It’s probably safe to say that if one facet of your IT operation needs to be as fail-safe as you can possibly make it, it’s your disaster recovery/business continuity (DR/BC) setup. Is that something you can reliably entrust to the cloud? It’s one thing to use a cloud-based service like, say, Dropbox to back up the files on your PC. But is the cloud the way to go to back up your entire IT operation?
I recently had the opportunity to address that question with Lynn LeBlanc, co-founder and CEO of HotLink, a hybrid IT management software provider in Santa Clara. In what turned out to be an enlightening email interview, I asked LeBlanc it there’s any legitimate argument against leveraging the public cloud for disaster recovery. She said there is none:
In fact, the public cloud lends itself very well to disaster recovery. It’s one of its best use cases. Amazon Web Services is the largest and most available infrastructure in the world, and its scale and economics allow IT teams to easily and cost-effectively protect their on-premise workloads from disasters. In fact, some solutions, such as HotLink DR Express, also enable business continuity for a full recovery in the public cloud at a price point that was inconceivable only a few years ago.
So when companies investigate the option of turning to the public cloud for disaster recovery, and opt not to go that route, what are the reasons they typically cite? LeBlanc said there are generally four reasons, the most common of which is fear of the unknown, which stems from a lack of any public cloud experience. The second reason she said, has to do with assumptions about cost:
Many companies currently lack a disaster recovery solution today, and assume that all options will be too costly. Often they have priced out a mirror site at a co-location facility and realize the aggregate costs, including the people to keep the sites in sync and manage the recovery, are simply out of reach. As a result, they are accustomed to being down for weeks in a failure scenario. Once they learn more about technologies that leverage public cloud for comprehensive disaster recovery and business continuity at about the same cost as basic backup, the conversation changes.
The third reason, Le Blanc said, is bad experiences with manageability:
Around 30 percent of customers come to HotLink because they’ve been burned by other cloud DR companies with solutions that were difficult to manage. This is when an end-to-end integrated management system is so critical to the success of DR/BC in the cloud. HotLink DR Express is tightly integrated into VMware vCenter, so managing DR/BC in the public cloud is just like managing day-to-day operations on-premise.
LeBlanc said the fourth reason is the rare case in which instantaneous replication is essential:
They need to have a hot, hot replication and DR site, and cannot tolerate even a few seconds of downtime. This costs organizations an arm and a leg, but they’re willing to pay for it because a very tailored solution is required.
I also took the opportunity to ask LeBlanc it there’s any data that should not be stored in the public cloud. She said she couldn’t think of any legitimate reason that any particular type of data should be kept out of public clouds:
When we see organizations hesitate about storing certain types of data in the cloud, it’s generally due to lack of familiarity and/or experience. The same was true when virtualization first emerged; early adopters took their time in testing the waters. It’s the same with any new technology deployment. Many larger companies choose to keep transactional and mission-critical data on-premise. Although the cloud is no longer just for low-level workloads, many corporate IT groups still maintain that mission-critical applications and data stay in house. However, this is changing rapidly. In fact, the hybrid cloud model offers enterprises an opportunity to have the best of both worlds.
LeBlanc went on to share what I found to be some valuable insights about the hybrid cloud model. I’ll cover those in a forthcoming post.
A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.