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SMB: Beginner’s Guide to DR in the Cloud

Written by  Gordon Tan October 15, 2013

Shaking your fist at the computer screen and screaming "Why!" is no longer the most cost effective disaster recovery (DR) solution available to you. SMBs are now being targeted by cloud service providers, giving you DR solutions infinitely more practical than you ever found fist shaking to be.

Before I go on, the term "disaster" refers to massive hardware failure, power outages, acts of terrorism and so forth. While you’re more likely to be affected by the former rather than the latter, it’s important to have a DR plan up your sleeve to avoid extensive productivity and business losses.

A study by Symantec found only 50 percent of SMBs had a DR plan in place. A comprehensive DR plan ensures more than just operations, but business continuity as well. Yet even more worrying, Growing Business’s report revealed 62 percent of SMBs in the UK continue to rely on USBs, CDs and desktop storage to back-up their data. According to the report, most of the IT managers remain uneducated about the risks involved with simple storage devices.

The trouble is, it isn’t financially viable for SMBs to replicate an entire system to an offsite location, yet 40 percent of SMBs fear migrating to the cloud. SMBs are yet to realise how they can leverage the cloud to achieve the same level of DR as industry leaders. Vast, upfront capital investments on infrastructure are no longer necessary. Instead, your entire system is virtualised in the cloud, so it can be spun up to meet your recovery time objective (RTO) if your primary facility fails. SMBs can now use cloud service providers to help them customise a solution with specific IT requirements, keeping costs low, data secure and business afloat in the wake of disaster.

  1. Cost effectiveness

DR in the cloud means SMBs don’t need to waste expenses on data center space, IT infrastructure and IT resources, which is lucky since roughly only 5 percent of IT operating budgets is set aside for BDR anyway. The cloud’s pay per use model means cloud resources can be added with scaling costs, while the cloud platform maintains and manages everything for you. In addition, there’s no need to pay for extra staff and energy consumption. However, it’s important to do your research, since the cost-effectiveness depends on RPO, RTO and the mission-critical applications you’re using. For example, researchers looking at DR in the Cloud found under current pricing schemes, businesses with applications requiring hot standby servers wouldn’t benefit. Conversely, cloud based DR would be financially advantageous to SMB’s with applications needing recovery times of say, 200 seconds. One of the principal reasons SMBs are considering cloud based DR is that solutions are scalable, so unlike traditional DR methods, you don’t need to pay for hardware and services when you’re not using them.

  1. Data Protection

A mental obstacle for SMBs considering DR solutions in the cloud is whether their data will be well protected. According to Microsoft, 60 percent of surveyed SMBs cited data security as the chief concern preventing them from adopting the Cloud. Conversely, 94 percent of SMBs who adopted offsite data storage actually enjoyed improved security. This is due to the fact cloud service providers have a reputation to maintain, and must always ensure they have industry-leading encryption. Reliable vendors should also have excellent data durability, or a low likelihood of data corruption. For example, Amazon has 99.999999999 percent durability; meaning only 1 in 100 billion objects gets corrupted. In the past, SMB’s have favoured tape backups, but the problem with this is they’re usually done manually, subject to human error, and updated too sporadically to be relied upon. Data backed up remotely in a private cloud data center is protected with the industry’s highest physical security, redundancy and backup power, so cloud based DR gives SMBs a level of data security they wouldn’t ordinarily have access to.

In summary…

Gone are the days of yore, when secure backup meant putting a password on your zip file and transferring it onto a floppy disk for safekeeping. Instead, SMBs are faced with alien concepts like ‘cloud storage’ and virtualization. They might sound scary, but all you really need to know is DR in the cloud can be a cost-effective method of protecting your data during a disaster.

According to Symantec, the median cost of downtime for an SMB per day is 12 500.Since the cost of downtime depends not only on short-term, tangible factors, but also long-term, intangible effects as well like customer loyalty, many SMBs are turning to cloud based DR as a cost-efficient, secure solution.

The cloud gives SMBs the same types of recovery times, recovery points and security levels as their larger competitors. It allows you to fall flat on your back and get back up on your feet with minimal effort. So if you’re part of the 87 percent considering moving your DR to the cloud, remember to research your options, choose a trustworthy vendor and tailor your solution.

About the Authorgordon tan


At 31 years old, Gordon Tan is the managing director of one of Australia’s fastest growing IT support companies, R & G Technologies which employs more than 30 staff members. Having started the company 10 years ago he is passionate about educating others on how to grow successful and sustainable businesses.