What SMBs Need to Know About Disaster Recovery as a Service

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    Considerations for Maintaining Critical Business Continuity

    After covering tips for small to midsize businesses (SMBs) to minimize data loss, it makes sense to also delve further into disaster recovery. For those businesses that have a mix of infrastructures, including those that store information both onsite and in the cloud, it can be extremely complex to ensure that the data remains available after a disaster.

    Unitrends, provider of industry-leading backup, archiving and disaster recovery solutions, offers one simple solution that many SMBs find attractive: Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS). According to Subo Guha, vice president of product management for Unitrends, the cloud is helping to make disaster recovery options more attainable for SMBs. In an email interview, Guha explained why disaster recovery is integral for even small businesses:

    Disaster recovery (DR) is crucial for any size business. However, due to limited resources, an SMB’s ability to quickly recover (from outages, disaster and/or catastrophic failure) can be the sole factor in their survival or failure (according to a recent IDC study, 80% of SMB respondents reported that network downtime costs their organizations at least $20,000 per hour). Although many SMBs acknowledge the importance of protecting their data, DR continues to be a major challenge; IT environments are more complex than ever, as critical data resides across virtual, physical and cloud infrastructures and IT staffing and budgets are constrained. And, SMBs are overwhelmed by the time, money and personnel required to build physical failover environments for disaster recovery purposes. SMBs simply can’t afford large scale disaster recovery policies and facilities; therefore, they are continuously striving for more economical means to manage DR.

    If an SMB does not have a working disaster recovery plan in place, it should first consider which business applications and data are most critical for daily business processes to continue. To decide this, Guha suggests thinking about how long the company could survive if one or more applications or collections of information were unavailable. The ones that are needed to keep business running are most critical, and thus should “drive” the company’s service level agreement for disaster recovery. Knowing that the business must have that information available within, say, an hour would mean that any disaster recovery plan and vendor included in it must be able to provide access within that amount of time.

    When approaching Unitrends or any  DRaaS provider, Guha says the SMB should find out important information:

    SMBs should ask a vendor whether they can meet their specific SLA—which for many, is usually under an hour to recover. Second, it’s crucial for SMBs to understand the vendor’s customer support capabilities and their process for securing and retrieving data. Third and equally important, is cost; the DR solution should be affordable and simple to use from the start, but also maintain low cost of ownership as it scales to meet their business’ growth needs over time.

    Before considering DRaaS as part of an SMB’s disaster recovery plan, the company should be sure its network can handle the necessary technology. Guha says that minimally, the SMB’s network must be able to access the provider’s data center. But most vendors will help set up any local appliances and provide “onboarding services for DRaaS.”

    Although many SMBs have yet to adopt a DRaaS solution, Guha believes that the wave is coming:

    Historically, there has been reluctance to adopt cloud-based DR offerings due to high costs, security and overall performance concerns, and lag time to recovery. However, significant, recent advancements in technology have resolved these issues and leveled the playing field for SMBs; namely, the introduction of a hybrid cloud approach that offers speedy on-premise recovery that is linked to the cloud. The economics have also changed; vendors are now making it much more affordable to adopt DRaaS and cloud replication services.

    Kim Mays has been editing and writing about IT since 1999. She currently tackles the topics of small to midsize business technology and introducing new tools for IT. Follow Kim on Google+ or Twitter.

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