Betting the Enterprise on Data with Cloud-Based Disaster Recovery and Backups

One of the more pressing consequences of truly transitioning to a data-driven company culture is a renewed esteem for the data—valued as an asset—that gives the enterprise its worth. Unlike other organizational assets, protecting data requires more than mere security measures. It necessitates reliable, test-worthy backup and disaster recovery plans that can automate these vital processes to account for virtually any scenario, especially some of the more immediate ones involving:
  • Ransomware: Ransomware attacks are increasing in incidence and severity. They occur when external entities deploy malware to encrypt organizational data using similar, if not more effective, encryption measures that those same organizations do and only release the data after being paid to do so. “Ransomware was not something that many people worried about a couple years ago,” Unitrends VP of Product Marketing Dave LeClair acknowledged. “Now it’s something that almost every company that I’ve talked to has been hit. The numbers are getting truly staggering how frequently ransomware attacks are hitting IT, encrypting their data, and demanding payments to unencrypt it from these criminal organizations.”
  • Downtime: External threats are not the only factors that engender IT downtime. Conventional maintenance and updating measures for various systems also result in situations in which organizations cannot access or leverage their data. In essential time-sensitive applications, cloud-based disaster recovery and backup solutions ensure business continuity.
  •  Contemporary IT Environments: Today’s IT environments are much more heterogeneous than they once were. It is not uncommon for organizations to utilize existing legacy systems alongside cloud-based applications and those involving virtualization. Cloud disaster recovery and data backup platforms preserve connected continuity in a singular manner to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of backup systems.
  • Acts of Nature: The increasing reliance on technology is still susceptible to unforseen acts based on weather conditions, natural disasters, and even man-made ones—in which case cloud options for recovery and backups are the most desirable because they store valued data offsite.

Additionally, when one considers that the primary benefits of the cloud are its low cost storage—at scale—and ubiquity of access regardless of location or time, cloud disaster recovery and backup solutions are a logical extension of enterprise infrastructure. “The new technologies, because of the ability of doing things in the cloud, kind of democratizes it so that anybody can afford to have a DR environment, particularly for their critical applications,” LeClair remarked.

Recovery and Backup Basics
There are a multitude of ways that organizations can leverage cloud recovery and data backup options to readily restore production capabilities in the event of system failure:

  • Replication: Replication is the means by which data is copied elsewhere—in this case, to the cloud for storage. Data can also be replicated to other forms of storage (i.e. disk or tape) and be transmitted to a cloud service provider that way.
  • Archives/Checkpoints: Archives or checkpoints are states of data at particular points in time for a data set which are preserved within a system. Therefore, organizations can always revert their system data to an archive to restore it to a time before some sort of failure occurred. According to LeClair, this capability is an integral way of mitigating the effects of ransomware: “You can simply rollback the clock, to the point before you got encrypted, and you can restore your system so you’re good to go”.
  • Instant Recovery Solutions: These solutions not only restore systems to a point in time prior to events of failure, but even facilitate workload management based on the backup appliance itself. This capability is critical in instances in which on-premise systems are still down. In such an event, the appliance’s compute power and storage replace those of the primary solution, which “allows you to spin off that workload in less than five minutes so you can get back up and running,” Le Clair said.
  • Incremental Forevers: This recovery and backup technique is particularly useful because it involves a full backup of a particular data set or application, and subsequently only backs up changes to that initial backup. Such utility is pivotal to massive quantities of big data.

Cloud Replication
There are many crucial considerations when leveraging the cloud as a means of recovery and data backup. Foremost of these is the replication process of copying data from on premises to the cloud. “It absolutely is an issue, particularly if you have terabytes of data,” LeClair mentioned. “If you’re a decent sized enterprise and you have 50 or 100 terabytes of data that you need to move from your production environment to the cloud, that can take weeks.” Smaller cloud providers such as Unitrends can issue storage to organizations via disk, which is then overnighted and uploaded to the cloud so that, on an ongoing basis, organizations only need to replicate the changes of their data.

Machine Transformation
Another consideration pertains to actually utilizing that data in the cloud due to networking concerns. “Networking in cloud generally works very differently than what happens on premise,” LeClair observed. Most large public cloud providers (such as Amazon Web Services) have networking constraints regarding interconnections that require significant IT involvement to configure. However, competitive disaster recovery and backup vendors have dedicated substantial resources to automating various facets of recovery, including all of the machine transformation (transmogrification) required to provision a production environment in the cloud.

Merely replicating data into the cloud is just the first step. The larger concern for actually utilizing it there in cases of emergency requires provisioning the network, which certain cloud platforms can do automatically so that, “You have a DR environment without having to actually dedicate any compute resources yet,” LeClair said. “You basically have your data that’s replicated into Amazon, and you have all the configuration data necessary to spin off that data if you need to. It’s a very cost-effective way to keep yourself protected.”
Recovery Insurance
The automation capabilities of cloud data recovery and back-up solutions also include testing, which is a vital prerequisite for actually ensuring that such systems function properly on demand. Traditionally, organizations tested their recovery environments sparingly, if at all. “There’s now technology that essentially automates your DR environment, so you don’t have to pull up human resources and time into it,” LeClair said. In many instances, those automation capabilities hinge upon the cloud, which has had a considerable impact on the capabilities for disaster recovery and backup. The overarching effect is that it renders data recovery and backup more consistent, cheaper, and easier to facilitate in an increasingly complicated and preeminent IT world.

Source: Betting the Enterprise on Data with Cloud-Based Disaster Recovery and Backups by jelaniharper

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