Therefore, if the company has to add a PDU, they now have to pay an additional $570
a month instead of just paying for the equipment once and the total monthly power
usage for the rack. The company notes if they were a bigger company, that amount of
money would be a drop in the bucket, but SMBs like themselves will begin to ques-
tion these price hikes. SunGard claimed they expanded their pricing practices from
circuit-based pricing to KW-based pricing in order to help customers under specific
circumstances better manage their power costs. SunGard claimed it makes it easier
for some customers to manage the number of circuits they provision and better utilize
their KW power use (Pariseau, 2010).
DISASTER RECOVERY IN THE CLOUD Cloud computing, along with mobile and tablet devices, accounts for much of the
high-tech buzz these days. But when it comes to hype, the cloud seems to absorb
more than its fair share, which has had the unintended consequence of sometimes
overshadowing its real utility. The primary difference between on-premise DR or
use of a co-location facility, and cloud DR, is that cloud DR specifically implies that
the outsource provider owns the underlying compute and storage hardware (and pos-
sibly software, as well) and that you access these resources via the Internet using
secure, encrypted transmission protocols, or via a dedicated connection you pay
for. This arrangement is known as Infrastructure-as-a-Service or IaaS. In addition,
cloud providers may also own and lease you the required software platform, such
as the operating system, Web server software, run-time programming language soft-
ware, and the like. This is known as Platform-as-a-Service or PaaS. Moreover, the
cloud provider may also own and provide you access to their software application
over the Internet. This is known as Software-as-a-Service or SaaS.
Although the concept—and some of the products and services—of cloud-based
disaster recovery is still nascent, some companies, especially SMBs, are discovering
and starting to leverage cloud services for DR. It can be an attractive alternative for
companies that may be strapped for IT resources because the usage-based cost of
cloud services is well suited for DR where the secondary infrastructure is parked
and idling most of the time. Having DR sites in the cloud reduces the need for data
center space, IT infrastructure, and IT resources, which leads to significant cost
reductions, enabling smaller companies to deploy disaster recovery options that were
previously only found in larger enterprises.
Some of the primary benefits of employing cloud DR in your overall DR strategy
include the following:
• Pricing is transparent and subscription-based. Pricing includes all the software, infrastructure, and services to deliver the solution. You are typically charged
per gigabyte of data, per server, or for a combination of the two. The only cost not
included is the cost of network connectivity. You pay for only the servers
you want to protect.
460 INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT #3—SMBs
C o p y r i g h t 2 0 1 4 . S y n g r e s s .
A l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d . M a y n o t b e r e p r o d u c e d i n a n y f o r m w i t h o u t p e r m i s s i o n f r o m t h e p u b l i s h e r , e x c e p t f a i r u s e s p e r m i t t e d u n d e r U . S . o r a p p l i c a b l e c o p y r i g h t l a w .
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• Deployment is fast and easy. Most of the recovery configuration can be done online, because there’s no need to reserve identical hardware, set up proprietary
links, or negotiate your specific SLA. Since the backup is to virtual volumes and
servers, you simply have to ensure that the right virtualization layers are in use.
However, services are typically limited to your x86 server environments.
• Oversubscription risk is minimized. In traditional managed DR services, the provider subscribes several clients to the same IT resources, closely manages the
oversubscription ratio, and avoids subscribing clients from the same region to
the same equipment. But there’s a chance that multiple, simultaneous disasters
will be declared, in which case you won’t get access to the IT equipment you’ve
spent thousands of dollars a month holding in reserve. While the same can
still be true with cloud DR services, the risk is minimized because far more
customers can be packed onto the same physical IT infrastructure.
• The penalty for rehearsing your DR plan is reduced. What good is a DR plan if you don’t rehearse it to make sure it works? Traditional DR service providers
recognize this but have to schedule rehearsals, reserve equipment, and often be on
call for you during the rehearsal. All this preparation costs money and is typically
above and beyond the DR services contract. With cloud DR services, there’s
usually minimal or no prep required, allowing you to rehearse more easily and at
much lower cost.
Despite its benefits, disaster recovery in the cloud isn’t a perfect solution, and its
shortcomings and challenges need to be clearly understood before a firm adopts it as
a solution. Security usually tops the list of concerns:
• Are data securely transferred and stored in the cloud?
• How are users authenticated?
• Are passwords the only option or does the cloud provider offer some type of two-
• Does the cloud provider meet regulatory requirements?
Also, since clouds are typically accessed via the Internet, bandwidth require-
ments also need to be clearly understood. There’s a risk of only planning for band-
width requirements to move data into the cloud without sufficient analysis of how to
make the data accessible when a disaster strikes:
• Do you have the bandwidth and network capacity to redirect all users to the
• If you plan to restore from the cloud to on-premises infrastructure, how long will
that restore take?
Reliability of the cloud provider, its availability, and its ability to serve your users
while a disaster is in progress are other key considerations. The choice of a cloud
service provider or MSP that can deliver service within the agreed terms is essential.
According to a 2012 survey on SMB cloud adoption, a significant increase in
paid cloud services over the next 5 years among SMBs is predicted. The research
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conducted by Edge Strategies includes survey responses from IT decision-makers or
influencers at more than 3000 SMBs in 13 countries. According to survey results,
paid cloud services are expected to double in 5 years, while the number of the world’s
smallest companies using at least one paid cloud service will triple in the next 3 years.
• Cloud computing is able to deliver more of what SMBs need—cheaper
operations and faster, better fusion of vital information to virtually any device. In
fact, the research finds 59% of companies currently using cloud services report
significant productivity benefits from information technology, compared with
just 30% of SMBs not yet using the cloud.
• Despite a sluggish global economy, 63% of SMBs using cloud services today
expect to grow in sales in the next 12-18 months, while 55% believe technology
will power their growth. SMBs worldwide are embracing cloud services to reap
those benefits and stay ahead of competitors—50% of SMBs say cloud
computing is going to become more important for their operations and 58%
believe working in the cloud can make companies more competitive.
• Security is a priority but no longer a main concern. Only about 20% of SMBs
believe that data are less secure in the cloud than they are in their on-premise
systems. Thirty-six percent overall and 49% of larger SMBs actually think that
data are as secure in the cloud as in their own systems.
• Local is better when it comes to service providers. Most SMBs feel it is important
to buy services from a provider with a local presence, and 31% feel this is critical
(Edge Strategies, 2012).
Disaster recovery in the cloud options When looking at cloud options for BC/DR, there are many different ways to slice and
dice the use of cloud. As was stated earlier, SaaS is one of the fastest growing seg-
ments of cloud IT. With SaaS, your third-party provider typically has developed their
own software and is offering it to you on a subscription-based pricing model, as
opposed to perpetual license model (where you install it at your site and have rights
to use the software on your own hardware in perpetuity). With SaaS, the dependent
IT hardware and underlying infrastructure which runs the software is provided to
you, managed by an external third-party software provider and typically accessed
securely over the Internet using a Web browser. In addition, the provider manages
both the primary and backup (or DR) instances of both their software and your data.
If you suffered a disaster, you would simply need to get back on the Internet with a
common Web browser at any alternate location to access the software and data again.
If your cloud provider’s primary location suffers a disaster, they are responsible for
recovery of your data to one of their operational sites within agreed upon service
levels. With your data hosted externally, there are legal and privacy implications
before you sign up. As with all cloud IT services, access to the Internet or a private
462 INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT #3—SMBs
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network connecting you and the cloud provider is an essential component of acces-
sibility. That said, SaaS certainly offers one of the best DR solutions for SMBs with
limited resources, even if availability of your IT solution is dependent on a third-
party Internet or network connection and a third-party MSP.
The second sphere of cloud IT services includes offerings such as IaaS or PaaS. In
both cases, you own and manage the application software and/or data, and the cloud
IT provider owns the resident hardware and underlying infrastructure. These offer-
ings are essentially one step removed from SaaS and provide things like backup stor-
age and/or alternate compute facilities for you to use in a DR scenario. PaaS differs
slightly from SaaS in that PaaS implies you need a specific compute environment to
run your software and data from their site in a DR scenario (where they own and
provide the licensed operating system, storage, or Web platform you need). To make
things more complicated, the industry has developed other specialized terms for what
are, essentially, IaaS and PaaS offerings, such as DRaaS and RaaS (Recovery as a
Service). IaaS and PaaS offerings are typically employed for DR purposes when
you manage the production instances of the software and underlying hardware at
your own primary site, but in lieu of an alternate DR site you own or lease, you keep backups of data and/or supporting virtualized operating systems at the third-party
providers’ site in case of a disaster at your primary site. Table SMB.1 compares
and contrasts different approaches for disaster recovery strategies in the cloud.
Table SMB.1 Comparison of Cloud-Based DR Approaches
Managed Primary and DR Instances
Cloud-Based Backup and Restore
Replication in the Cloud
Instances • Salesforce.com • E-mail in the cloud
• Other SaaS
• On-premise in the cloud
• Cloud to cloud • IaaS
• On-premise in the cloud
• Cloud to cloud • PaaS
Benefits • Fully managed DR
• 100% Usage based
• Least complex
• Only requires cloud storage
• Cloud virtual machines are optional
• Usually less complex than replication
• Best RTO and RPO
• More suited to support application- consistent recovery
Considerations SLAs define access to production and DR instances
Less favorable RTOs and RPOs than replication
Higher degree of complexity
Implementation N/A Backup applications and appliances
• Replication software
• Cloud gateways • Cloud storage software
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Managed applications and managed DR As was stated earlier in the SaaS example, an increasingly popular option is to put
both primary production and disaster recovery instances into the cloud and have both
handled by an MSP. By doing this, you’re reaping all the benefits of cloud comput-
ing, from usage-based cost to eliminating on-premises infrastructure. Instead of
doing it yourself, you’re deferring DR to the cloud or MSP. The choice of service
provider and the process of negotiating appropriate SLAs are of utmost importance.
By handing over control to the service provider, you need to be absolutely certain it’s
able to deliver uninterrupted service within the defined SLAs for both primary and
DR instances. The relevance of SLAs with a cloud provider cannot be overstated;
with SLAs, you’re negotiating access to your applications.
A pure cloud play is becoming increasingly popular for e-mail and some other
business applications, such as customer relationship management (CRM), where
Salesforce.com has been a pioneer and is now leading the cloud-based CRM market.
Back up to and restore from the cloud Applications and data remain on-premises in this approach, with data being backed
up into the cloud and restored onto on-premise hardware when a disaster occurs. In
other words, the backup in the cloud becomes a substitute for tape-based off-site
When contemplating cloud backup and recovery, it’s crucial to clearly under-
stand both the backup and the more problematic restore aspects. Backing up into
the cloud is relatively straightforward, and backup application vendors have been
extending their backup suites with options to directly back up to popular cloud ser-
vice providers such as AT&T, Amazon, Microsoft Corp., Nirvanix Inc., and Rack-
space. Cloud gateways, such as F5 ARX Cloud Extender, Nasuni Filer, Riverbed
Whitewater, and TwinStrata CloudArray, can move data deduplicated (or deduped),
compressed, and encrypted into the cloud and allows setting retention times of data in
the cloud. They straddle on-premises and cloud storage, and they can keep both on-
premises data and data in the cloud in sync.
The challenging aspect of using cloud-based backups for disaster recovery is the
recovery. With bandwidth limited and possibly terabytes of data to be recovered, get-
ting data restored back on-premises within defined RTOs can be challenging. Some
cloud backup service providers offer an option to restore data to disks, which are then
sent to the customer for local on-premises recovery. Another option is to additionally
maintain a large on-premises cache of recent backups that can be used for local
Depending on the data to be restored, features like compression and, more impor-
tantly, data dedupe can make restores from full systems in the cloud to on-premises
infrastructure a viable option. A case in point is Michigan-based Rockford Construc-
tion Co., which uses a StorSimple appliance for cloud-based protection of its
Exchange and SharePoint infrastructures. In the event of a disaster, they pull virtual
machines (VMs) from the cloud; with StorSimple’s deduplication, they are able to
pull down one full VM copy and only the differences for others.
464 INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT #3—SMBs
Back up to and restore to the cloud In this approach, data aren’t restored back to on-premises infrastructure; instead, they
are restored to VMs in the cloud. This requires both cloud storage and cloud compute
resources, such as Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud. The restore can be done when a
disaster is declared or on a continuous basis (prestaged). Prestaging DR VMs and
keeping them relatively up to date through scheduled restores is crucial in cases
where aggressive RTOs need to be met. Some cloud service providers facilitate
bringing up cloud VMs as part of their DR offering.
Replication to VMs in the cloud For applications that require aggressive recovery time and recovery point objectives
(RPOs), as well as application awareness, replication is the data movement option of
choice. Replication to cloud VMs can be used to protect both cloud and on-premises
production instances. In other words, replication is suitable for both cloud-VM-to-
cloud-VM and on-premises-to-cloud-VM data protection. Replication products are
based on continuous data protection (CDP), such as CommVault Continuous Data
Replicator, NetApp SnapMirror, or object-based cloud storage such as EMC Atmos
or the Hitachi Content Platform (HCP).
The cloud greatly extends disaster recovery options, yields significant cost sav-
ings, and enables DR methods in SMBs that were previously only possible in larger
organizations. It does not, however, change the DR fundamentals of having to devise
a solid disaster recovery plan, testing it periodically, and having users trained and
Protecting branch offices with cloud disaster recovery Disaster recovery for remote and branch offices (ROBOs) has always been a chal-
lenge for SMBs. Branch offices are often collections of point-solution technologies
built up over time to include one-off hardware platforms and/or aging user desktops.
Efforts to simplify branch offices involve reducing the number of platforms or cen-
tralizing backend services, but they are often stymied by their impact on user expe-
rience and productivity. The IT consolidation wave of the past decade also shifted
focus to the data center and the server infrastructure, both of which are more easily
tweaked and typically better managed than remote offices, especially in smaller
As they look out to the remote office infrastructure today, IT departments are
increasingly looking to emerging cloud computing solutions as a way to provide bet-
ter availability in remote offices today. Cloud computing can keep the need for addi-
tional manpower, servers, and data storage to a minimum. But can the cloud offer a
viable solution for remote office disaster recovery? The best answer is probably
“partially.” Disaster recovery goes beyond just data backup and server protection
and encompasses a complex mix of technologies, processes, and compliance issues,
such as connectivity, multisite data replication, and workload redundancy, that must
465Disaster Recovery in the Cloud
be orchestrated at each remote office. Thus, the cloud may or may not be suitable for
all DR issues at your remote site.
However, new cloud disaster recovery offerings are appearing at a brisk pace
such as services offered by Simply Continuous. Simply Continuous combines both
data protection and workload protection by replicating data and VM images between
a branch Data Domain appliance and the Simply Continuous data center. In event of
disaster, the replicated data are ready to go, and the most current version of a cus-
tomer’s application servers can be quickly restored from virtual hot standbys to bare
metal. Moreover, all replicated data are heavily deduplicated, making efficient use of
limited WAN links.
As disaster recovery vendors continue to improve their cloud disaster recovery
products, you should also prepare your branch office to be ready for cloud disaster
recovery. The following sections summarize the critical steps you need to take before
you take your ROBO to the cloud.
Virtualize and consolidate servers The first step in readying the branch office for the cloud should be to break as many
hard links between applications, data, servers, and networks as possible. Virtualiza-
tion technologies exist across the IT stack and deliver two critical elements: encap-
sulation and mobility. Any service that you would like to move to or protect in the
cloud must be both platform and location independent.
Virtualizing branch office servers will allow you to take advantage of advanced
workload protection features provided by hypervisor platforms. In a VMware envi-
ronment, these include snapshots, high-availability (HA) clustering, distributed
resource scheduling (to place workloads automatically on the optimal server), site
recovery management, and even fault tolerant “lockstep” execution, which protects
against any individual server failure with virtually no downtime. Once virtualized,
server workloads can also be replicated in real time to a central data center or to a
Such solutions for virtual workload CDP are available from several vendors, such
as FalconStor Software and InMage Systems, and are offered both as technologies
you deploy in your environment or via cloud service providers. Although server con-
solidation increases the risk of a single hardware failure affecting multiple applica-
tions, the broad range of workload protection technologies for virtualized
environments, such as HA clustering, more than compensates for this increased busi-
ness risk. Plus, the wealth of provider offerings available for cloud protection of vir-
tual workloads ensures that prices will continue to come down, as will the risk of
Virtualize and streamline data storage and backup Similarly, storage virtualization in the remote office not only delivers new capabil-
ities for data protection but allows IT departments to explore cloud storage offerings
not available for branches that rely solely on local file servers for data and/or tape
backups for disaster recovery.
466 INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT #3—SMBs
First, if your data protection strategy in the branch is primarily tape-based, you
should explore disk-based replication options. In the past, disk-to-disk backups may
have been cost prohibitive, which kept many branch offices dependent on tape for
DR. But the future of disaster recovery is disk-based replication, and the falling cost
of higher density disk storage combined with the use of data deduplication and com-
pression technologies can significantly reduce the upfront cost of new storage infra-
structure by slashing capacity requirements.
To do this effectively, you should build a test environment in which you migrate
some of your branch backups from tape to disk, then deduplicate and replicate these
backups to a central facility. This will enable you to become familiar with the tech-
nology and establish acceptable RTOs and RPOs. You’ll need to have these require-
ments in place, well documented and well tested, before you can compare the cost
benefits and availability trade-offs of any eventual move of your replicated data to a
Once more data are backed up to disk, you can explore emerging cloud-based file
storage gateways, object storage services, and application-specific data archiving
services, such as those from Asigra Inc., Iron Mountain Inc., LiveOffice, Nirvanix
Inc., Robobak, and Symantec Corp. The key is to create a virtualized storage envi-
ronment in the branch that supports incremental, experimental movement of differ-
ent data types and backup sets to the cloud. It might make sense to archive e-mail in
the cloud first, for example, to prove the cost benefits and validate recovery SLAs,
before moving on to other data types.
Virtualize applications and desktops Applications and user desktops are also essential elements to examine when readying
a remote office for cloud disaster recovery. Application delivery is arguably the most
important function of remote office infrastructure and often the most challenging
aspect of DR planning. Disaster recovery planning falls generally into two major cat-
egories: where should applications reside for highest availability, and how will users
access them in the event of disaster?
For maximum resiliency, hosted applications delivered in a SaaS model can
insulate the remote office and remote user the most from failure. The service
provider market for office productivity application hosting is maturing rapidly,
and the days of local Exchange and SharePoint servers in remote offices are likely
For those applications that cannot be outsourced, or that you are not ready to
outsource, various flavors of application virtualization are available from vendors
such as Citrix Systems Inc., Microsoft, and VMware. These include application
streaming and hosted desktops, which can be deployed standalone or as part of
a more comprehensive desktop virtualization strategy. However, it’s important
to compare the costs of virtualizing applications yourself (and putting in place
the required desktop virtualization infrastructure) to the cost of outsourcing your
467Disaster Recovery in the Cloud
Vendors such as Desktone offer desktop virtualization in the cloud, which
removes the need for you to license the virtualization platform or host and replicate
virtual desktops yourself. Again, it’s important to evaluate the trade-offs and costs
for your particular branch requirements. It might make sense to implement a limited
amount of your own internal desktop/application virtualization technology to estab-
lish cost benefits, explore ROI, and validate user experience under controlled con-
ditions and within your corporate firewall. After you have implemented your
virtualization technology, you can then move your working architecture to a service
provider when feasible. Or, if your performance requirements and current cost struc-
ture are well understood, it might be more efficient to explore a cloud offering
directly, without the experimental phase.
Deploy application acceleration and WAN optimization Lastly, regardless of how much storage you move or what percentage of your appli-
cations you outsource to the cloud, the viability of any cloud-based solution for
remote office disaster recovery will depend on the performance you can achieve over
the WAN. WAN performance will dictate how often and how much data you can
replicate, and which applications you can serve up from a disaster recovery site.
Keep in mind that network performance will make or break a cloud-based DR
strategy, whether it’s on the enterprise WAN behind the firewall or the public Inter-
net, and whether you’re replicating live data, recovering backup sets, opening a
shared PowerPoint file, or running a remote display protocol to a thin client.
Also, application acceleration technologies and WAN optimization should be a
part of any cloud-based service. The leading vendors of WAN optimization have his-
torically relied on purpose-built hardware appliances to deliver both generalized
TCP acceleration and application-specific acceleration, but this market segment is
also virtualizing. Virtual appliances from vendors such as Blue Coat, Certeon
Inc., and Expand Networks allow customers to deploy WAN optimization anywhere
they run a virtualized server, whether that is at a data center, a remote office, or at
their cloud service provider.
Several vendors also offer mobile worker solutions that enable WAN optimiza-
tion directly to a user laptop. So, whatever mix of on-premise and cloud-based solu-
tions make the most sense for your remote office DR strategy, your users can enjoy
optimized network access from wherever they are.
Overall, before exploring cloud-based disaster recovery for remote or branch
offices, your IT infrastructure should be as virtualized as possible, highly consoli-
dated, and streamlined. Storage virtualization will enable you to explore cloud disas-
ter recovery services incrementally and at different levels of the IT stack, while
keeping the rest of the infrastructure in place. Also, server consolidation will simplify
the number of resources to plan for and manage in the cloud. And, unless you’ve
optimized your storage and server utilization by eliminating as much redundancy
as possible before moving resources to the cloud, you’re unlikely to see a compelling
payback from the effort.
468 INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT #3—SMBs
SMB case studies There are many examples of SMBs using the cloud in order to meet (and even
exceed) disaster recovery objectives at a lower cost than hosting …