recovery For Small Business - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell
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A Safer Disaster Recovery Alternative

For small firms that want more control or that can’t tolerate the perceived risk, there is a relatively low-cost alternative.

Colocation providers offer space in secure data centers where companies can install duplicate servers running key applications. They can then connect to the remote site over a leased or Internet connection and use software similar to i365’s to replicate data from onsite servers to the backup servers at the remote colocation site.

In the event of a disaster, they can fairly quickly fail over some or all of their computer operations to the colocation site.

Even very small companies with little or no IT staff can take advantage of this approach by paying the colocation provider for set-up, management and maintenance services, Dines said.

“SMBs, even those on the smaller side, are bringing disaster recovery back in-house – not at as fast a clip as enterprises, but this is still a feasible option for small firms.”

Colocation providers with sites across the country include Savvis, Equinix, CoreSite and Internap Network Services.

Which Disaster Recovery Solution?

Which of the disaster recovery solutions should you choose? According to both Dines and Jaworski, it will depend on a variety of factors and could be a mix, especially if you have different classes of data that require varying levels of protection.

The basic questions to ask: How critical are your data and applications? How quickly do you need to be able to recover from an outage? How much can you afford to pay?

Dines was reluctant to say that some companies have less need for disaster recovery than others. “Honestly, it’s really important for all businesses,” she said. But it’s clear some do have greater need.

Most companies in high-transaction businesses such as online order entry can't tolerate much, if any, downtime. If those systems do go down, you need to recover them quickly. This is why financial services firms, for example, have been early adopters of sophisticated disaster recovery solutions.

One of the first steps in developing a disaster recovery plan is to calculate the cost of down time, Dines said. “Companies are often amazed at how high the cost is. It helps to know so they can build a business case for disaster recovery.”

The Price for Peace of Mind

Jaworski cites data from Gartner, the consulting-analyst firm, suggesting that the cost for enterprise-grade online data backup runs between $1 and $2 per gigabyte per month. But low-end providers such as Mozy offer it for as little as 50 cents per gigabyte, Dines said.

Onsite appliances such as i365’s EVault Plug-n-Protect products start at about $2,000, Jaworski said.

If your business can tolerate being back up and running within 48 hours, then online server protection and recovery services start at about $250 a month per server. Shortening the recovery to within 24 hours raises the price to $400. Dines said such services can be had for as little as $160 a month per server.

A Radical Disaster Recovery Option

An even lower-cost but more-radical option: move all your operations to the cloud, using software-as-a-service (SaaS) products such as Google Apps instead of Microsoft Office or Exchange. There are products in most major business application categories available as SaaS offerings.

With cloud computing, your data and applications are always available over the Internet from wherever you are, even if you have to work out of hotel room after a disaster.

An all-cloud strategy doesn’t entirely eliminate data protection and disaster recovery concerns. You have to be sure the provider keeps your data in more than one place and has application servers available in more than one place. Otherwise you won’t be protected if the company’s facilities go down.

“Make no assumptions,” Dines warned. “But if small businesses do their due diligence and make sure the cloud providers keep multiple copies of data, then, yes, that does substantially reduce disaster recovery concerns.”

Gerry Blackwell is a freelance technology writer based in London, Canada. Read his blog, AfterByte

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This article was originally published on May 25, 2010
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