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How to support business continuity in the cloud


Combining cloud-based DR processes with on-premises data centers allows for improved business operations and improved recovery time if disaster strikes.

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Image: Shutterstock/Joe Techapanupreeda

I received a call from a friend who runs a small business out of his home. He had been backing up his laptop to a USB-attached external hard drive via Windows 10 methods and hadn’t noticed the external hard drive had failed. 

Worse, Windows 10 backup notifications weren’t turned on (see this guide for how to do so) and so a perfect storm of sorts occurred when his laptop hard drive died as well, nuking all of his data.

“Why weren’t you using Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or something else to back your data up to the cloud?” I asked. “You’d have been protected here and if someone broke into your house and stole your laptop AND hard drive your data would all be intact!”

“I was worried about the cost, and I thought if I had a corrupted local file it would sync up to the cloud and corrupt that file too,” my friend explained.

“Well, that could happen just as easily with a local backup, and now you’ve got way more costs to worry about in terms of time spent, lost productivity and a potentially negative impact to your business,” I pointed out. “Furthermore, cloud-based backup solutions would allow you ‘previous versions’ functionality to restore corrupted files to working files then download them back to your local system.”

My friend ruefully agreed about the dangers of being penny-wise, pound-foolish, as the saying goes. Fortunately, he was able to recover much of his data from his email account since he was in the habit of sending attachments rather than links to online files. I left that topic of advice for another day, but suffice it to say, email isn’t meant to be a file delivery mechanism, though ironically enough that oversight ended up helping my friend here.

There should never be a principal of local-only backups. I myself have happily paid about $120 per year to Dropbox to back up my data because peace of mind is better than any manual solution.

SEE: Power checklist: Troubleshooting hard drive failures (TechRepublic Premium)

I spoke about the concept of business continuity in the cloud with Tim Potter, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

“Using cloud for disaster recovery can yield a lower cost disaster recovery solution by offering lower storage costs, significantly reducing capital expenditures on IT infrastructure that your organization may never need, and providing out of region redundancy with reduced commitments and operational overhead,” Potter told me. 

Out of region redundancy means that even in the event of a regional disaster your data will still be protected, allowing your business to continue to operate. In this day and age of remote and global operations this can ensure uninterrupted access to data for your users and customers.

Potter pointed out that as with any technology solution that is new to the organization, weaving cloud into its disaster recovery planning will require the infrastructure, application and business continuity teams to become familiar with new architectures and potentially new technology solutions. These teams should collaborate on how best to ensure the functionality of services that rely upon data following any given disaster scenario.

Tying cloud-based disaster recovery processes into on-premises data centers yields the best of both worlds, having data locally accessible even in the event of an external network service outage. Potter said that using cloud-based disaster recovery technologies for on-premises workloads is a common hybrid scenario and that most organizations likely have some combination of legacy on-premises infrastructure and some infrastructure in the cloud. Having redundant sites with data synchronized between them via the cloud can also be a tremendous boon to business operations.

“The advantage comes from finding the right mix of technology to access and maximize the capabilities of cloud — while protecting critical data and running workloads where they drive better business outcomes, faster value delivery, and sustainable ROI,” he told me.

However, there are certain stipulations, Potter cautioned. He emphasized that being in the cloud or using cloud services does not mean you can eliminate disaster recovery safeguards. Including cloud services in your disaster recovery planning and solution can improve your RTO (recovery time objective) and RPO (recovery point objective) while lowering costs, but it should not reduce the planning and testing required to ensure business success. 

“Performing business impact assessments, determining mission-critical workloads, and ensuring you have well-documented procedures and a team that is well rehearsed on responding in the event of a disaster is vital to achieve the full benefits of a disaster recovery solution that leverages cloud,” Potter said. “In fact, because a cloud-based disaster recovery solution can make performing end-to-end DR testing faster or cheaper, I would encourage organizations to conduct disaster recovery testing more frequently, thereby increasing the organization’s overall resiliency. Like anything, continuous repetitions and practice can yield better outcomes.”

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