Few IT or business professionals would argue over the value of a well-constructed disaster recovery plan, with so many businesses and organizations depend on data systems for their most basic business functions. Savvy business owners know that it is no longer only a matter of protecting your data, but also of saving your business. Clients and customers depend on the availability of your business systems and applications, and any amount of downtime is dangerous to your business’s reputation – as well as to your business itself. And yet, only one out of four companies is prepared for system failures, whether due to natural disasters or malicious attack, server crashes or power outages.
Much has been said and written about disaster recovery but it is not well understood by the people who have to fund or implement it. Setting up a disaster recovery plan using in-house resources can be both costly and time-consuming, and as a result, many organizations have been looking at cloud-based solutions available through cloud service providers (CSPs) in order to simplify the complex process of creating, implementing, testing, and maintaining a disaster recovery plan. But even there, most information is provided by CSPs, leaving organizations to sort through competing claims to find the answer that’s right for them.
As a result, too many departments are paralyzed by contradictory information and myths that circulate around disaster recovery, and particularly about cloud-based disaster recovery. In this article, we’ll look at the top ten myths surrounding cloud-based disaster recovery and understand the truth behind them.
What is cloud-based disaster recovery?
Disaster recovery, through the cloud or otherwise, is an end-to-end, comprehensive process for minimizing interruptions caused by system failure due to any cause, from natural disasters to malicious attacks. Recovery is accomplished by setting up, in advance, a redundant system intended to speed recovery of business-critical data and applications. In cloud-based disaster recovery, the redundant site is a virtual site, using standard cloud technology such as cluster computing, to build a virtual machine that holds the recovery bundle. Restoration can occur in minutes, as opposed to the hours that can lapse when depending on an in-house data center to reload server and application software onto physical machines – a problem is exacerbated when that data center has been affected by the same events that caused the system to fail, to begin with. The analyst firm Enterprise Strategy Group(ESG) found that companies ranked the principle factors that led them to choose a cloud-based solution for their data recovery plan as follows:
Remote data storage for a secure data recovery source location
More cost-effective than in-house solutions
Staying state-of-the-art by leveraging the CSP’s expertise
Commitment of CSPs to provide expert support
As-a-service model allows elimination of dedicated backup hardware
Better security than in-house security
Reduced costs for better infrastructure than can be maintained in-house
Reduced costs for IT personnel, particularly security specialists
Myths of cloud-based disaster recovery:
So what are the myths that stop organizations from pursuing cloud-based solutions? Mostly, organizations cite one or more of the following:
Myth #1: CLOUD-BASED STORAGE AND CLOUD-BASED DISASTER RECOVERY ARE THE SAME:
While both of these approaches take advantage of cloud technology, there is a key difference: cloud-based data storage provides safe, accessible, even backed-up file storage, while cloud-based disaster recovery actually lets you run full systems in the cloud using virtualization. Cloud-based storage includes back-up, storage and recovery functions that are purchased. Cloud-based disaster recovery as a service offers multiple facets, including the ability to access files, run applications, and even run their system itself in the cloud. The cloud provides a platform with the resources of an on-demand data center that has optimized its ability to ensure business continuity by preventing or minimizing system downtime by taking advantage of cloud technology. All that acknowledged disaster recovery by its nature includes a backup function, an important benefit of cloud-based disaster recovery solutions.
Myth #2 – CLOUD DISASTER RECOVERY IS FOR DISASTERS:
The term “Disaster Recovery” (DR) can be somewhat confusing for business leaders and fails to cover the scope of issues that can benefit from cloud-based backup-as-a-service. When business leaders and stakeholders hear a term like “disaster” they think in terms of floods, wars, and perhaps large-scale hacking attacks, but corrupted and deleted files and emails, non-working applications, and the occasional server or key machine crash can still have an impact on normal operations. In fact, more than 90% of service outages occur for different reasons other than natural disasters. Of all causes, human error is the most commonly to blame for data loss and server outage. And finally, a small number of system failures are caused by malicious attacks. Even though your organization is not in a flood zone, hurricane zone, or tornado zone; and even though the likelihood of an earthquake or war is small, even smaller service outages can have a negative impact on your organization, especially customer-facing and business-critical systems.
Myth #3: DOWNTIME DOESN’T COST SO MUCH THAT WE NEED TO INVEST MONEY IN PREVENTING IT:
It is believed that Downtime can cost businesses an average of $1,400 to $8,000 per minute! Companies lose an average of $84,000 for every hour of downtime. Businesses take an average of 18.5 hours to recover after a disaster, which is a very long time for systems to be inaccessible to customers and internally, for business-critical operations.
Myth #4: OUR ORGANIZATION IS NOT THAT COMPLICATED, AND WE CAN BE ONLINE QUICKLY AFTER A DISASTER WITHOUT A FORMAL DISASTER RECOVERY SOLUTION:
Although many people believe that most businesses recover fairly quickly after a service or other failure, cloud-based disaster recovery solutions allow organizations to be back online three times faster and to recover a greater percentage of at-risk data than informal approaches to data recovery. In addition, according to FEMA, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, 40% of businesses do not revive after a disaster and another 25% fail within one year. Interruption of service, especially for an extended period due to natural disasters or very effective malicious attacks, should be taken seriously by every organization that depends on their online services for internal or customer-facing operations.
Myth #5: WE’LL HAVE TO SIGN A LENGTHY CONTRACT IN ORDER TO SET UP A DISASTER RECOVERY OPTION WITH A PROVIDER:
Shopping around should provide you with plenty of options, and for your organization’s first engagement with a CSP providing recovery services, stay away from the ones that demand lengthy contracts! You will find cloud-based disaster recovery solutions in a variety of term lengths, from 1-month trials to 3-year subscriptions. There are enough cloud disaster recovery service providers out there that you can shop around until you find one that has the term that is right for you.
Myth #6: CLOUD-BASED DISASTER RECOVERY SOLUTIONS OPERATE MAINLY IN THE BACKGROUND AND OFFER LITTLE IN THE WAY OF USER CONTROL:
Disaster recovery solutions, integrated as they necessarily are with backup functions, are much more than a black box to the user. Many services today offer customer service dashboards to allow your IT team, along with the CSP’s personnel, to track consumption, usage, and storage capacity in real-time, ensuring close oversight and prompt alerts in case of unusual activity. Log reporting on critical job tasks, including access to applications and backup & restore commands, can be recorded and archived to provide a log that users can examine. Moving storage, applications, and systems to the cloud does not take them out of your organization’s control – choose a CSP that gives you administrative access to all your data functions, just as if you were operating a data center on-site.
Myth #7: DATA BACKUP AND RESTORATION TAKES A LONG TIME, ESPECIALLY IF BANDWIDTH IS IMPAIRED:
If your organization is using a disaster recovery as a service solution, your CSP is responsible for ensuring that your servers are automatically backed up to the virtual servers. All corporate applications, systems, and business-critical or sensitive data will be stored in a secure and virtual location, separate from your premises. In most cases, the full system with all data and applications are bundled together and can be recovered quickly in case of disasters and other system failures. Since it can take a full twenty-four hours to restore the main server, with each additional server taking at least another hour if they were all in a physical location, the restore time of as little as 15 minutes offered by the cloud is an unquestionable favorite. The faster the restoration, the less money is lost in downtime.
Myth #8: CLOUD-BASED DISASTER RECOVERY IS EXPENSIVE:
All expenses are hard to justify, and the initial investment in cloud restoration technology can be daunting at first. However, a full cost workup should be done comparing it to in-house infrastructure, software, personnel, maintenance, and full-time support expenditures, before evaluating cloud restoration service costs. Comparatively, cloud-based solutions are cost winners – and it’s important to remain focused on the long-term benefits. Investing in neither is an unjustifiable risk, and once your backup and disaster recovery solutions are in place, your data, applications, and system are protected, applications remain accessible to your internal and external users, and full restoration from the cloud is quick and barely noticeable.
Myth #9: You Can Do It Yourself:
Many companies find that for their particular needs, they prefer the idea of “do-it-yourself”. Using low-cost options and the capitalizing on the popularity of open source software catering to dozens of needs including backup and restore systems, technologists in your organization can create systems of a fair bit of complexity. Often organizations feel this also allows them to choose the best of each different specialty of the complex of software functions that allow backup, disaster recovery, and accompanying tracking and logging. However, these systems tend to be the province of the specialist who created them, and eventually become layered with homemade code and attempts to consolidate them. The result is a conglomeration of unintegrated specialty systems understood by few people in the organization. Not only are systems of different origin integrated with varying degrees of success, but organizations that do it themselves lack the ability to remain state-of-the-art even if they are able to start that way. More often, such homegrown disaster recovery efforts lack the business priority that allows proper investment in infrastructure and expertise, and it’s hard to justify the costs against other mission-critical projects. And in the end, the organization can rarely respond effectively if a disaster or loss is experienced, whereas investment in a cloud-based disaster recovery service provider is a known cost with known success. Failures do happen and a home-made, partly-funded disaster recovery plan will end up costing more than expected – not only if and when it fails, but in IT department time and efforts, when their time is best spent on services that directly support their business or organization.
Myth #10: Cloud BACKUP AND DISASTER RECOVERY solutions ARE not secure:
Like any popular technology from the Internet to cell phones, there are media reports of hackers taking advantage of the latest and greatest – and most popular – technologies. Cloud repositories do seem to present an appealing target to hackers with the amount of information that is stored there, and in its early days, the cloud was, in fact, the target of attacks. But now, CSPs have improved their security technology, and use a high level of authentication and encryption, and even among the experts, they have been able to raise the confidence level among critics and users. Your organization should always perform its due diligence in ensuring your CSP is reputable and well-resourced before you employ them, but these days cloud-based backup and disaster recovery vendors employ a grade of security that is often superior to what most organizations would have in an internal IT department.
The wisdom of using cloud-based backup and disaster recovery is clear when looking at restoration times and the ease of implementing disaster recovery plans, which by their nature require a large investment when they are done in-house. The hardest part to accept is the cost, but the cost is less and the result is far more effective than that which would be achieved by in-house attempts by most organizations. Disasters are potentially very expensive, while disaster recovery planning, including the cost of the CSP, is reasonable. Find a plan that suits your organization, and which can accommodate your organization’s type and amount of data, as well as its application usage and system requirements. When evaluating not only the initial investment, but the total cost of ownership of backup & restore systems, including expertise, full-time support, disaster coverage, and most businesses will find outsourcing this service to a CSP is a winning approach.