Today, IT organizations face ever-more demanding service levels and expectations from the business side of the house. And while data continues to grow exponentially, the tough economic climate of the past 5 years has left many IT executives with fewer staff and reduced budgets. Technology like server virtualization has helped IT consolidate hardware and reduce costs, but it also leaves systems, applications and shared storage devices at higher risk. If a single virtual server with a dozen virtual machines (VMs) crashes, or if a large shared storage device fails, how many users will it affect? And what if you had a fire, flood, power outage or other disaster? Is your IT staff prepared?

“Data Protection” really means more than just backup and restore, it includes protecting the core systems and applications that the business depends on every day. In a December 2011 survey performed by Coleman Parkes Research, the majority of companies admit their data is inadequately protected and only 26% are confident enough to say they have a formal and comprehensive disaster recovery plan in place. When asked about the key barriers to better data protection and disaster recovery operations, companies pointed to inadequate training of IT personnel (reported by 62% of US organizations) and lack of budget (54%). So what can IT organizations do?

A Managed Services Provider (MSP) that offers data protection services may be the solution. With an MSP, you can quickly acquire the IT staff, expertise and infrastructure to address your evolving data protection needs, and leverage operating budgets (OPEX) instead of capital expense budgets (CAPEX). These service providers have the experience and knowledge to help you implement, manage and monitor your on-premise data protection and recovery solutions. And they can also provide you with a remote facility and staff to help you execute a DR strategy, from simply storing your data safely offsite to having a complete virtualized failover environment for business continuity. An MSP contract will include a well-defined service level agreement (SLA) to meet your specific needs, and since this type of service is delivered in an “on-demand” manner, you gain agility and flexibility as your needs or business cycles change.

If an MSP solution doesn’t sound appropriate for your organization, you should at least consider using a public cloud service like Microsoft Windows® Azure™ or Amazon Web Services (AWS) for disaster recovery—such as offsite data protection and system availability. Our survey revealed that more than half of U.S. organizations expect their use of the cloud to increase as part of their business continuity strategy over the next year.

A public cloud service makes a great solution for organizations without their own remote facilities or DR site. You might reconsider your current data protection solution if it doesn’t provide some type of cloud support.

Bottom line, if your IT organization is having a tough time meeting data protection demands on your own, an MSP offering or cloud service may be the solution.