Cloud Disaster Recovery? Not So Fast
Some providers say cloud-based disaster recovery will bring the
benefit of true disaster recovery, rather than just backup, to small
and midsize businesses that until now couldn’t afford it.
Pat O’Day, co-founder and CTO of Bluelock, a provider of
public cloud virtual data centers, says customers are increasingly
satisfied with cloud security. Many security experts say even
public cloud environments in which multiple customers share
hardware can be made secure with the proper processes.
But a fall 2011 Forrester Research survey showed that only 11%
of large enterprises and 9% of small to midsize businesses had
adopted recovery as a service, with 35% of large enterprises and
41% of SMBs saying they were interested in it but had no plans.
Berger says cloud providers only promise “not to go into your
servers” when he questions them about security. “To me, that’s
not enough,” he says, adding that the disaster recovery prices he’s
hearing — $500 per month per server
— are “more than I can justify.” He
instead uses Acronis Backup & Recovery
to back up approximately 60 VMs at
two data centers. The facilities are only
a half-hour apart, so this setup would
not meet some definitions of a disaster
recovery system, but he says it covers
most of his needs because the applica-
tions aren’t mission-critical.
Hecht downplays resistance to cloud-
based disaster recovery, saying the small-
est companies typically host their entire
infrastructures in the cloud, and thus get
some level of disaster recovery simply by
keeping applications and data off-site.
Smaller companies that do choose the cloud typically don’t do
it for the savings, he says, but because “it’s just so much simpler
to have a system you set up and forget.”
While midsize organizations have some incentive to consider disaster recovery in the cloud, few of them use the cloud for mission-critical systems that require true disaster recovery — and what they
get in the cloud is closer to dedicated hosting (with the customer’s
data and systems running on separate hardware) rather than a
multitenant, elastic, pay-as-you-go public cloud, Hecht says.
Most large organizations are big enough to provide disaster
recovery themselves, he says, and even if they weren’t, “there’s no
good solution” for protecting sensitive applications in the cloud.
Cloud disaster recovery is also not suited for applications
that rely on older platforms that most cloud providers don’t
offer, or large databases that don’t perform well in the cloud,
says Morency. Users also need to watch for the hidden costs of
software licenses some cloud vendors charge for software sitting
unused on remote VMs or disaster recovery systems, he says.
Both Gartner and Forrester also warn that most cloud disaster
recovery providers will refund only a portion of a customer’s fee
if disaster recovery falls short — nowhere near enough to make
up for the potential revenue loss that such an event could cause.
The cost of the bandwidth required to quickly recover an or-
ganization’s VMs and data from the cloud is often an unwelcome
surprise, says Alan Arnold, executive vice president and CTO at
Berger: Disaster recovery
in the cloud is too costly.
Vision Solution Management, which provides high-availability
and disaster recovery software and services. Some customers and
providers opt to physically ship portable hard drives via overnight
courier, says Arnold, recalling that one user joked that “FedEx is
still the largest-bandwidth network out there.”
With IT so central to the business and budgets so tight, it’s es-
sential to get input from top business managers to assess which ap-
plications deserve the highest levels of protection. Ingram Micro,
for example, conducted a business impact analysis that put various
applications in different tiers, with voice, email, ERP and ordering
among the top priorities. The company thought of it “just like an
insurance policy,” says Mazor. “It helped us think of how much
insurance we’re going to buy.” u
Scheier is a veteran technology writer. You can contact him at
To Data Recovery
SOME IT SHOPS are expanding di- saster recovery to include not only servers, but also user devices. They’re using portions of backup sites to store images of virtual desktops, laptops or even tablets so users can have access to their data and applications while they await replacement devices, says Eran
Farajun, executive vice president at asigra, which is also
giving customers the ability to back up and restore data
from consumer devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Jason Buffington, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy
Group, says many companies now require branch offices
to adopt the same protection standards as headquarters.
he says products designed to help with such efforts
include riverbed Technology’s Steelhead EX+ Granite appliances, which optimize the performance of wide area
networks to speed backup and replication from branch
offices to central data centers.
and many organizations are reducing or ending their use
of tape for disaster recovery, although some still use it for
“For us, tape is dead,” says Kurtis Berger, IT manager at
Provider advantage NW. “It was the second tape drive that
failed that finally pushed us toward a hard-drive-only solu-
tion. hard drives are faster, and so cheap. We just couldn’t
find any reason to entertain the idea of tape anymore.”
“Tape has been a love-hate relationship — mostly hate,”
says Jason axne, systems administrator at conveyer belt
manufacturer Wire Belt company of america. he cites
tape’s unreliability, the lengthy recovery periods for even
single files or email inboxes, and the time required to man-
age backups. Using actifio PaS and disk-based storage, he
says, “I don’t spend any time during the day managing our
backups . . . because it just works.”
— roBEr T L. SchEIEr