Todd Scallan is Axcient VP of Products. This blog was originally published in The VAR Guy on July 9, 2012.
I enjoy “do-it-yourself” (DIY) projects, but I know my limits (well, most of the time). If a project is deemed to be within my abilities — either rightly or wrongly — it’s off to the home improvement warehouse armed with a shopping list and unbridled optimism.
If you’re a fan of home improvement shows, no doubt you’ve seen the nightmare scenario: A homeowner gets well into the demolition phase of a project and then discovers something unanticipated. It could be faulty wiring, a crumbling foundation, leaky plumbing — you name it. The project is now more complicated and costly. As you’re watching the episode, you’re probably thinking, “Glad that’s not me!”
Similarly, with business continuity, there may be unforeseen issues that make DIY a poor choice for an SMB. Fortunately, there’s a proven alternative to going it alone.
Issue No. 1: Cost
Pricing backup solutions alone give an incomplete picture of the hard costs of building a business continuity solution. For example, if considering backup software, you also will need to procure dedicated hardware and storage for your backups.
The same is true for a virtual appliance. The hardware will need to be powerful (i.e., expensive) enough to accommodate your backup processes and server failovers.
If you’re buying a physical appliance, then you may have to tack on license fees for associated software agents. There may be an additional requirement to purchase third-party software to fulfill use-case needs, such as granular recovery of Microsoft Exchange data or restoration of virtual servers.
Are you setting up a second site for disaster recovery (DR)? Then double your budget for the necessary hardware and software.
Issue No. 2: Risk
A knowledgeable IT person can devise a custom business continuity solution. But what’s the likelihood of getting the requirements and implementation right from the start? An initial miscalculation means additional expense or prolonged downtime later. (Check out “The VAR’s Path to Managed Services” for insights into the cost of downtime for SMBs.)
For example, will the custom solution respond to a catastrophic event in minutes, or will your business be down for days as you sort out details such as network access to the DR site? If migrating servers from physical to virtual or from one hypervisor implementation to another, will you need to re-engineer the business continuity solution? (This latter issue is explored in our “Virtual Reality” blog.)
Issue No. 3: Time
A frequently overlooked aspect of a custom solution is the time spent managing it. Software installation, updates and upgrades, and administration of the primary and DR backup servers and storage all contribute to ongoing operational costs. Plus, additional time and energy inevitably will be spent adjusting the custom solution to meet new requirements.
Using a Cloud Service Instead of DIY
Utilizing a cloud service for business continuity can substantially mitigate the cost, risk, and time associated with a DIY solution. Costs are reduced to a simple monthly subscription fee that can be dialed up or down to meet your business needs. Risks are alleviated because a cloud-based service will have already vetted requirements and exercised functionality across thousands of users and protected systems. Time investment is reduced to managing by exception while the cloud service provider handles the details of ongoing operations.
A cloud service for business continuity is very compelling for an SMB, but not all cloud services are alike. In particular, watch the fine print for hidden costs such as initial setup fees, cloud data-recovery charges, and software licenses as prerequisites for utilizing the cloud service. Also, beware of the software or appliance company that offers an add-on cloud option; it may not meet your disaster recovery time or functional expectations.
All considered, DIY may be just fine for a bathroom remodel. But a cloud-based service is the better option for business continuity.