The concept of cloud backup has been around awhile and seems well-understood: you back up your business data and store it “in the cloud” (network of servers) so it can be retrieved on demand at a later date.
By Greg Onoprijenko
What is less well-understood is the idea of cloud disaster recovery. Its name gives some indication of its purpose, suggesting a more robust response to an unforeseen data-loss emergency. But is a more robust response always the appropriate response? In other words, how does one calibrate a solution to best fit one’s specific needs?
Traditional Cloud Backup
Cloud backup was originally conceived as baseline protection against business data loss. But just as the Internet has contributed to an increase in the world’s electronic data production, it has also enabled us to move data safely off-site to a data vault, where it’s available to be restored on-demand back to physical servers.
Recovery time via cloud backup depends on several factors:
- The amount of data to be restored
- Support staff available
- Availability of on-site hardware
In the case of retrieving a single file, data recovery might take minutes, or, in the case of having to restore an entire server image, it may take anywhere from hours to weeks, depending on the above factors.
Cloud Disaster Recovery
Cloud Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), by contrast, is a more recent business capability that has evolved from a combination of technological advancements and an increase in the speed at which business is expected to move.
The cloud DRaaS protection process is similar to the cloud backup process: data (individual files or entire server images) is backed up over the internet and stored in an off-site data vault. The difference lies in the ability to failover live servers to an alternative cloud environment, giving a business newfound capacity to run live production servers in a virtual environment.
Enabling users to connect to an alternative data center running live servers decreases recovery time to a matter of minutes and hours from the previously attainable days and weeks.
Why It Matters
Understanding the difference between the two services is important. The added layer of backup and decreased recovery times afforded by a cloud DRaaS solution will no doubt inspire customer peace of mind, but it is also more expensive and complex to manage, requiring internal capabilities that traditional cloud backup does not. You’ll need:
- A virtualized server environment
- Adequate infrastructure
- Knowledge of how to manage a virtual environment
- Software application expertise
- Connectivity between end users and the cloud environment
- A secure cloud environment within a certified facility
- A detailed process with roles and responsibilities clearly understood
- Competent staff to execute tasks quickly
Related: Defining the Future of DR Storage
Cloud DRaaS is more labor-intensive than a simple cloud backup solution, which does not require having to spin up a live IT production environment. Your choice of which level of protection to adopt should therefore be based solely on your company’s recovery time objective (RTO), which is the length of system downtime that your business can tolerate in a crisis.
If your RTO is flexible (greater than 24 hours) a cloud backup solution is sufficient. If your RTO is tight (less than 24 hours), a cloud disaster recovery solution is your best option.