As the reliance on data has increased, so too has the need to keep that data safe and readily at accessible should some incident occur. This is where backup and disaster recovery (BDR) processes come into play, and where BDR in the cloud specifically is gaining traction.
At its most basic, backup is the process of copying computer files and folders, as well as images of entire machines, and storing them for retrieval at a later date, should there be a hardware failure, data breach or other disruption to a business.
“If you need to go back six months to find out what your accounting data looked like – that is a backup problem,” says Jamie A. Stapleton, CEO of Computer Business Solutions, a provider of IT services based in Ashland, Va.
Disaster recovery, on the other hand, is typically more comprehensive in that it may utilize backup data to systematically recover and restore an organization’s IT infrastructure in order to restore operations within a certain timeframe.
“With disaster recovery, you usually want to start recovery with the most recent data set,” Stapleton says.
Both backup and disaster recovery operations are key to business continuity – a complex process that may involve the ability to failover an organization’s entire IT infrastructure to maintain business operations in the event of a longer term disruption.
Historically, organizations would backup a single machine using a single piece of software, and store backup data to a tape, optical media or other such physical means. The stored data would then be kept offsite, and retrieved from that site when needed, a process that could require rebuilding affected hardware by reinstalling operating systems and applications. Sending data via a wide area network to another location was another mode of offsite backup that could potentially degrade network performance.
The traditional way of backing up data and accessing it for disaster recovery purposes has shortcomings that make it increasingly inadequate for today’s fast-paced and networked business environment.
For starters, tape-based backups typically require human intervention, if not to start the backup process itself then at least to change the tape and move it offsite. Once offsite, the tape is stored at a physical location; time was needed to retrieve the physical medium just to be able to begin the restore process. All told, traditional BDR is a time-consuming process.
“With virtualization, backup can now go to the cloud,” Stapleton says. “One of the big advantages to cloud-based backup and recovery is that you can start server workloads in the cloud, which will bring your recovery time objectives very close to zero.”
Backup and Disaster Recovery in the Cloud
The BDR market is growing, thanks in part to the cloud. According to market research firm IDC, data backup and recovery software racked up $6.4 billion in revenues in 2015, with a projected compound annual growth rate of 5.6% through 2020. One of the drivers for this growth is the cloud and its ability to enable a second copy of data to be kept and accessed at another location. Given the size of the market, there are dozens of vendors in the space.
“A full software suite from Veeam or an all-in-one storage backup disaster recovery appliance from Datto are very attractive options for a lot of SMBs,” says Chris Messer, senior vice president of technology at Coretelligent, a provider of managed IT and private cloud services in Westwood, Mass. These vendors are representative of a number of vendors that appeal specifically to SMBs including Dell Rapid Recovery, Intronis and Unitrends among others.
BDR utilizing the cloud can reduce both the time needed to restore systems as well as the level of human intervention required throughout the process. While there are myriad ways to set up cloud BDR, essentially files and folders as well as server images (that contain operating systems, applications and settings) are copied and stored in the cloud for retrieval, a process that can be handled either via a software only approach. an appliance approach or a combination of the two. With virtualization, the recovery process itself can be significantly streamlined – data as well as complete virtual environments can be brought online within minutes.
As president of managed services provider CMIT Solutions of Seattle, Jeff Steele devotes much of his time discussing BDR with clients. As a small business owner, Steele knows firsthand how the cloud facilitates quick data recovery.
When traveling for business, Steele’s laptop unexpectedly failed. Facing a week in which he needed to access email, accounting and other applications needed to run his business, Steele contacted his BDR provider Datto; his system files were recovered within 30 minutes. Using a web browser and some requisitioned hardware, Steele had access to all the data and applications he needed. (Accessing restored data via a portal or web browser is standard). When he returned to his office, the data he worked on was automatically updated via a networked appliance he installed and pushed to a new laptop.
The secret sauce to quick recovery is virtualization.