Today, some organizations already use high availability solutions like duplex servers, failover clustering, RAID, host-based replication and high availability software, SAN replication and continuous data protection (CDP) in the data center for their critical systems, applications and data. These solutions do protect against unplanned outages and data loss, but do not provide a complete disaster recovery strategy-especially when you lose your local IT infrastructure due to fire, flood, or other disaster.  To meet today’s demanding business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) goals, IT organizations need to have a remote location, data center or other facility to use for redundant systems and offsite data protection.

 

But many businesses and non-profit organizations don’t have a remote site to use, and those that do face ever-increasing costs for facilities, staffing and IT resources.  Enter cloud computing.

 

“The Cloud” is a hot topic and using cloud resources can provide all you need for business continuity and disaster recovery planning. Even if you do have a remote site to use, the cloud can make an IT organization more agile and flexible as you can add or remove resources and staff as needed, and typically pay only for what you use-helping maximize budgets. The cloud also offers businesses and non-profits a way to convert capital expenditures (CAPEX) to operational expenditures (OPEX) and helps IT better manage budgets overall, as all expenses are known in advance.

 

Today, most IT organizations are currently using the cloud for offsite data and backup copying and archiving for offsite disaster recovery purposes, but the cloud can be the target for real-time replication and high availability solutions too-helping minimize system downtime and data loss. The key is that after the initial synchronization of your production server and replica/failover server in the cloud, only the small changes and additions are replicated across the WAN, so performance is not impacted the way it would be if you tried to back up a large volume or database in real time across the WAN. Then, if you’re using a high availability software solution, at the first sign of server or application issue, your workloads are redirected to the replica/failover server in the cloud and users are automatically redirected. Clustering solutions are also an option, but they may or may not have cloud connectors or may be limited to local deployment as they can’t support remote servers. And clustering typically requires a separate data replication or mirroring solution to help eliminate shared storage as a single point of failure.

 

Even distributed applications like Microsoft SharePoint and others that are deployed across a server farm with different components on each server can be protected.  You can even set the system so that if only one component server fails (such as the database, application or web front end), all the servers in the farm are redirected together so all the “temporary” production servers reside together in the cloud, helping improve application performance.

 

In addition to offering a fully staffed remote site and resources for your use, most cloud providers offer fixed service level agreements (SLAs) that you can pass on to your end users.  So with the cloud, your IT staff can reduce time spent monitoring and maintaining BC/DR systems and allocate more time to other critical initiatives, while end users minimize the risk of business downtime that affects sales, service, customer satisfaction,  employee productivity and company reputation.

 

Those preparing to capitalize on the benefits of the cloud for BC or DR initiatives should understand how their selected products, processes and providers will address certain considerations.

 

For example, how will using the cloud affect application performance, especially for client/server type applications? Is transferring large volumes of data and databases over the wire for offsite storage even feasible? How long will it take?

 

What about data security across the wire? Is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) required for encryption and to prevent hacking? What about the security of your data once it’s stored at the cloud provider’s facility? What physical security and IT security technologies are deployed?

 

Are your applications even designed to leverage the cloud?  Can you perform remote deployment, management, maintenance and reporting? What service level do they offer you for accessibility and availability of their own data center resources?

 

What’s their DR strategy and plan? Should you have multiple offsite storage locations in case of regional disasters like snow storms, hurricanes, and earthquakes? Most backup, archiving, replication and high availability solutions offer remote deployment, management and maintenance and can leverage on-premise and off-premise resources, but having “cloud connectors” to public cloud services will make integration faster and easier.

 

After carefully addressing the questions above, businesses will reap the many benefits of using the cloud as a key component of their business continuity and disaster recovery strategy.