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Cloud-based backup and disaster recovery services yield peace of mind

IT Best Practices Alert By Brian Musthaler, Network World
October 07, 2011 01:30 PM ET
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Conducting regular data backups and planning for business continuity in the event of a disaster are two of those mundane tasks that are under-appreciated until critical data or applications need to be restored. The tasks are made tougher in the face of exponential data growth, which Gartner estimates to be about 45% annually. It can be a challenge to find backup and disaster recovery (DR) solutions that are both efficient and cost-effective as the amount of data to protect continues to grow.

Small companies might find it sufficient to use a "prosumer" online solution like Carbonite or Cbeyond for data backup, and this is often the DR plan as well. Large enterprises have the SunGards of the world for contracted DR. The organizations that are too big for Carbonite but too small for SunGard often piece together their own solutions or go without a cohesive disaster recovery program. Although these are essential IT capabilities, many companies don't consider them to be strategic and thus they go unnoticed -- and often under-funded -- until the day these services are needed.

ANALYSIS: Will cloud backup services finally put tape backups in trash can?

Data backup and disaster recovery are two IT services that are ripe for cloud computing. Cloud service providers already have the data center infrastructure and the accompanying management practices to back up, protect and restore their clients' critical data and application assets. Client organizations just pay a monthly or annual fee for this little slice of heaven and rest easier knowing their data or entire business operations can be restored if and when the need arises.

There are cloud service providers that recognize this need and tailor their business toward the specific demands of backup and DR. One such company is nScaled Inc., a cloud service provider that offers a hybrid cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) for companies under 10,000 employees. nScaled offers multiple cloud solutions, including primary application hosting and Test/Dev environments, but the solution offerings that are attracting the most customers today are disaster recovery and backup. nScaled's hybrid architecture allows customers to recover data quickly from a local appliance if needed.

nScaled places a Local Cloud Appliance within a customer's network which acts as a multi-functional gateway to the nScaled Hybrid Cloud. This appliance connects directly to the nScaled cloud, replicating workloads, de-duplicating data, providing local recovery capability and, according to the company, reducing application response times by up to 98%.

The customer installs nScaled Host Agents on the Microsoft Windows and Linux physical and virtual servers to be protected. The Host Agent replicates block-level data, either by partition or by entire disk, and sends it to the Local Cloud Appliance. The Host Agent delivers real-time data protection for either NAS or SAN storage, providing end-to-end data protection, remote disaster recovery and backup. Once the data is on the local appliance, it is de-duplicated at 90% efficiency and then replicated over secured VPN or MPLS links to one of the subscribed nScaled Cloud data centers.

Linda Musthaler is a principal analyst with Essential Solutions Corporation.

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