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Cloud computing causing rethinking of disaster recovery

By , Network World
July 30, 2013 05:30 PM ET
Richard Cocchiara
Richard Cocchiara

Network World - Cloud computing gives organizations the opportunity to rethink many traditional IT practices, but it may be a particularly good fit for disaster recovery and business continuity. Network World Editor in Chief John Dix caught up with IBM Distinguished Engineer Richard Cocchiara, who is CTO and the Managing Partner of Consulting for IBM’s Business Continuity & Resiliency Services, for his perspective on the subject. Cocchiara leads a worldwide team who work with clients on systems availability, disaster recovery planning, business continuity management and IT governance.

What are the different roles cloud can play in disaster recovery and business continuity?

Probably the most basic thing is backing up data offsite. Most large companies have some sort of a backup strategy, but more often than you might think we find companies who are not sending their data offsite or not sending it far enough offsite. When we ask if they have checked to see what potential regional issues they might have, sometimes they find some geological or weather or some other type of potential risk that would affect their ability to recover locally. Cloud gives them the ability to store data some place remote, store it online, and to typically recover faster than from tape.    

Then there are services that allow clients to fail-over servers. The cloud is very good now for Wintel servers, where you can replicate your data and fail-over relatively quickly. So in addition doing replication of data to another server, we still recommend backup because you can recover individual files to a point in time. With server replication you will fail over, but you may not be able to go back as far as you want unless you’ve got a facility such as our Virtualized Server Recovery, which allows you to take snap shots.  

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So the cloud gives companies backup of data, fail-over of servers, and the ability to have a secondary center far enough away to allow for regional disaster recovery. And one other thing I should mention, the cloud also gives companies the ability to store their business continuity plans offsite. I know it seems like a nit, but you’d be surprised how often business continuity plans are lost in a disaster. Those plans are critical and if they’re stored on a system in the primary center, how are you going to run the recovery if you can’t get to that system? The cloud gives them the ability to store those plans and the notification scripts on a server they can access from their laptop anywhere they can access the cloud, like a Starbucks. And for a business continuity manager that’s critical to their success.

Larger companies take business continuity seriously and have comprehensive plans in place, but for companies that could do more, does cloud offer enough advantages to get them off the dime?
The cloud gives small and medium-sized business the same capabilities that larger companies have had for years. Many larger companies have secondary data centers they can use for data backup and recovery, whereas most smaller companies don’t. Smaller companies – with, say, 25 to 100 servers – very often back up to tape. Maybe they store the tapes locally and they may not have a sophisticated disaster recovery plan and strategy. Now, the cloud gives them same capabilities as large companies. They can back up data or replicate servers to a remote site, and then fail-over the servers and network to the remote site in the event of a disaster. So it’s giving small and medium-sized businesses much more sophistication.  

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