What’s your disaster recovery plan? How to tell if the cloud is right for you.

What’s your disaster recovery plan? How to tell if the cloud is right for you.

Disaster recovery: the plan every business must have but hopes it will never need. While disaster recovery traditionally means a replication of data systems either on premises or outsourced to a secondary location, disaster recovery in the cloud has opened new, and often better, options for many companies. But the cloud also comes with several concerns that every business needs to take into consideration.

For any company thinking about cloud disaster recovery, here’s everything you need to know.

Cloud disaster recovery vs. on-site disaster recovery and secondary data centers

Before the cloud, businesses relied on on-site data centers or secondary data centers in remote locations for disaster recovery, and these systems still make sense for some companies today. But they often require an investment of tens of thousands of dollars. When disaster strikes, these systems offer peace of mind, but in the meantime, they can drain IT coffers as infrastructure, maintenance, and man-hours add up. Even secondary data centers, which take care of upgrades, repairs, and other needs, can cost upward of $50,000 initially, with additional ongoing infrastructure costs, even for a small company.

Unlike these traditional disaster recovery systems, cloud disaster recovery eliminates the costs of physical infrastructure and adds several other advantages. Currently there are two big players in the cloud infrastructure space: Microsoft’s Windows Azure and the leader in disaster recovery, Amazon Web Services (AWS). Today, I’m going to focus on the latter.

If you’re thinking of adopting cloud disaster recovery, and AWS in particular, here’s what you can expect:

Advantages of cloud disaster recovery

  • Cost efficiency. Unlike on-site or secondary disaster recovery services, cloud services eliminate high initial payments for infrastructure as well as continuing payments for maintenance and upgrades. With the cloud, users no longer have to purchase physical servers or additional infrastructure upfront to keep data safe. For example, AWS charges users on an as-needed basis, saving companies from paying unnecessary infrastructure fees.
  • Scalability. Cloud services quickly scale with data growth without forcing organizations to purchase additional hardware. Companies can also add additional resources, such as compute, storage and networking, to the cloud to meet changing business needs.
  • Diminishing cost. While on-site and secondary data centers cost users more money over time due to upgrades and maintenance fees, cloud-based platforms have been getting cheaper due to economies of scale. Amazon continues to expand its web services offerings and reduce its pricing to keep its products competitive in the cloud market.

Disadvantages of cloud disaster recovery

While cloud-based disaster recovery offers a range of benefits for organizations, it’s not necessarily the right choice for all companies. Here are three reasons why:

  • Difficulty transitioning environments. Shifting a company’s current IT assets into the cloud can be a difficult, manual process, especially if the environment isn’t virtualized. Organizations with large and complex on-site data stores tend to struggle when moving their data into the cloud, and as a result might prefer to keep their data protected using traditional methods.
  • Uncertain reliability. When disaster strikes, you need your systems to be accessible, and news of numerous AWS outages doesn’t exactly reassure businesses about the cloud. But while outages are possible, Amazon continues to improve its web service performance in an effort to ensure few, if any, outages occur.
  • Security and compliance risks. If your data’s stored in the cloud, knowing if you are in regulatory compliance can be a real challenge as responsibilities are shared between your organizations and the cloud provider. Nevertheless, AWS assures infrastructure compliance and can produce reports and certifications that attest to the design and operating effectiveness of their environment.

Data security is the number one priority among large and small corporations, making a disaster recovery plan an absolute must in the workplace. While on-site and secondary data centers have proven effective, businesses looking for a cost-effective and scalable solution could benefit from doing disaster recovery in the cloud. But before implementing an on-site center, outsourcing to secondary stores, or moving data to the cloud, organizations must decide their specific disaster recovery needs and choose the best tool to achieve them.