I’ve written several times recently on the disruptive nature of cloud computing and how its omnipresent nature is removing complexity from traditional business processes and practices. Another increasing trend I am seeing is significant change in business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) options driven by cloud technologies.
Most senior business leaders have been involved in some level of ICT disaster recovery at one time or another throughout their careers, and they can be stressful times. Sensitive corporate data is thrown into the wind, private employee information can also be put at risk, and daily business operations are disrupted by something more often than not beyond your control.
The key to ensuring smooth BC in the event of an unforeseen emergency is to have backup systems in place in at least one other location to allow your organization to transfer operations and processes – and today the cloud is providing a truly viable, cost-effective and flexible alternative location.
a question of costs
The cloud did take a little while to gain the trust of business owners and leaders, particularly when it comes to the storage of sensitive and confidential company information. There was a fear factor in place for quite a long time, but as the cloud continues to become an accepted mainstream tool, that attitude is changing.
With greater acceptance, more organisations are exploring cloud storage for BC and DR purposes. A number of cloud service providers now offer Backup “as-a-Service” and organisations are considering the many benefits of this option for cloud-based BC and DR for servers and PCs, which can be scaled up or down depending on customer need.
It is this flexible nature which, as with all things cloud, is proving popular; customers want to control their costs and a cloud-based backup solution helps them to reduce their CAPEX outlay. There is no need for unnecessary in-house infrastructure for backup and storage since it is hosted in the cloud under the as-a-service model, freeing up budget and also internal data center capacity for other purposes.
gathering momentum and trust
BC and DR “as-a-Service” offers real opportunity, and one which is only really beginning to be fully understood by customers who have long been used to the off-site but on company premises backup approach. We are in the Big Data era, meaning that as companies continue to build up more IT assets – laptops, PCs, tablets and smartphones – they are generating more data than ever before. As such more storage than ever is needed and storage costs are escalating.
So as organisations look to manage these escalating storage costs, one of the options is to engage with a cloud provider to investigate alternative storage and backup systems. Cloud providers who can mutualise their costs across multiple user organisations and reduce costs can offer significant savings (in some cases as much as 50%) by taking BC and DR strategy into the cloud. But as with any other disruptive technology, there is a learning curve involved – some companies still need to get out of their comfort zones to reap the benefits of the cloud. The positive side for them is that in many areas of their business they are already doing just that; most organizations already engage with numerous third-party suppliers for business-critical services and processes. So the step into BC and DR in the cloud need not be such an intimidating one.
Industry research backs up the trend. IDC predicts that over 102 exabytes of external storage capacity will be sold in 2017, up from 20 exabytes in 2012, while the next four years will see external storage space purchased by companies grow by between 30 per cent and 40 per cent.
picking the right way forward
But companies need to decide the right way forward for their needs. Having decided to place BC and DR in the cloud, should they choose public, private or hybrid? There are many different options available on the market, but organizations must be wary of merely selecting an anonymous black box – their cloud storage solution can end up being based on no relationship with the supplier, without any visibility and only interacting via a web interface.
So it is worth evaluating the hybrid cloud approach which gives you a more traditional relationship with your supplier, including SLAs, greater trust and an on-going partnership – global enterprise organizations in particular need this kind of underpinning.
be aware of the pitfalls
So while evaluating the many benefits of BC and DR in the cloud, companies do still need to be aware of the potential hazards. Since breaking onto the scene as a disruptor, the cloud has almost become something of a drug. We utilize the cloud for so much of our daily lives now, both personal and professional, that it can become second nature and somewhat taken for granted. Consider the many stories of tourists going on holiday only to return home to massive roaming charges from their mobile service provider – this second nature of the cloud can mean racking up out of sight, out of mind bills.
So once you decide to take an as a service approach to storage and backup, be aware that you are now in the massive content and data generation era. A staggering 90 per cent of all the data generated ever has been generated over the last two years, and it all needs to be stored and backed up somewhere. We are creating more and more data all the time, and show no sign of stopping any time soon. But with organizations needing to manage this on-going data explosion on a cost-effective basis, I believe that the era of cloud storage and backup based on the OPEX model has truly arrived.