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Cloud-Based Disaster Recovery: Choose Wisely

Most CIOs and IT managers know they need to protect critical workloads, but they often live daily with the fear that "the big one" -- an unexpected major outage or failure -- will take out their data center. Why? Because the typical approaches to disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) have been too expensive for most companies to set up and maintain.

When cloud-based data protection technology emerged, the perfect solution seemed to be on the horizon: unlimited capacity with a low-cost, pay-as-you-go model. Basically, the public cloud could become the DR and BC insurance you pay for only when it's needed, but you must choose carefully.

As you explore the plethora of companies promising cloud-based DR, be sure to pay particular attention to the recovery capabilities provided by each. Some vendors may promote a cloud-based backup product as a DR solution, even though it does not provide recovery infrastructure.

Though backup is better than nothing, rapid, seamless recovery from an on-premises failure should be what you really seek. You should be able to pick and choose which on-premises workloads to protect, keep them synchronized with ongoing changes, and restore operations very quickly in the cloud -- without any hassles.

To avoid inviting in challenges with restore times and continuity, choose tools that do more than simply replicate data and virtual machines (VMs). True DR/BC in the cloud must include automated testing, failover, and networking. If it's too difficult to test VM infrastructure changes inside the DR/BC environment, then data center teams won't do it -- and that doesn't bode well for recovery scenarios.

You should also insist on automated capabilities for failover to alternate cloud-based computing infrastructure during on-premises failures. Otherwise, teams will be scrambling to reconfigure networking and VMs, which threatens business continuity.

Companies should consider the level of complexity that comes with managing both on-premises management infrastructure and a separate management console for cloud-based DR/BC. When looking to the cloud for better DR/BC choices, consider adopting a solution that integrates well with your on-premises management infrastructure. That way, your team can leverage the management environment and workflows already in use.

In the majority of data centers, that means VMware vCenter interoperability. When companies integrate cloud-based DR/BC into a single management environment, they are on their way to a much smoother and more predictable recovery in a failure scenario.

Few IT disasters take out your entire data center. Usually it's hardware failure, software bugs, or security breaches; and these occur every single day. Whatever the failure, today's cloud-based DR/BC solutions can make continuous protection and seamless recovery a cost-effective possibility for every company and any workload.

Just make sure you are not paying too much for DR or using inadequate solutions that promise continuity but don't deliver. Gartner recently predicted 55% annual growth for DR-as-a-service (DRaaS). It's clear that CIOs and IT managers recognize that failures are bound to happen, and they are now serious about leveraging the cloud for a solution.

With the many DR/BC options available today, there's simply no point in living dangerously or spending too much on a solution that delivers less than expected. By insisting on comprehensive DR/BC that saves costs, eliminates downtime, and uses proven failover and automated testing, an organization's DR plans will act as the insurance policy it should be.

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