Disaster Recovery Driven By Tight Budgets, New Technology

Disaster recovery is a growing part of IT's budget, but IT still needs quicker, more efficient, and more affordable backup and recovery solutions into one seamless process.

By Dick Fordham, Director of Corporate Strategy, Recovery Point

Disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) services have been around since the late 1970s. Back then, backup of vital company data involved tapes being taken by truck to a secure storage center for retrieval and restoration in a pre-determined recovery facility in case of a disaster. Clients had peace of mind that their data was fully recoverable a week or so after its loss.

In the modern world of the Internet and 24x7 online commerce, data must be recovered in a matter of hours or even minutes. The analyst firm Evaluator Group estimates that downtime costs brokerage houses and large e-commerce sites $6.4 million per hour, and credit card sales and authorization businesses see losses of $2.6 million every 60 minutes.

For this reason, disaster recovery is a growing sector for IT spending. If the DR trends of 2011-2012 have anything in common, it is that all of them are pointing toward the need for the integration of quicker, more efficient and more affordable backup and recovery solutions into one seamless process.

2011 Trends: Hybrid Recovery and Outsourcing

The past year was marked by two main trends that reflect how DR solution providers are becoming more flexible to match the new budgetary requirements of clients.

One growing trend was the increasing popularity of hybrid recovery solutions. A hybrid DR solution allows a company to integrate the hosting of some of their own dedicated recovery infrastructure at the same location as the hot site assets provisioned by a service provider. This ensures the proper balance of cost and risk.

With 2011’s tight budgets, we see that many customers don’t mind buying expensive storage for their primary site and will opt for less-expensive options for their DR site. Companies would rather utilize less-expensive storage systems for DR sites because they want to make their offsite data storage more cost-effective, while still retaining the capability to transfer data to faster recovery SANs in the event of a disaster. For example, many customers now use the Cloud to store offsite data in expensive SATA media and turn up high-speed Tier I SAS or FC systems if a disaster occurs.

Another related trend of the past year was the outsourcing of the recovery process. For many organizations, one of the first considerations is deciding whether to manage and perform the entire process in-house or to outsource selected functions to a qualified service provider. In 2011, we saw an increasing movement in the direction of outsourcing. Although both options offer benefits, clients have noted that DR service providers offer staff focused and trained exclusively on disaster recovery and the availability of facilities purpose built to meet the recovery requirements of a modern business.

Budgets are also driving this trend as maintaining a qualified in-house disaster recovery staff is challenging, and building, equipping, updating, and maintaining a fully functional and resilient off-site recovery facility is even more daunting.

2012 Predictions: Emergency Notification and Cloud Recovery Services Will Soar

The year ahead will likely see an explosion in two technologies that will expand the reach and efficiency of DR solutions. These trends have already started but should be felt in full force throughout 2012.

A key element of a sound DR plan involves emergency notification -- the ability to quickly and efficiently notify key disaster-recovery resources, staff, and customers in the event of a disaster. In the old days, this took the form of a phone tree. Thanks to the Internet and IP technology, it is now possible to automatically generate calls and messages that may be needed in an emergency via email, text and phone.

So long as the emergency notification system (ENS) has access to the Internet, it can generate thousands of messages in minutes. The ENS can also receive and process incoming messages from recipients stating where they are and/or their status. Of course, this capability needs to be integrated within an overall DR plan supported by appropriate planning software so that it can constantly be updated with information on whom to notify and what information to impart.

Cloud (both adoption and use) was a big IT trend in 2011, with many new services having a positive impact on clients’ production environments. Cloud services will also have a significant impact on the DR sector in 2012. Cloud recovery services are making it easier to attain professional-level services at a reasonable cost, with reduced effort and expertise needed by the customer. Technologies such as VMware and backup de-duplication have created an environment that the DR industry is using to enable cloud services. The year ahead will see a major increase in cloud-based recovery services because they relieve customers of the need to manage backup tapes at their production sites and help them eliminate tape-based restores as their primary method of data recovery.

Though relatively new, cloud recovery can result in improved recovery point objectives (RPOs) and recovery time objectives (RTOs) when compared to conventional tape-based strategies. In addition, cloud recovery greatly improves the efficiency of customer recovery processes during tests and actual disasters. The key is to be sure the cloud recovery vendor has the ability to restore your systems as well as store your data

The combination of competitive, carrier-neutral network options, secure hosting infrastructure, and data de-duplication technologies now makes cloud backup and recovery programs affordable to a wide range of customers. Moreover, cloud solutions are proving increasingly popular because they can be applied to any size requirement, from megabytes to petabytes.

Conclusion

DR has historically been viewed as a conservative area of IT services that evolves very slowly, but the 2011-2012 trends I’ve described all point toward an accelerated change in that characteristic for both clients and service providers.

Hybrid and outsourced backup and recovery solutions based on new technologies have made it possible to store vital data without breaking budgets. Emergency notification technologies are helping increase the reach and effectiveness of DR planning and the expansion of cloud-based DR services could very soon bring an end to the era of storage tapes and delivery trucks as the leading element of the DR process.

All of these trends point toward the availability of quicker, more efficient, and more affordable protection options for critical data, and a paradigm shift in the DR industry.

Dick Fordham is the director of corporate strategy for Recovery Point, a disaster recovery services provider. An established figure in the disaster recovery industry, Fordham joined Recovery Point in 2008 after nearly 30 years of service with IBM. You can contact the author at dfordham@recoverypoint.com
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