SOA & Cloud Computing
Data Protection for the SMB: Cloud or On-Premise?
What to consider when implementing a disaster recovery plan
By: Stuart Rauch
Jan. 17, 2011 07:45 AM
It's one of the primary challenges of the small or mid-size business (SMB): a small and overworked IT staff with tight constraints on IT spending. These shortcomings affect the business's ability to deliver reliable data protection and backup, which, in the event of disaster, could have a significant negative impact on the business.
Like their large enterprise counterparts, SMBs must store and protect critical data - often that of their customers - and ensure that it is readily available when it's needed the most, frequently driven by government and other compliance mandates. Today, cloud technologies have made it easier for companies of all sizes to put a reliable plan in place to ensure that critical customer and business data is not lost in the event of a disaster. A tipping point is fast approaching for SMBs to leverage a new cloud-based backup and recovery model - one that is inherently faster, more reliable and more secure than in the past.
Why Disaster Recovery Planning Is Critical
How long could your company survive if you lost all of your data today? Would your company come to a standstill if you didn't have access to your inventory, financial information, payrolls, customer lists, email and electronic transaction data? Having a disaster plan in place is critical, and planning for the worst when things are going the best makes the most sense.
What to Consider When Implementing a Disaster Recovery Plan
A comprehensive review of which systems are mission critical and which are less critical is a valuable starting point before proceeding. It should be noted that because not all systems and data are equally important, it is possible to craft a multi-tiered recovery plan. The advantage of this is that it can help to optimize disaster recovery costs that can vary by the recovery plan you choose. Basically, your willingness and ability to mitigate risk are directly proportional to the type of disaster recovery plan you choose.
Cloud- vs. Disk-Based Data Backup & Recovery - What's Best for the SMB?
Determining your business' Recovery Point Objective (RPO) defines how much data you can afford to lose. This is measured as the point in time that a data restore will reflect. For example, if you back up your system once daily at midnight, your RPO is 24 hours. In the event of a data failure, any data changed or input between midnight and 11:59 p.m. will be lost, making your data exposure 23 hours and 59 minutes. And while this may be acceptable for data kept on a home computer, most businesses require smaller backup windows, perhaps down to five minutes. A tiered architecture provides this level of flexibility and reduces costs while mitigating risk as required.
A business will also determine its own Recovery Time Objective (RTO), which correlates to the amount of time or how rapidly a system and data can be recovered from backup. The RTO is what a company will strive for in terms of how rapidly it can restore a system and its data in the event of a disaster. The key factor at work here is the speed at which data on backup media can be restored onto a system. For example, if a file is lost, how quickly do you need to be able to restore it? It is best to plan for this in advance so that once your disaster recovery plan is in place, you know how long it will take your company to retrieve and recover your essential data and systems.
When evaluating what's right for their businesses, SMBs should consider their resources from a staff and financial perspective. With a cloud or managed service, SMBs can rest easy knowing that their data is being handled by experts and they don't need to spend a great deal of money to maintain their own IT department. Instead, SMBs can pay for great service and relax knowing that it is taken care of. Cloud-based storage works for many small businesses that want to stay nimble. This model allows companies to scale up or scale down based on how much data protection they need. This helps minimize excess cost for data protection you don't necessarily need.
Another benefit of the cloud for many SMBs is the enablement of a remote disaster recovery plan. Data is the heart of many businesses, so having the system down for more than 24 hours is not an option. If that's the case with your business then you should look to cloud-based remote disaster recovery. When your site goes down, remote access to a virtualized copy of your entire IT environment via a VPN can give you an indispensable lifeline to your business operations. With your data being automatically replicated to a cloud-based data infrastructure that is geographically dispersed from your primary location, you can be sure your data is current and readily accessible in the event of a disaster. And it is all enabled with disaster recover experts that manage your virtualized environment at the moment of truth.
On the other side of the equation, some businesses may require a software or on-premise copy of their backup for LAN-speed recoveries, with an additional offsite server for assured disaster recovery and easy regulatory compliance. You can monitor and manage everything via a web browser so you still don't need an entire IT department to manage the data solution. Most vendors today will ensure that your data is de-duplicated, compressed, encrypted and then transmitted to a data center - the more efficient the backup solution is, the less you need to pay for cloud storage. This means that your files are safe and they are taking up less room.
Depending on your regulatory needs, IT staff, data tiering and budget, your small or mid-size business could benefit from a cloud, on-premise, or even a hybrid data protection approach. Whichever solution you choose, be sure to take the time to investigate what data is mission critical to your business and how you can make sure it is protected and accessible.
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