What is Cloud Based Disaster Recovery

One of the most frightening scenarios for businesses who rely heavily on technology is the possibility of data loss, and yet, few businesses have proper backup and disaster recovery tools in place to protect their most critical assets.  That’s scary when you consider that 70% of small businesses who experience a major data loss go out of business within one year of the disaster.


I do not have to educate you on the importance of creating copies of your business data or the need to maintain copies of your data somewhere other than in your office. What few people think about, however, is what is really contained on your backup media. If you are only backing up your data and not the systems, software, user accounts and configurations used to access, process and utilize the information, all you have is raw data.


Disaster Recovery is More Than Just Backup


Think about what would happen if your computers and servers were destroyed. Perhaps your office is flooded or your building burns. You may be thinking, “I have copies of all my business’ data stored on a hard drive in a safe at my house.”  Great. Now what are you going to do with that drive? Your accounting files, spreadsheet, word processing documents and specialty databases all require access to the software used to create the files in order to access and use the data.  Do you have the installation software and installations keys stored somewhere safe?  How long will it take you to reinstall and reconfigure all that software?  How long will it take to order and receive new hardware? How long will it take to reconfigure it upon arrival?  Most importantly, how is business getting done while you are dealing with all of this?


Testing is Crucial


When was the last time you tested your backup system? I do not mean that you verified that your data copied correctly. I mean, when was the last time you performed a complete and thorough disaster recovery test? I would wager you have never done this, because frankly, no one does.


In a traditional environment – one where only data is backed up – disaster recovery testing is very difficult. First, you must purchase or have access to a duplicate set of server hardware. You must also have copies of all applications installed including their license keys. A thorough test requires you to reinstall the server operating system and all applications on the server. You must reconfigure the server, setup user accounts, and finally, download your data from offsite backup storage. It is a very time consuming and expensive endeavor, and consequently, no one does it.  And yet, not performing this activity at least once per year is very risky.


So what is the solution to this challenge?  The answer is cloud based disaster recovery.


We never know when disaster is going to strike our businesses, and we have no excuse not to prepare. The time and cost associated to proper planning in no way compares to the time and cost you will incur when a disaster strikes. How are you protecting your company?


Benefits of Cloud Based Disaster Recovery Systems


Cloud based disaster recovery systems are one of the best advancements in recent years in cloud technology. Traditional tape-based backup systems are plagued with challenges.  They are unreliable, prone to error, subject to theft and loss, and nearly impossible to test from a disaster recovery standpoint without considerable investment of time and expense.  Most significantly, they typically back up only the data contained in your organization which means they are only part of a disaster recovery solution.


Most businesses are unaware of this limitation or their need for additional disaster planning. When disaster strikes, these businesses are caught by surprise by the devastation caused by the outage. Cloud based disaster recovery systems provide remedy to these challenges. Because they are cloud based, these systems are affordable and they provide so much more than just data backup.


A complete disaster recovery plan includes a backup of your entire system including operating systems, security configurations, and software applications in addition to your business data.  Cloud based recovery systems create an image of your entire server to a backup device of your choice housed inside your office.   A copy of your server’s image is uploaded regularly to the cloud.  Think of it as replicating your entire server somewhere else. Should the server fail, your server image is spun up in the cloud providing you with remote access to the server and all its applications within minutes, not days, after the failure.


In addition to fast and easy restoration in the event of a disaster, this approach also provides businesses with the ability to test to make sure their backups are working properly. You need to be able to trust your backups, and you can only trust them if you can test them.  Traditional data only based solutions do not provide the opportunity to do this without a considerable investment of time and expense. With cloud based disaster recovery systems, tests can be performed at any time and are completed in just minutes providing complete peace of mind that your systems and data are properly protected.


Cloud based disaster recovery systems have a bonus benefit as well.  They provide the ability to test changes and upgrades in the server environment without negative consequences or additional cost.  For example, let’s say an important new upgrade is released for your primary line of business software. The upgrade provides new features that would bring great benefit to your business, but you have heard from others that the upgrade was painful to install leading to significant downtime. You want to know ahead of time if you are going to experience the same problem. This is a possibility with cloud based disaster recovery systems. You simply spin up your current image in the cloud, perform the software upgrade in the virtual environment, and see how it works. Document your process and learn from your experience. This sort of staging allows you to catch issues before you change your production environment leading to a more efficient, less disruptive upgrade.




I’ll leave you with one last bit of advice.  If you are still using a tape system as your only backup system, it’s time to have a serious talk with your IT department or current IT vendor.  The way in which offsite backups happen and the ability to easily perform backups as a result has fundamentally changed the way backups should be done. If you are a company whose operations depend on your computer data, you owe it to yourself to investigate cloud based disaster recovery solutions.

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