Using the cloud for business continuity

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In my previous post, I talked a bit about disaster recovery and how unexpected events trigger the need for disaster recovery solutions. In this part I will talk about how you can use cloud as the basis for the infrastructure of your disaster recovery solution. I will also discuss what you should look at as prepackaged solutions for your disaster recovery on the cloud.

Cloud as an infrastructure element in your business continuity plan

Backup Computer Key In Blue For Archiving And Storage 19221219The most traditional way the cloud can become a part of your business continuity is as a part of the disaster recovery infrastructure. Why should you need to invest in a large infrastructure, such as a secondary (or tertiary) data center with all the servers, storage, networking equipment and so forth needed to replicate the capacity of your main data center? Hopefully this infrastructure would never even be used!

The elastic infrastructure of the cloud offers inherent capabilities that could provide a very good solution in this scenario. Two types of cloud can be good candidates for this scenario:

• A public cloud is a very good candidate provided that you are comfortable with moving your data onto an infrastructure owned and managed by a third party. In this scenario, you can replicate your data onto the storage in the public cloud using one of many capable technologies, and only start up the needed servers in the event of a disaster. It is very important to keep in mind the challenges related to data replication and the network requirements. I would also advise you to perform quite frequent tests if using a public cloud, as there might be unknown changes to the underlying infrastructure.

• A private cloud is a good fit in this scenario provided that you have a secondary location where it can be hosted, and you have other uses for the infrastructure in normal operations. In such a situation, you could run your test and development environments on the cloud infrastructure in the secondary site, and once an event triggers the need to move your production workload, you would down-prioritize your test and development environments and allocate the resources to your production environment. This alternative requires the replication of your data from the primary site to the secondary site, but since you control both endpoints in this scenario you are less constrained in your choice of technology. Frequent failover testing should be performed in order to verify that the solution is operational.

In either scenario, I cannot stress enough the need for an updated business continuity plan and disaster recovery failover tests. The cloud provides the facilities for disaster recovery, but all the processes surrounding disaster recovery and business continuity remain the same.

Cloud as a provider of business continuity services

Over the last couple of years, we have seen the emergence of cloud providers that provide disaster recovery as a service (or DRaaS, if you like). They provide a complete service that can handle your disaster recovery, provided you stay within their stated constraints. IBM has a couple of services that can fall under this category:

In each of these, IBM takes the responsibility for your disaster recovery solution on different levels.

In IBM BCRS Cloud Managed Backup, IBM provides you with an enterprise-class backup solution where we operate the backup infrastructure from one of our delivery centers. In this scenario, we provide all the components needed in the infrastructure to operate it as a managed private cloud solution on your premises. IBM also provides a set of service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee a good level of service. The service is billed either on a streamed or stored billing model. A new feature of this offering is that it now supports backing up your instances on IBM SoftLayer using enterprise-class backup technologies such as Tivoli Storage Manager. This new feature is available fully-managed by IBM.

For more information on IBM BCRS Cloud Managed Backup, take a look at this video.

In IBM BCRS Cloud Virtual Server Recovery, we provide an infrastructure hosted either in an IBM data center or in your data center, depending on your requirements. This will be used as a disaster recovery infrastructure for your server environments. As part of the service, IBM provides assisted disaster recovery testing at an additional fee. Taymour El Erian provided a deep dive into this offering in a previous post on this blog.

With each of these offerings, and similar offerings from other vendors, some of the complexities of a disaster recovery solution are handled by the vendor, which can remove the complexities from your enterprise. I would urge you to take a look at these offerings if you do not have a disaster recovery solution already, as they can help you get a solution without complications.

Are you using any cloud services as part of your disaster recovery solutions? If so, how has this worked out for you? I would like to hear your thoughts.

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