Cloud can be an attractive alternative for companies, especially SMBs are discovering and starting to leverage cloud services for DR. It can be an attractive alternative for companies that my be strapped for IT resources because the usage-based cost of cloud services is well suited for DR where the secondary infrastructure is parked and idling most of the time.
Having DR sites in the cloud reduces the need for data center space, IT infrastructure and IT resources, which leads to significant cost reductions, enabling smaller companies to deploy disaster recovery options that were previously only found in larger enterprises.
But disaster recovery in the cloud isn’t a perfect solution, and its shortcomings and challenges need to be clearly understood before a firm ventures into it. Security usually tops the list of concerns:
-Is data securely transferred and stored in the cloud?
-How are users authenticated?
-Are passwords the only option or does the cloud provider offer some type of two-factor authentication?
-Does the cloud provider meet regulatory requirements?
And because clouds are accessed via the Internet, bandwidth requirements also need to be clearly understood. There’s a risk of only planning for bandwidth requirements to move data into the cloud without sufficient analysis of how to make the data accessible when a disaster strikes:
-Do you have the bandwidth and network capacity to redirect all users to the cloud?
-If you plan to restore from the cloud to on-premises infrastructure, how long will that restore take?
Reliability of the cloud provider, its availability and its ability to serve your users while a disaster is in progress are other key considerations.
The challenging aspect of using cloud-based backups for disaster recovery is the recovery. With bandwidth limited and possibly terabytes of data to be recovered, getting data restored back on-premises within defined RTOs can be challenging. Some cloud backup service providers offer an option to restore data to disks, which are then sent to the customer for local on-premises recovery. Another option is a large on-premises cache of recent backups that can be used for local restores.
We should firmly believe that backups need to be local and from there sent into the cloud; in other words, the backup in the cloud becomes your secondary off-site backup.
On the other hand, depending on the data to be restored, features like compression and, more importantly, data dedupe can make restores from data in the cloud to on-premises infrastructure a viable option.
The cloud greatly extends disaster recovery options, yields significant cost savings, and enables DR methods in SMBs that were previously only possible in larger organizations. It does not, however, change the DR fundamentals of having to devise a solid disaster recovery plan, testing it periodically, and having users trained and prepared appropriately.