Solution Providers Can Leverage The Cloud For Disaster Recovery

If disaster strikes your customer's data systems, will you be ready to help them recover? Barely a week goes by, it seems, without news of yet another cloud storage vendor popping up, many with their own disaster recovery solution. For resellers, this equates to untold recurring revenue opportunities for solution providers equipped to take advantage of them.

This week Microsoft addressed recovery in aspects of its forthcoming Windows Server 8. At Microsoft's Build conference in Anaheim, the company introduced a slate of disaster recovery and business continuity features that it will ship along with the next Windows Server.

Chief among the features is the ground-breaking Hyper-V Replica, which enables asynchronous, application-consistent virtual machine replication and live migration with fail over in either active-passive, active-active or bidirectional modes and shared recovery capabilities between any two Windows 8 Servers.

Already on the market are several offerings, including those from from Amazon, eFolder, Doyenz Shadowland, Axcient, Rackspace, and Seagate.

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Disaster recovery is not the same as business continuity. The impact to the business of an application failing is a major part of continuity planning, and data recovery is a piece of that.

For example, if a horizontal line with an X in the middle represents the time line of your customer’s disaster recovery plan, with the X representing the time of a business-critical application failure, all points right of the X are the hours or days needed to restore the system.

This is known as the recovery time objective, or RTO. Points left of the X are states of data prior to the disaster to which the system could be restored. Also represented in hours or days, the left side signifies the recovery point objective, or RPO.

Notches in either direction represent how much time the business is able to lose without falling into hardship. And these times will vary based on how critical the application is to the business. While a grocery store could operate without e-mail for hours or even days, a failure of its point of sale systems would be catastrophic. Therefore, the RTO/RPO line for a grocery store’s e-mail system would be long, and that for its POS would be short.

For more on this concept and some keen advice, visit Tom Kiblin's blog post: How To Use Cloud Computing For Disaster Recovery.

Hard as it might be to believe, most companies have no disaster recovery plan at all, or if they do, it’s not very good. ’They just don’t know where to start,’ said Eric Pitcher, vice president of technology strategy at CA, who's responsible for CA's Recovery Management business unit. The first phase of any business continuity planning, Pitcher said, should be to list all the applications being used and to categorize them by their importance to the business.

Next: The Next Step Is To Protect

The next step is to protect the applications and their data stores -- beginning with the most critical. As good as the heretofore unreleased Windows Server 8 may sound -- and there's much more to it than disaster recovery and fault tolerance -- a good DR plan requires solutions that are available now. Microsoft has been characteristically coy about the RTM date of Windows Server 8. A 2012 release date seems unlikely.

But for solution providers acting now, Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3) is a powerful platform for building custom solutions without ever making itself known. Once past the learning curve, Amazon's APIs permit unlimited access to its vast on-demand cloud storage resources while its pay-as-needed pricing all but eliminates reseller risk.

With a customizable solution that sidesteps APIs, eFolder offers brandable services such as continuous local and online backup, Exchange-compatible e-mail archiving and fault tolerance with military grade encryption. A similar solution comes in the way of Doyenz Shadowcloud, which offers MSPs a slightly more structured DR program.

For those seeking more formal business continuity services, companies such as Axcient and Rack Space offer complete, detailed plans that MSPs can adopt or adapt to the needs of customers to protect data and minimize downtime following a disaster.

With no shortage of storage media, hard-drive maker Seagate offers its i365 data protection and recovery solutions. Available since 1997, the i365 solutions include on-prem appliance and non-appliance options, remote recovery and the EVault backup software with plug-ins for Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, SharePoint, Cluster Services and Oracle.

Literally scores of similar solutions exist out there, all with the common thread of using cloud-based resources to protect data assets and business continuity. As the volume of data continues to double every year or two, so too does the need to protect that data from threats. This equates to untold recurring revenue opportunities for solution providers equipped to act.