Disaster recovery options for smaller companies

The growing number of natural disasters and the rise in data loss has increased the significance of having an effective disaster recovery (DR) strategy. Thankfully new capabilities are helping smaller companies keep pace.  Here's a look at the prominent trends shaping disaster recovery today:

* Cloud Services: As the adoption of cloud services increases, enterprises are realizing the cloud can become part of their disaster recovery plan. Instead of buying dedicated resources in case of a disaster, cloud computing allows companies to pay for long-term data storage on a pay-per-use basis, and to only pay for servers if they have a need to run them for an actual disaster or test.

Cloud-based disaster recovery gives businesses the potential for a lower cost, faster and more flexible recovery solution for backing up data. Cloud based DR solutions can provide small- to medium-sized businesses with enterprise level DR capability at a reasonable cost. At minimum, smaller companies can store critical data sets in the cloud so that in the event of a disaster it has the ability to recover critical business systems quickly. Prior to cloud based solutions most DR strategies for these organizations were either cost prohibitive or largely adhoc. With the advances in cloud solutions, smaller organizations can implement DR strategies which provide enterprise class protection.

* Virtualization: Server virtualization has become a key component of the disaster recovery plan for many businesses because it enables greater flexibility with computing resources and reduces downtime. Virtualization allows businesses the potential of creating an image of an entire data center that can be quickly activated when needed, giving companies a faster recovery time at a relatively low cost.

As more companies take to virtualization, disaster recovery as a process becomes easier to deploy, especially with fast and utilitarian replication software or regular cloud-based or physical backups. Server virtualization combined with a remote copy of critical data can ensure faster recovery times objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO) that are aligned to business requirements. SMB sized organizations can leverage cloud based services for both data backup and servers to create a viable DR solution for critical business systems without huge expense.  

* Mobile Connectivity: In terms of disaster recovery, the growing use of mobile devices in the workplace facilitates business continuity when disaster strikes because mobile devices enable people to work remotely and stay connected in the event of a disaster. This keeps business operations functioning and minimizes downtime.

However, as mobility trends gain further traction, it is important for a company to remember to back up employees' mobile devices as well. When disaster strikes, it will likely be mobility that helps a business quickly get back to work. The advances in mobile technologies such as smartphones and tablets are growing at a phenomenal pace as is the use of these devices for collaboration and social networking. In a disaster situation users can leverage these devices to stay connected and productive.

* Social networking: Like mobile devices, social networking provides another avenue for people, internal or external to the organization, to stay in contact during or after a disaster. Social media can be leveraged as an alternate medium to provide effective, vital crisis management in a disaster, improving emergency communications and reducing the risk of dependency on more traditional methods such as email and cellular telecommunications.

* Managed disaster recovery: Organizations are realizing they cannot rely solely on in-house IT staff to deliver a repeatable recovery response in a crisis. As a result, there is a growing consensus that disaster recovery should be managed and delivered by third party providers or professionals who are entirely focused on disaster recovery. There has been an increasing focus on managed solutions, delivered on behalf of an organization, which provide highly available, automated DR systems with data replication for delivering proven recovery.

Most organizations have traditionally believed that having data backed up and stored offsite is sufficient to ensure data recovery and maintenance of business operations. Well executed backup and restore solutions do not guarantee a well-defined disaster recovery plan however. Disaster recovery solutions require alignment to business risk and regular testing neither of which have typically been priorities in backup solutions. In recent years, events such as the 9/11 attacks and the tsunami in Japan have caused many organizations to reassess their overall data protection strategies for data backup and recovery, disaster recovery and business continuity as well as long-term retention and security of their data.

* Switch from tape-based to electronic-based vaulting: Many organizations are redesigning their DR solutions to leverage more data replication and reduce the dependency on backups as the primary DR strategy for recovery. The higher latency associated with some of the traditional recovery solutions such as tape back-up has resulted in the adoption of more flexible and cost-effective technologies such as software replication. Many organizations have migrated from tape based DR solutions to disk based ones and from tape based vaulting to electronic based vaulting such as software replication, continuous data protection, backup to remote libraries, etc.  

* Recovery point objectives. RPO should align to targets defined in the DR plan, particularly for business-critical applications and data stores.  Zero data loss scenarios may some combination of the above mentioned data protection strategies. In a DR plan, the RPO and the RTO (recovery time objectives) need to be defined based on business need and criticality. The DR plan should also define what systems need to be in place (and where they should be located) to get the key business applications up and running again.  Often, critical system and application RTOs are shorter than the typical 24-hour interval associated with daily backups, so other data protection technologies and strategies such as remote replication or mirroring, snapshots or point in time copies, or continuous data protection technologies may need to be implemented.

Finally the cost of DR solutions needs to be carefully balanced against the business risk and cost of downtime. To address this challenge, many businesses are reviewing cloud-based backup and storage options for disaster recovery. With the need to protect data and maintain continuity of business operations remaining high for organizations worldwide, ISG expects these disaster recovery trends described above to accelerate over the next few years.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

Tags disaster recoveryConfiguration / maintenanceapplicationshardware systemssoftwareData Center

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