Cloud services have revolutionized disaster recovery plans for businesses

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Jun 18, 2014 1:30:00 PM

Cloud services have revolutionized disaster recovery plans for businesses

Every business, regardless of its size, industry and location, requires a robust disaster recovery plan. Natural and man-made calamities can and do strike at any time, and any firm that lacks sufficient preparation may be devastated by such events. In many cases, businesses that shutter their doors following a disaster never reopen. A high-quality, well-considered disaster recovery strategy can greatly improve the chances of bouncing back from a serious setback.

Cloud services are critical in this capacity. As Cloud Tweaks contributor Daniel Price recently highlighted, the cloud has revolutionized disaster recovery plans for businesses, enabling firms to remain far more resilient and flexible than legacy solutions ever could.

Physical shortcomings
Price noted that cloud services, and specifically server virtualization, have enabled companies to move away from tape- and disk-based data backup, which was previously the de facto method of preserving information in the event of a serious disaster.

As Price explained, both tape backup and disk backup, while potentially sufficient, have significant limitations. For one thing, the process of setting up such a backup system can be complex and time-consuming. The writer also noted that it is often difficult, if not impossible, to achieve complete data recovery when using such methods. Lastly, Price pointed out that disks and tapes are not inherently scalable and, due to their physical nature, pose portability and security risks. The disks or tapes must be safely transported to an off-site location that will hopefully remain protected in the event that the business's main location is affected by a serious disaster.

This speaks to the single biggest problem with legacy disaster recovery solutions: the human factor. In order to serve deliver disaster recovery capabilities, tapes and disks depend entirely on employee actions. Someone must physically backup the data onto these devices, then transport the devices to a secure location and manage all backup files to ensure they can be located in the event of a disaster. If businesses do not engage in these backup processes frequently enough, then the amount of data lost in the event of a catastrophe will be great. Yet if employees are responsible for these activities, it is all but certain that errors in judgment or other mishaps will enter the picture, compromising the effectiveness of the disaster recovery strategy as a whole.

Even worse, mishandled tapes or disks can lead to data breaches, which can inflict even more damage on companies than the disasters themselves. There are countless news stories of such items being lost or stolen while in transit between facilities, and the consequences can range from fines and similar sanctions to a reduced competitive advantage.

Virtualization benefits
Cloud services enable businesses to avoid these issues, as Price explained.

"By using virtualization the entire server - including the operating system, applications, patches and data - is encapsulated into a single software bundle or virtual server," Price wrote. "This entire virtual server can be copied or backed up to an offsite data center and launched on a virtual host in a matter of minutes."

As a result, cloud computing can deliver a much faster recovery for businesses, as organizations do not need to physically transport items in order to regain access to corporate data. Perhaps even more importantly, this data can be delivered to multiple locations simultaneously, thereby further reducing the recovery time for organizations with multiple affected branches or offices.

Best of all, cloud-based disaster recovery services can be set up to automatically upload data to off-site cloud servers on a weekly, daily or even hourly basis. As a result, information is protected from disaster far more frequently than was previously possible and without the need for any human action.

Topics: Cloud and Data