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

Data backup and disaster recovery are best practices for every business, regardless of size. Cloud services are making it easier to attain professional-level backup and DR services at a reasonable cost with little effort or expertise on the customer's part.

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.

nScaled says it provides broad-based cloud backup for all servers and workloads in a company's data center. Unlike tape backup, the nScaled solution makes use of snapshot technology which leverages incremental differencing to provide a near continuous backup. Recovery time is said to be in minutes and is easy to perform from any snapshot recovery point on the nScaled appliance. These recovery points, which can be taken every 15 minutes if desired, provide comprehensive historical protection.

Backups can include individual email messages, files, databases or entire volumes. Data is encrypted during transmission to the cloud and is also immediately available for recovery from this location. At least three copies of all data exist in two separate geographic locations: locally on the customer's production servers, on the nScaled Local Cloud appliance, and remotely in the nScaled data centers.

A Cloud Console allows system administrators to manage infrastructure services both in the cloud and within the confines of their data center. Complex tasks like disaster recovery can be executed with push button operations within the Cloud Console.

nScaled certifies its backup services and disaster recovery services. For backups, any physical or virtual production server can be certified that it will mount as a drive, that it is available in the Cloud Console interface and that a recovery of data can be initiated from it. For disaster recovery continuity servers, the backups are certified to spin up automatically when needed. This certification provides organizations the assurance that these crucial tasks are taken care of by experts in the field and allows their IT staff to refocus their attentions on more strategic initiatives.

Data backup and disaster recovery are best practices for every business, regardless of size. Cloud services are making it easier to attain professional-level services at a reasonable cost with little effort or expertise on the customer's part.

Brian Musthaler is a principal consultant with Essential Solutions Corporation. You can write to him at


About Essential Solutions Corp:

Essential Solutions researches the practical value of information technology, and how it can make individual workers and entire organizations more productive. Essential Solutions offers consulting services to computer industry and corporate clients to help define and fulfill the potential of IT.

Learn more about this topic

How to survive a cloud outage

5 cool tools for cloud management

Tape backup: Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.