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Cloud Computing and Disaster Recovery Plans

written by: Jayant R Row•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 12/30/2010

Disaster recovery can become quite a strenuous exercise if one does not have a proper plan for it. One of the options that every IT administrator must consider is the use of cloud computing for disaster recovery.

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    Planning disaster recovery

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    Businesses, especially those with limited budgets, are discovering the use of cloud computing for disaster recovery. This totally dispenses with the need for expensive hardware, as data stored in the cloud is on the servers of service providers. They in turn have their own system of servers at different locations which constantly back up any customer data that they receive. The user is able to access it at any time. So data saved in the cloud will have a number of backups which can assist in data recovery for any material stored in it. This creates an organizational redundancy that any individual business may find very expensive to duplicate.

    Disaster recovery traditionally involves the backup of all a company’s data on backup servers, which can be easily accessed. These backup servers can be on site or contracted out, but the ownership of the hardware or subcontracting of these services can be quite expensive and form a substantial part of an IT budget for an organization.

    Besides owning backup servers or leasing them out, each company needs to have in place a system or discipline that creates automatic backups of all data inputs, whether it is fresh data or modification of existing files. The time frame for creating these backups has to be defined and ensured so that in case of any sudden disaster only very recent data will be affected. The disaster recovery plan must have a strategy to recover the lost data and to bring the entire system back on line with the least time lost.

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    Using cloud computing for disaster recovery

    Cloud computing can be used for backup and disaster recovery; a place where most businesses are vulnerable and which they cannot afford to neglect even when business conditions are tough. Cloud computing offers a cost effective means of meeting needs for data protection in a way that reduces the cost of infrastructure, business processes and other applications. Many large corporations have a number of branch offices with little or no on site storage and without the necessary experienced IT staff at the branch office. Cloud computing for disaster recovery therefore becomes a feasible option and can be utilized by them as a service purchased from their service providers at very reasonable cost.

    Cloud based data services offer a number of solutions for small businesses and branch offices. Solutions offer data protection by backing up files, providing full system disk images of the systems, mail and web servers and all other business systems. The best cloud computing service providers offer a storage system, a file system and all applications necessary for a customer to have backup and disaster recovery. It needs to provide sufficient mobility to enable easy transfer to and from the cloud and ensure continuity of business. It should give the customer the option to pay for actual usage but allow for rapid expansion when required. The cloud service provider must ensure the integrity of the data stored and that it remains secure, so it is only accessed by authorized personnel.

    To ensure data recovery, the provider needs to create a replica of all the protected systems of the customer. The customer sets the timing for incremental backups, which are governed by disaster recovery plans of the enterprise using the cloud. Recovery of data should be user driven, and be fast. Costs of the service level agreements are negotiated in advance. Recovery of files or systems should never take more than 30 minutes. Customers should also be able to check the validity of data stored. Their disaster recovery plans should be constantly rehearsed so actual operations for recovering data are instinctive to the personnel concerned.