DR in the Cloud Becoming Standard Operating Procedure

By Christian Lappin, Sr. Sales Engineer

On January 15th VTUG New England held a “Winter Warmer” event, bringing together IT users and suppliers to discuss the latest and greatest virtualization challenges and opportunities. Most of the show’s buzz focused on virtualization and the cloud.

I gave a talk about hybrid cloud disaster recovery (DR) solutions, which continue to be front and center on many of our customers’ minds. There is no question a major shift is taking place about how businesses backup and recover data. So through this lens, I discussed where the market is today with virtualization technology and DR, why it is a problem, and what the solution is.

Local or On-Premise Virtualization has Hit a Wall
Local or on-premise virtualization has hit a wall in terms of addressing business continuity needs. It has become a victim of its own success. Virtualization technology has become so good that it creates extreme consolidation such that new risks get introduced into an environment. I call this virtualization over saturation. It is like having all your eggs in one basket. This saturation can create a single-point-of-failure for your data, which is never good. Too much data density can also make your data a bigger security target. I equate having a good DR strategy to having a good financial counselor. A good one protects your money by spreading out your investments across different funds. Too much local virtualization without the cloud is like investing all your money into one fund and hoping for the best.

overpacked-car

There are additional challenges that come with relying on traditional virtualization as part of a DR strategy. You likely have to manage multiple sites as part of testing and recovery operation. In an actual disaster, there is a lot of pressure to get back online. Even with flawless execution, recovery can take from days to weeks while using significant IT time and resources.

I’m not suggesting you stop using local virtualization completely or stick with everything on-premise. Local is an important piece of the DR puzzle, just not the only critical piece. DR best practices are headed toward blending local virtualization with cloud elements so the mixture delivers the most benefits and protection. I do not think it will be much longer before everyone uses some kind of hybrid cloud DR solution.

The Big Cs Driving Inevitable Shift to DR in the Cloud
So what is driving this shift? It is a cavalcade of Cs including cost, complexity, capacity, consolidation, certification and compliance not to mention customer confidence. Let me highlight compliance and complexity because both of them are taking bigger roles in terms spurring cloud adoption.

Compliance
Compliance with industry or government regulations is getting more difficult to achieve and it affects more organizations all the time. Increasingly, for example, compliance requirements are moving farther and farther down the supply chain. So even if you want to do business with someone who does business with the government, you may be subject to compliance requirements. The issue is all about reducing risk. It is getting increasingly difficult to pass compliance certification audits without cloud elements in your DR program. In some cases it can be done, but the cost to do it does not typically make sense.

Plus, there are business benefits that come with being certified as compliant, such as building customer confidence, gaining competitive advantages and, in some cases, getting government funds. For example in the health care industry, the government offers substantial financial incentives for organizations that pass DR audits with respect to protecting electronic medical records.

Complexity
IT managers do not like complex processes especially during a pressure-packed outage. Hybrid Cloud DR eliminates several recovery steps like negating the need for hardware configurations or operating system re-install. Plus, if you are recovering from a local site with physical media, do you have additional power, networking and other infrastructure requirements covered? A hybrid cloud solution streamlines the recovery operation, and we have seen tests where recovery times have been cut from more than 40 hours to less than four. That is a real attractive benefit, especially if the data is actively used as part of a customer or e-commerce application.

In a future post, I will review more reasons why the move to hybrid cloud DR is inevitable including the different types of Cloud options.

DR as a Corporate Governance Issue
Lastly, one of the big concerns among the people who attended my session is that while they are aware of the need to transition part of their DR to the cloud, they are having a tough time selling it to senior business management. I like to think of DR as a corporate governance issue as much as an IT issue. Helping the C-suite understand this can help with the buy in. But, practically, what can you do?

Using cloud in DR is not an all-or-nothing proposition. There are many different varieties and price points. You have to align the right type of cloud solution with the level of tolerance to a few different disaster scenarios. Can you live with your data infrastructure being down a week? There can be a cost associated with that. What about a day or a couple of hours? What are the hard and soft costs of waiting until all your data can be restored? When making your business case, you need to consider the impacts of slow restoration time on the business, not just IT.

My thanks to the folks who attended my talk and to the entire VTUG team. It was nice to see so much learning going on. Feel free to connect with me on social media and reach out if you have questions about transitioning your DR program to a hybrid cloud solution. I am on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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