A recent study by the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council highlighted a disturbing fact: 3 out of 4 companies worldwide are failing in terms of disaster readiness. The impact that IT interruptions (server crashing, power outage, virus, etc.) have range from thousands to millions of dollars according to the same research.

No wonder the “cloud” is having such an attraction and why businesses are rethinking their Disaster Recovery strategies. In fact, when analyst firm ESG asked companies to rank the major factors leading them toward a cloud-based solution (Data Protection-as-a-Service as they call it), the top ones were:

  1. Ability to store data remotely for disaster recovery
  2. More cost-effective than in-house solutions and processes
  3. Ability to take advantage of advanced technology
  4. Improved support for remote office/brand office locations
  5. Ability to eliminate onsite backup hardware and software

What is preventing companies from fully adopting cloud solutions for disaster recovery? We believe that there are five myths surrounding cloud-based recovery services that have to be dispelled.

Myth #1: Cloud Solutions are for Disaster Scenarios
The industry is permeated with terms such as “business continuity” and “disaster recovery” which can make it confusing for business leaders. Even the term “disaster recovery” leads most IT professionals to the wrong path as DR solutions are typically used for ‘disaster scenarios’ and routine recovery operations.

In addition, weather-related “disasters” are typically not the most common cause of application downtime or IT interruption. When asked to rank the typical causes of business interruption, companies surveyed reported software and hardware failures and human error as the top categories responsible for some type of outage.

Takeaway: Businesses have to stop thinking about disasters and start considering ways to prevent interruptions. Corrupted files, deleted emails, and the occasional server crash are not disasters but can hinder business operations. Cloud-based solutions should not be discarded for those situations and are often more appropriate.

Myth #2: Cloud Storage and Cloud Disaster Recovery are Similar
With the continuous proliferation of cloud-based storage services it is natural to think of cloud backup, cloud storage, and cloud recovery vendors as one and the same. But nothing could be further from the truth. While storing data in the cloud is a commodity, cloud-based disaster recovery services give you more than the ability to access your files, it enables you to actually run your systems in the cloud. Key application servers, SQL and Exchange servers, and even Active Directory services can be virtualized as if they were in a virtual data center from where you can continue operating.

Takeaway: Think of the cloud in terms of having an on-demand data center that can run your operations and ensure business continuity.

Myth #3: Cloud Solutions are Not Secure
While reports of online hackers or lost and stolen personal data have given cloud services a bad name, there is a distinction among cloud provider and cloud solutions that you should be aware of. First, there is the public versus private cloud discussion. An article worth reading about this debate is “How the Cloud Could Huff and Puff and Blow Your Business Down.” But beyond that, I should also point to a number of different sources, particularly ESG, which published interesting results from a survey where participants were asked which benefits, if any, their organizations realized as a result of using cloud-based data protection services. The top results were:

  1. Improved security
  2. Reduced onsite data protection hardware and infrastructure costs
  3. Reduced IT personnel costs

Takeaway: Although we encourage you to do your due diligence before employing any cloud service, the reality is that cloud-based DR vendors can provide Enterprise-grade security that is often better than what your internal IT department has put in place.

Myth #4: You Can Do It Yourself
The attractiveness of simply doing it yourself is understandable. With low-cost providers like Amazon EC2 and open source projects covering a myriad of needs, experienced technologists can cobble together systems that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. We also see a keen interest in using “best of breed” products to cover a wide range of requirements because the purchase of individual pieces can sometimes appear more beneficial than the investment in an integrated solution.

What we have seen — and what Forrester Research has confirmed — is that the critical factors that lead companies to bring it all in-house and do it themselves can turn out to be the reason why their Disaster Recovery practices are not mature. While cost reduction, greater control and faster recovery are some of the key reasons that IT professionals decide to forgo service providers and cloud providers, the results are typically the lack of focus on DR relative to other projects, lack of funding to ensure the DR architecture is up-to-date, lack of skills, and, finally, the lack in confidence that the organization can effectively respond in a disaster situation.

Takeaway: In the long run, Do-It-Yourself Disaster Recovery will cost more and take more time from the internal IT staff than originally planned. Cloud-based DR solutions can seem more expensive at first, but when looking at the full Total Cost of Ownership and the longevity of the service provided, it typically ends up being a promising approach.

Myth #5: All Cloud Providers are the Same
Once you have decided that a cloud solution might be the best approach, how do you determine which vendor will best suit your needs? There are a few criteria to consider such as:

  • Comprehensiveness: Can the solution protect and recovery physical and virtual servers? Laptops and wokstations? SQL databases and MS exchange servers?
  • Ease of use: Is extensive training and lengthy manuals required or is the solution intuitive, easy to use?
  • Self-service or managed: Do you have the ability to protect and recover files, databases, entire systems directly from the system interface or does the vendor have to be contacted to assist?

These are just the top ones that typically differentiate most vendors, but there are others, including Gartner’s recent report on Critical Capabilities for Recovery as a Service.

Takeaway: Not all cloud providers are created equal. Do your research and decide on what is important to you, then find a provider that meets your needs.

A Guide for Evaluating Cloud-Based DR
There is more to each topic than just outlined in this post, so I strongly suggest you watch our recorded online presentation that addresses all these myths and more. Demystifying Cloud-Based Disaster Recovery is a 45-minute session that is worth watching.

Daniel Kuperman