How to use cloud-based disaster recovery tools to prepare for the worst

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter’s approach.

From raging wildfires in Arizona to floods in Colorado and the massive earthquake in China this past summer, 2013 has proven to be another year of extreme conditions. And while building damage tends to dominate the news reels, data loss can actually be significantly more catastrophic for a business.

How do you put a value on lost medical records or a client’s financial information or proprietary, internal business documents? Losing critical or private data can often result in a company closing its doors for good. By some accounts 25% of businesses don’t reopen after a major natural disaster. And 70% of small companies that experience a major data loss from a natural disaster go out of business within a year.

Fortunately cloud-based disaster recovery options can help ensure natural disasters result in only temporary set backs.  Here are four simple steps to help prepare your business for the worst:

* Step 1: If you don’t have a cloud-based disaster recovery plan for your data make this an immediate priority. If you’re not sure where to go or what to do, there are a number of resources that can help you determine what would be best for business. For starters check out BITS, an open community whose Standard Information Questionnaire is a great way to evaluate cloud providers. Natural disasters are never convenient and don’t adhere to a 9-to-5 schedule. So you opt to work with a managed service provider make sure they have support staff on call 24/7/365.

* Step 2: If your business already has a DR plan, ensure your staff knows exactly what to do, who to call, and how to get your systems and data back in the event of an outage. Prepare your business for a natural disaster as you would your family. Remember, you can’t stop the inevitable but you can prepare for it and recovery from it.

* Step 3: Check the status of your off-site data backups and confirm that your company’s backed-up data copy is current and error-free. The best way to do this is to ensure your business is using a hybrid solution of on-premise software and off-site cloud solutions. Weather can damage buildings, but the cloud can weather the storm.

* Step 4: Check to make sure your remote recovery site (data center or cloud) is operational and updated with current servers, data, network connectivity, etc. Again, the ideal backup and recovery solution implements the cloud, which ensures significantly faster backups than tape or disk and allows for increased customization.

Why Cloud-based Disaster Recovery
Disaster recovery solutions that boast connectivity to the cloud have gained a well-earned reputation as the most secure and reliable method for backing up and recovering critical data in the event of a natural disaster. Why? Four key reasons:

* Accessible, indestructible and guaranteed: A DR plan that’s built solely on hardware requires one or more duplicate IT infrastructures off site so that your systems are available along with your data. Depending on its severity, a natural disaster can demolish an entire town and its surrounding areas. If your off site data center is precariously close to the main location your off site center could be affected too. When using a cloud-based DR solution, your systems will be accessible in an ironclad cloud and located far away from the primary site ensuring that it will not be impacted by the same disaster.

* Affordable: A cloud-based DR solution eliminates the need for you to invest in duplicate IT infrastructure offsite, significantly reducing your upfront and overall CAPEX. The usage-based, OPEX cost of cloud services means that customers only pay for what they need, allowing each business to determine which systems and data are critical for performance in the event of a disaster.

* Compliant: Nearly every industry has unique regulations and retention requirements for data protection. The tools that simplify managing and monitoring backup and recovery in the cloud help ensure requirements are being met. This is particularly relevant for privacy and record retention regulations, as cloud-based backup protection means that data is always secure throughout transmission, storage and access.

* Speedy and customizable: The recovery timeline for cloud-based storage depends on the client’s needs and the service provider’s capabilities. The cloud leverage virtualization and a multi-tenancy model, which decreases the hardware costs of preparing for disaster recovery, but also increases the efficiency and accuracy of recovering your data and your system. With data and systems safely protected in the cloud, they are fully accessible and recoverable 24/7/365 from anywhere in the world. The speed of your company’s recovery depends on the SLA you choose.

There’s no reason why your company should be added to the list of others that didn’t survive a disaster. Get ahead of any situation through investing in a DR plan that fits your company’s needs and that of your partners and customers. Doing so will ensure business continuity and peace of mind no matter what Mother Nature throws your way.

Janson Hoambrecker, Director of Cloud Disaster Recovery Services, EVault