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Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery, and the Role of the Cloud

Road Sign The End Of Crisis, Economic Recovery Business continuity plans, including disaster recovery systems and protocols, offer preventative measures so that companies are less likely to experience massive and costly losses of data. Beyond simply creating systems and procedures to contain any issues without experiencing widespread damage, the principles of these approaches allow businesses to think long-term, incorporating any worst-case scenarios into their developmental strategies. EssentiaLink, a firm specializing in the issue, notes that the fusion between the general business world and information technology has created a climate in which data is a top asset (second only to a company’s workforce). Because technological disasters and failures represent such an incredible threat to companies of all sizes, it’s become crucial for organizations to take proactive steps so that unnecessary downtime and data loss do not occur. Statistics related to this aspect of IT include the following (as curated by EssentiaLink):
  • 1 out of every 4 computers experience failure annually (Gartner);
  • 1 in 4 organizations have undergone a complete IT disaster (Forrester);
  • 3 out of 4 companies have not deployed redundancies for 100% of their virtual machines (Veeam);
  • 19 out of 20 establishments experience a lapse in data accessibility each year (Ponemon Institute);
  • medium-sized firms log approximate total downtime of 18 hours annually (Gartner);
  • the expense of that downtime, per business, averages $1.3 million (Gartner); and
  • the estimated value of data ranges tremendously based on type: per gigabyte, the expense of data regeneration is $850,000 for sales, $950,000 for accounting, and $4.9 million for engineering (National Computer Security Association).
Finally, the most ominous and pointed fact, courtesy of PricewaterhouseCooper: 7 out of 10 companies that lose a significant amount of data are bankrupt within 12 months. Clearly viable solutions are needed for organizations that do not have sufficient business continuity strategies in place. Despite all the dreary information above, innovative technologies offer an increasingly attractive opportunity for companies to stay on track throughout catastrophes. Cloud computing for disaster recovery As Tom Kiblin reports on CRN, the cloud presents a fast and reliable data restoration model unmatched by traditional methods. Standard hard drive backups require secure storage areas, preferably at distant locations. The revolutionary systems allows businesses not just affordability but options. Companies can choose the frequency with which data is backed up, as well as the number of locations where the backup is stored. A number of reasons why cloud hosting represents a strong choice for business continuity, along with other benefits, include the following (per Kiblin):
  • multiple geographical locations can be easily and efficiently used for backups;
  • the solution is relatively inexpensive, in part because it is built on the basis of scale, meaning that companies only pay for the resources they need at a given time;
  • restoration of data can occur more rapidly than with traditional methods, due to the real-time redundancies inherent to this strategy’s architecture (particularly when protected for DR);
  • the clarity with which compliance can be tested and exhibited is optimized in the environment, with security features that often surpass those of on-site systems;
  • automation of management decreases the need for monitoring and the possibility of human error; and
  • because expenses are rendered more consistent and predictive in this system, businesses are able to set aside safeguarding resources for disaster recovery that could otherwise be absorbed by operations or development.
RPO & RTO A crucial concern of business continuity is determination of two parameters: the recovery time objective and recovery point objective. The RTO is the maximum permissible amount of time that an application can be inaccessible before infrastructural workflow is interrupted. Depending on the significance of the application to the company, an RTO can range in length from 0 seconds to 24 hours or beyond. The RPO, in contrast, rather than having to do with the measurement of an outage in time, specifically refers to the data. It represents the maximum permissible amount of data that can be lost. Again, this variable differs wildly based on business type. The figure for a merchant processor will, out of necessity, be indicated by its most recent transaction. For a business that does a very small amount of online sales, the RPO could be expressed by a backup that occurred the previous day. Once the acceptable parameters have been determined, a business has a better sense of the kind of disaster recovery plan it will need in order to maintain adequate functionality (business continuity, in other words). When your recovery point objective and recovery time objective need to be minimal, your budget for DR should be more sizable to account for your heightened expectations. Locations, replication vs. backup, and the plan itself IBM engineer Richard Cocchiara, in an interview for Network World, mentioned three particular factors related to this subject:
  1. Replication vs. backup – Redundancy is accomplished, in one form, by failover systems that take over when the primary systems go down. However, the failover method, which allows replication of processes to a machine – acting as a “backup” in a sense – doesn’t have the full functionality allowed by a strong backup system. Backup systems allow you to recover data from specific times in the past. Replication via failover, on the other hand, won’t necessarily allow you to recover from the point of time you need.
  2. Location – A fundamental reason that cloud hosting is recommended for backups is simply that the data is saved to a faraway location. Although enterprises generally have otherwise strong disaster recovery plans in place, they frequently don’t store the backups at a distant facility. Local data recovery is not always possible because outages can occur. Because speed is essential to reducing the costs and other damages of downtime, it’s crucial to have the same data available in another geographical region.
  3. Business continuity plan – Make sure that your business continuity plan is itself backed up. Notes Cocchiara, “[Y]ou’d be surprised how often … plans are lost in a disaster.”
Disaster recovery plans are critical for organizations because, unfortunately, catastrophes are more common than we might hope. Cloud virtual private servers (VPS’s) have become increasingly popular DR solutions for various reasons, including affordability and reliability. Proceed thoughtfully, including assessment of your RPO and RTO, to protect your company from the worst.

Local Backups vs. Cloud Backups

Cloud Backup Solutions

With the Cloud becoming more and more popular for the public, a debate has popped up between Cloud providers and Cloud users. That debate centers around the use of Local Data Backups vs. Cloud Data Backups. For the vast majority of companies and personal tech consumers, the idea of storing your critically needed data locally makes sense. Use an external hard drive. Set a reoccurring backup time on a daily basis. Forget about ever backing up your data ever again. However, with the Cloud becoming more accessible to private consumers and companies of all sizes, local data backups are giving way to Cloud backups. Here’s why.

The Problem with Local Backups

  1. Local Backups Require Personal Data Encryption – Here is the thing about using your own locally stored hard drive to backup all your critical business data – it’s unsafe. Unless you are an IT expert who knows how to properly secure your local hard drive with secureExternal Hard Drive - Local Backups encryption methods and security codes to make sure hackers can’t get in, your critical data is open to the world. For the personal user who only stores music files on their local external hard drive, a hacker doesn’t mean much. But for a company storing sensitive financial data or classified documents, security is a very real threat.

  2. Local Backups are Limited – A local external hard drive is a physical piece of equipment which takes up place on your desk and is limited to a storage capacity limit. Unable to grow from its stagnate state, a local external hard drive will not grow and scale with your company as you need more storage space for sensitive data. A local hard drive is 80gb, or 120gb, or 500gb. Once you reach that maximum potential, it’s time to purchase another hard drive. This might not seem like that big of a deal but for a company of any size, who shuffles through a ton of data on a daily basis, your local limit is going to be met and exceeded quickly. This will cause headaches and cost a lot of money.
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