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Disaster recovery plans gain traction in the cloud

Midmarket companies’ disaster recovery plans are heading into the cloud. An informal survey by Forrester Research of its SMB customers showed that 12% to 15% are using online backup services.

“Since [the cloud providers] have the data and system images hosted for you, they will recover you at their site on virtual sites now, for some time,” said Forrester analyst Stephanie Balaouras.

SMBs are backing up desktops, servers and storage in the cloud. This is the first time many of the companies have had any type of disaster recovery plan, for desktops in particular, she said.

Based on a report titled “How the Cloud Will Transform Disaster Recovery Services,” Balaouras outlines some of the benefits and costs of disaster recovery plans in the cloud:

• Pricing is transparent and subscription-based. Pricing includes all the software, infrastructure and services to deliver the solution. You are typically charged per gigabyte of data, per server, or for a combination of the two. The only cost not included is the cost of network connectivity. You pay for only the servers you want to protect.

• Deployment is fast and easy. Most of the recovery configuration can be done online, because there’s no need to reserve identical hardware, set up proprietary links or negotiate your specific SLA. Since the backup is to virtual volumes and servers, you simply have to ensure that the right virtualization layers are in use. However, these services are typically limited to your x86 server environments.

• Oversubscription risk is minimized. In traditional DR services, the provider subscribes several clients to the same IT resources, closely manages the oversubscription ratio and avoids subscribing clients from the same region to the same equipment. But there’s a chance that multiple, simultaneous disasters will be declared, in which case you won’t get access to the IT equipment you’ve spent thousands of dollars a month holding in reserve. While the same can still be true with cloud DR services, the risk is minimized because far more customers can be packed onto the same physical IT infrastructure.

• The penalty for rehearsing is reduced. What good is a DR plan if you don’t rehearse it to make sure it works? Traditional DR service providers recognize this but have to schedule rehearsals, reserve equipment and often be on call for you during the rehearsal. All this prep costs money and is typically above and beyond the DR services contract. With cloud DR services, there’s usually minimal or no prep required, allowing you to rehearse more easily and at much lower cost.

SMBs aren’t giving up all their data. Many are still backing up data locally and using cloud providers as a storage vault. If anything, the cloud is another tool that SMBs can use to cut costs and form the basis of a disaster recovery plan. For more advice on DR strategies, check out our guide on developing a DR plan.

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