Disaster Recovery as a First Step into Cloud Computing

fire-articleOrganizations see the benefits of cloud computing, however many are simply mortified at the prospect of re-engineering their operations to fit into existing cloud service technology or architectures.  So how can we make the first step? 

We (at Pacific-Tier Communications) have conducted 103 surveys over the past few months in the US, Canada, Indonesia, and Moldova on the topic of cloud computing.  The surveys targeted both IT managers in commercial companies, as well as within government organizations.

The survey results were really no different than most – IT managers in general find cloud computing and virtualization an exciting technology and service development, but they are reluctant to jump into cloud for a variety of reas0ns, including:

  • Organization is not ready (including internal politics)
  • No specific budget
  • Applications not prepared for migration to cloud
  • and lots of other reasons

The list and reasoning for not going into cloud will continue until organizations get to the point they cannot avoid the topic, probably around the time of a major technology refresh.

Disaster Recovery is Different

The surveys also indi9cated another consistent trend – most organizations still have no formal disasters recovery plan.  This is particularly common within government agencies, including those state and local governments surveyed in the United States.

IT managers in many government agencies had critical data stored on laptop computers, desktops, or in most cases their organization operating data in a server closet with either no backup, or onsite backup to a tape system with no offsite storage.

In addition, the central or controlling government/commercial  IT organization had either no specific policy for backing up data, or in a worst case had no means of backing up data (central or common storage system) available to individual branch or agency users.

When asked if cloud storage, or even dedicated storage became available with reasonable technical ease, and affordable cost, the IT managers agreed, most enthusiastically, that they would support development of automated backup and individual workstation backup to prevent data loss and reinforce availability of applications.

Private or Public – Does it Make a Difference?

While most IT managers are still worshiping at the shrine of IT Infrastructure Control, there are cracks appearing in the “Great Walls of IT Infrastructure.”  With dwindling IT budgets, and diskexplosive user and organization IT utility demand, IT managers are slowly realizing the good old days of control are nearly gone.

And to add additional tarnish to pride, the IT managers are also being faced with the probability at least some of their infrastructure will find its way into public cloud services, completely out of their domain.

On the other hand, it is becoming more and more difficult to justify building internal infrastructure when the quality, security, and utility of public services often exceeds that which can be built internally.  Of course there are exceptions to every rule, which in our discussion includes requirements for additional security for government sensitive or classified information.

That information could include military, citizen identification data, or other similar information that while securable through encryption and partition management, politically(particularly in cases where the data could possible leave the borders of a country) may not be possible to extend beyond the walls of an internal data center.

For most other information, it is quickly becoming a simple exercise in financial planning to determine whether or not a public storage service or internal storage service makes more sense. 

The Intent is Disaster Recovery and Data Backup

Getting back to the point, with nearly all countries, and in particular central government properties, being on or near high capacity telecom carriers and networks, and the cost of bandwidth plummeting, the excuses for not using network-based off-site backups of individual and organization data are becoming rare.

In our surveys and interviews it was clear IT managers fully understood the issue, need, and risk of failure relative to disaster recovery and backup.

Cloud storage, when explained and understood, would help solve the problem.  As a first step, and assuming a successful first step, pushing disaster recovery (at least on the level of backups) into cloud storage may be an important move ahead into a longer term move to cloud services.

All managers understood the potential benefits of virtual desktops, SaaS applications, and use of high performance virtualized infrastructure.  They did not always like it, but they understood within the next refresh generation of hardware and software technology, cloud computing would have an impact on their organization’s future.

But in the short term, disaster recovery and systems backup into cloud storage is the least traumatic first step ahead.

How about your organization?

About johnsavageau
Another telecom junkie who has been bouncing around the international communications community for most of the past 35 years.

One Response to Disaster Recovery as a First Step into Cloud Computing

  1. John
    DR and its offshoot Business Continuity offer a low risk and quantifiable entry to the world of cloud solutions for the enterprise. Concepts of private, public and hybrid cloud solutions start to make sense financially in the BC/DR context and help identify real solutions from wonderware. Cloud education, like financial education, is needed before investing. Promises of returns are not often based on reality and banks are there to make money from you not for you. Sound familiar? Buyer beware.

    So anyway, at the ‘upper levels of the stack’ the hard-to-understand-and-open-to-gross-abuse technology term Unified Communications, specifically in its UC-in-the-cloud form, can delives real time comms (read BC) in normal and disaster environments. Caveat emptor though definitely applies when it comes to UC as applied to DR. Many well known vendors use UC as marketing term to peddle more server hardware or VOIP handsets. UC-in-the-cloud technologies delivered as multi tenanted SaaS enable cost attractive home/mobile working. They also allow ‘social distancing’ if required. Social distancing is a BC term used when it is not desirous for employees to congregate at their usual places of work. Such scenarios could be caused by pandemics (remember the SARs and Avian flu panics) and of course natural disasters. Working from home, isolated or even quarantined but still able to communicate in real time and meet your MBOs with all the comms content secure and archived for compliance needs is what UC-in-the-cloud offers as long as you have an internet connection or smartphone service. UC solutions that are network and end user device agnostic and cloud based allow this. So it’s business as usual for these in the event of a disaster. But not necessarily so with non UC-in-the-cloud infrastructure centric versions.

    Looking at public, private or hybrid cloud service solutions in these scenarios the appropriate cost/security model and mitigates security concerns – including having your laptop stolen – starts to become a little clearer. And real solutions are here now to achieve this and they cost a fortune per head (Capex or Opex based).

    As you allude, often the biggest block to change is human and organizational inertia. People prefer to put up with the status quo even though where they are is costly and inferior. They won’t change because of the fear of change (or is this just PC for being lazy?). DR offers one rational and quantifiable reason to embrace cloud solutions, there are others. However…….“you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”.

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