28/03/2012

By Neil Lathwood

Have you ever lost a document you’ve been working on and had to resort back to a previously saved version? It’s a frustration often compounded by the time it takes to try and restore the latest version before accepting that the data is lost forever. On an individual level this is manageable — it’s a simple blip.

Imagine if your entire team lost their data and the ability to use your internal systems. How long would it take for your IT team to reinstate the systems and get the workforce moving again? How long might it take to retrieve lost data? This is no longer a blip — it’s a disaster.

Worse still, what if this is linked directly to your ability to take payments online and the disaster strikes at your busiest time? The longer you’re out of action, the more painful the situation becomes.

In this digital society we’ve all got data that is valuable to our organisations and automated systems that capture the data. Have you ever thought about how long you might be happy to be parted from these? The more valuable and current the data you generate, the more likely it is that you need a disaster recovery plan.

For some, the key thing is getting operational again after a technical disaster. For others it might be accessing the vital assets of the business again and making them available to the customer base.

Disaster recovery is now one of the top drivers for SMEs utilising cloud computing. This is because the technology is ideal for the most proactive form of disaster recovery — business continuity.

Physical and virtual disasters are two different threats that can both be mitigated by cloud computing. What happens if there is a fire and your server room suffers irreparable damage? Often the question here is not how quickly can you recover the data and continue working but is it possible at all to bring the business back online and keep afloat. One of the obvious solutions to this is the removal of the server room altogether, which is where cloud computing plays its part.

Cloud has become one of the most popular choices for disaster recovery because of the redundant nature of the technology. Business continuity is achieved by creating a series of virtual machines in the cloud that will allow your websites and applications to quite literally jump over to a working VM if hardware failure strikes. This aims to provide an ‘always on’ answer to the threat of downtime.
Private cloud solutions allow businesses to host their infrastructure offsite and back it up to a reliable source within their solution — but not necessarily within the same physical space.

Hosting providers have been offering solutions like this for years on dedicated server technology but the cloud’s utilisation of virtualisation is making this available to SMEs as well as large businesses now. And many are taking full advantage.

Ultimately, if you can put a price on the protection and recovery of your systems and data then you can also figure out how extensive a solution you are looking for. Disaster recovery becomes a mathematical equation of cost versus risk, and with the cost coming down all the time and the level of the risk increasing, business continuity solutions become the obvious answer.

Some businesses struggle with disaster recovery because they consider it as an insurance that they may invest in for years and never have to call upon. However, with insurance, you never get back exactly what you lost — while using cloud based DR, this is exactly what you get.