Issues and trends: Business continuity and disaster recovery

Brandon Tanner, senior manager at nationwide Managed IT Services provider ITS, discusses the trends and issues surrounding business continuity and disaster recovery.

1. What are your predictions for business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) in 2015?

More SMEs are going to be seeking out cloud solutions. A recent study by the Cloud Industry Forum predicted that the end of support for Windows Server 2003 would drive businesses to the cloud, and I agree with that expectation.

As legacy software and equipment become more cumbersome to manage, businesses are going to implement solutions that are not only more user friendly but more effective for BC/DR.

2. What are the major challenges that SMEs face when adopting cloud services?

The initial migration to a cloud infrastructure can be taxing on SME IT departments. For some organisations, the entire department is one person. SMEs simply don’t have a lot of staff to spare for overseeing the process of moving to and managing a new environment.

There’s also a push for using cloud for backup and DR to meet more aggressive recovery time objectives (RTOs) driven by compliance requirements. Unfortunately, the solutions that allow SMEs to meet their RTOs can be cost prohibitive - though that’s changing with some of the new solutions on the market.

3. Can you expand on the shift to cloud-based backup and DR?

The transition to cloud-based backup and DR is driven by the need to recover key IT systems and data quickly. Data sprawl is becoming more of an issue, and SMEs don’t want to keep expanding their physical infrastructure to manage growing volumes of data.

The more resources you have to manage, the more complicated DR becomes. Cloud’s scalability and centralised management reduce operational complexity to allow for better DR.

4. Is tape-based vaulting dying out?

I won’t say that tape-based vaulting is completely going away just yet, but its role is changing. Now tape is becoming a strategy for long-term archival of records you might not need to access again but which you need to retain for legal purposes.

That said, tape as a primary backup strategy is not something you see much anymore because it’s not practical. Backups are much more effective when they’re housed in an easily accessible, manageable environment.

5. What sort of time impact will DRaaS have?

As I mentioned earlier, one of the advantages of cloud DR is that it reduces operational complexity, which allows SMEs to meet more aggressive RTOs.

But even so, managing a service by yourself makes it more difficult to recover quickly. With DRaaS, the provider has a much better handle on how to meet customers’ individual needs. That expertise directly impacts recovery times.

6. What does a modern backup and disaster recovery plan look like?

Today backup and disaster recovery plans utilise at least one type of cloud solution, whether it’s public, private or hybrid.

These might be combined with traditional backup solutions like disk or tape. A lot of businesses have bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategies as part of their recovery plans, but BYOD requires careful implementation to avoid security breaches.

7. You have recently launched BlackCloud and BlackVault, please tell us about these products?

BlackCloud uses the ITS private cloud platform to give organisations an off-site data backup and recovery service that’s not only affordable but secure. We manage all data in our proprietary data centre, but clients are able to access their data from any location with a suitable Internet connection. SMEs can’t afford to pay for storage they don’t need, so BlackCloud uses deduplication to eliminate extra copies of data.

Our BlackVault solution is a DRaaS service that can be used alongside BlackCloud. The data is stored in a unit on-site at the client’s business, but it’s a fully managed service. We control all hardware and updates based on the client’s compliance requirements. Essentially it’s the next generation of hybrid infrastructure.

The goal of BlackVault is to give SMEs the ability to meet their RTOs from both operational and DR perspectives. For example, if a client experiences a file corruption or a single server outage, they’re probably going to have an RTO of about 0-4 hours. Because the BlackVault unit is stored on-site, that RTO is feasible for them.

Data vaulted off-site for DR purposes will have a slightly less aggressive RTO — typically 24 hours or less. In these cases, we give the client access to virtual machines matching their current environment, and they can then recover their vaulted data.

The key benefit of these solutions is that they put all the advantages of cloud-based vaulting and recovery within the reach of SMEs. In addition, because the solutions are fully managed, SMEs aren’t putting an unwanted burden on their IT teams and can meet their recovery goals.

Check out our DRaaS hub for everything you need to know about Disaster Recovery as a Service.