Cloud Integrated Backup and DR

The best way to ensure data and application recoverability is to conduct frequent DR testing. The problem is that many organizations rarely, if ever, perform DR testing because it is time consuming, expensive and often it has limited value because the tests are not “real world”. But if there was a way to integrate simple and effective DR testing into the backup environment, this could give businesses a cost-effective solution to test application recoverability. Moreover, if the backup environment could be further leveraged to facilitate near instantaneous application fail-over capabilities into the cloud with production level performance, this would significantly bolster business application availability and service levels.

Many organizations are looking towards the cloud as a way to cost effectively protect business data. It eliminates the need to build out a dedicated DR facility and you only pay for the backup storage capacity you consume. But there are many differences between cloud backup offerings, however, so IT planners need to identify those solutions which can deliver very high levels of data protection and application (physical or virtual) recoverability without breaking the bank. What’s needed are affordable backup solutions that can natively protect and recover virtual and physical business application infrastructure, both locally and in the cloud.

Backup Appliance Data Protection

One way that many organizations are protecting business data today is through purpose built backup appliances. These systems are simple to integrate with backup software for both physical and virtual machines and through data deduplication, they can store multiple backup images locally while efficiently replicating critical business information off-site for DR purposes.

But one of the challenges is that businesses need a secondary facility to replicate their backup information to. If they don’t have an alternate site, the costs for building out a remote data center could be cost prohibitive. Consequently, many organizations are looking at cloud service providers (CSPs) as a more financially viable option for protecting their business data off-site.

Cloud Enabled Cost Reductions

CSP data center environments typically support multi-tenancy which enables them to carve out storage or server resources based on the application requirements of each end-user subscriber. This consumption based model can translate into significant savings for businesses as it eliminates the need to invest capital dollars into a dedicated remote site with all the ancillary hardware, software and networking equipment required to support their DR needs. In addition, the CSP can offer value-added services like backup monitoring, break/fix repair and technical assistance when the need arises to recover lost files or failed applications.

Cloud Backup Recovery Latency

While CSPs can provide cost savings, some don’t provide the level of integration required to quickly recover physical and virtualized business applications from a failure. This capability is typically referred to as DR-as-a-Service (DRaas) whereby the CSP provides a support contract to recover a client’s failed applications at the CSP facility following an outage. In some instances, recovery may require a multi-step process that can take hours to complete. For example, following an application outage the provider may have to manually provision a physical or virtual server, then kickoff a data restore job that could run for a few hours before the recovery can be completed. Many businesses today have very little, if any, tolerance for downtime. But the high availability solutions used in enterprise data centers, like server clustering technology with synchronous replication, tend to fall outside the budget of most small to medium sized businesses.

Backup As A Strategic Asset

Organizations need to move beyond looking at cloud backup as an off-site backup and recovery solution that they might have a need for someday. Instead, they should view it as a strategic asset that will likely help insulate their business from the risk of a future disaster. In fact, threats to business operations not only come from natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes but they actually occur more commonly as the result of “garden variety threats”, like user error, viruses and data corruption. And these latter threats can be just as harmful as the “big events”. The bottom line is if businesses plan for the worst, they will likely be better prepared to deal with outages when they actually happen.

All-In-One Cloud Backup

A cloud integrated backup offering that provides businesses with an easy way to protect their critical data assets while retaining the ability to rapidly recover their business systems, regardless of the disaster scenario, can be an ideal solution. To ease deployment, an “all-in-one” backup appliance which contains all the necessary application backup agents, deduplicated disk storage and replication software, could be implemented at the businesses primary site. This appliance would then automatically integrate into the CSP facility to provide off-site data protection as well. Backups would take place on the local appliance but recoveries could be initiated locally or in the cloud by either the end-user or the provider.

Automated Recovery

It is also important for the backup solution to be easy to use. Many businesses have an “IT guy” not a dedicated IT staff, let alone backup experts. Kicking off a file level recovery should be intuitive enough so that end-users could perform self-service recoveries. In addition, in order to reduce recovery times, the appliance should be capable of automatically hosting a failed application directly on the appliance itself; whether on the local system or on the appliance configured in the cloud facility.

Failing an application over to the appliance in near real-time would eliminate the need for a multi-step recovery process that could potentially result in hours of critical application downtime. And by leveraging backup assets to provide near instantaneous application recovery, businesses could enhance application service levels without resorting to exorbitant expenditures on additional high availability infrastructure.

Balanced Backup and Recovery

One of the keys for enabling this level of recoverability is the underlying storage architecture of the backup appliance. Most backup appliances are configured with slow rotational (RPM), high density drives that are designed for storage economy. As a result, they are often not suitable for hosting real-time business applications as described above. A new design is needed, so that when these appliances are called upon to host production data they are up to the task. Cloud providers like Datto provide an efficient layer of SSD that can be used to host a failed system, and still leverage hard disk drive capacity for long term data retention. In short, the right balance of cost-effective hard disk drive storage for data retention, along with high performance SSD, can enable businesses to get the maximum benefit from their backup appliance investment.

No Cost, Real-World DR Testing

A cloud integrated backup solution can also help facilitate DR testing because there is always a recent copy of backup data residing in a non-production (cloud) environment. For example, backed up virtual machine images could be mounted on the cloud backup appliance and then presented to a test VM to make sure that the application actually comes online and the data is readable.

Since this type of recovery testing can be performed rapidly, businesses could potentially perform a DR test once a month, once a week or even once a day without any disruption or risk to production application services. In addition to enhancing the confidence in the backup solution, organizations can also demonstrate that they are in compliance with application recoverability service levels.

Conclusion

Shopping for a cloud backup solution can be a daunting task for those businesses that have limited budgets but still have a need for stringent data protection and application availability. Next generation cloud backup and DR solutions, like those from Datto, are highly affordable solutions which require low to no touch administration and help to take the guesswork out of backup and recovery.

By enabling businesses to automatically protect and recover their data and applications locally and in the cloud, Datto’s offering enables businesses to move-on from backup housekeeping tasks and focus on business revenue generating activities.

Sponsored by Datto

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As a 22 year IT veteran, Colm has worked in a variety of capacities ranging from technical support of critical OLTP environments to consultative sales and marketing for system integrators and manufacturers. His focus in the enterprise storage, backup and disaster recovery solutions space extends from mainframe and distributed computing environments across a wide range of industries.

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