Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How cloud computing can help in disaster recovery


A DR process using the cloud provides enterprises the ability to augment an enterprise IT infrastructure which are not foreseen during the planning phase of DR.

Disaster recovery, a subset of business continuity, is the process, policies and procedures related to preparing for recovery or continuation of technology infrastructure critical to an organization after a natural or human-induced disaster. In earlier days of IT, the reputation of an IT organization could be easily damaged by making the systems down for many days, which is a common scenario in batch oriented mainframes. Hence many organizations came forward to provide back up of IT infrastructure and support quick recovery to support business. The government regulation too augmented the growth of data centers supporting the disaster recovery.

The traditional way of doing DR

The first level of on-premises organizational set-up to support disaster recovery are :
  • Usage of local mirrors of system / data (mostly using RAID)
  • Ensuring continuous supply of power (without surges / spikes)
  • Physical protection from unauthorized entry and access to systems
  • Safety measure to avoid and fight fire accidents
  • Effective implementation of IDS, IPS and other security measures

The next levels of organizational strategy to ensure disaster recovery are:
  • Backup of data using tapes
  • Backup of data using a remote data centers
  • High availability of IT infrastructure using a replicated offsite location

The disadvantages of traditional DR

Organizations that want to set up a DR process incur heavy capital expenditure in setting up a DR center. Typically, organizations that do DR the traditional way
are unable to size the IT infrastructure to map growing needs.

Other challenges include:
  • Lack of flexibility in defining the data backup routine
  • Support for geographic redundancy
  • Provisioning of latest infrastructure 
  • Multiple pricing and billing models

The cloud way of doing DR

Currently most of the enterprises are looking into various avenues to protect their data and duplicate their infrastructure. A highly visible channel is the cloud. DR services delivered via the cloud gives enterprises the choice and flexibility to perform on premises or outsourced backup and DR, a reduction in capital and operational expenses, and reliable availability of IT systems for business continuity.

Advantages of a cloud DR process

The plan to have DR in cloud environment makes the organization to focus its investments into core business activities instead of investing in a DR center. The cloud way also provides the enterprise easy ways to augment an enterprise IT infrastructure which are not foreseen during the planning phase of DR.

The current advancements in technology also provides flexibility in utilizing services of multiple cloud vendors and thus helps enterprises to build a cloud agnostic DR framework. The cloud services are offered from various geo-locations which ensure redundancy of data in multiple geographies.
Dependency of cloud provider helps the enterprise to leverage the investments made by the provider on latest infrastructure and technologies

The present cloud economic climate provides the enterprise to utilize the cloud services in multiple pricing models (time period / storage based / service or configuration based etc) and billing models (monthly / on hitting a ceiling). This flexibility helps the organization to better utilize the cloud services and financial resources in an optimized manner.

What are the challenges?

The major challenge is the information mobility i.e., information that is transferred to and from the cloud. In case of large multinationals, they would invest in high bandwidth leased lines to overcome the bottlenecks in transporting data. But it would be a challenging issue to small enterprises who will be focusing more on incremental data transportation while for major data transportation they may utilize value added services by the cloud provider.

The current cloud environment with multiple cloud providers pushes the organization to identify resources with multiple skill sets, who are exposed to multiple technologies and platforms. Organizations also have to invest in network redundancy for accessing cloud environment that is also adaptable to services offered by cloud providers. The lack of cloud interoperability leads to complexities in building a DR solution using the services offered by cloud vendors.


Though enterprises are successful in structuring DR plan, it's the regular practice by resources that ensures the reliability of the DR plan. The changing IT scenario of enterprises need to captured meticulously and mapped to cloud DR environment for ensuring a successful DR deployment.