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New offerings that may cut the cost of your IT disaster recovery plan

Linda Tucci, Executive Editor

Still think cost is an excuse for not having an IT disaster recovery plan?

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Server virtualization and software-based replication technologies are making IT disaster recovery plans more cost-effective for companies that handle DR internally, argues analyst Stephanie Balaouras, who covers DR and business continuity at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

For businesses that have outsourced DR to big providers, there are now subscription-based solutions for backup, storage, replication and application continuity offered through the cloud or as Software as a Service applications. These cloud computing offerings promise fast recovery without big up-front investment. Here are Balaouras' arguments for both scenarios.

In-house DR on the cheap: Virtualization, software-based replication

Disaster recovery tends to get short shrift at midmarket companies -- and with good reason, Balaouras says. Disk-based replication is expensive, requiring like-to-like systems at the primary and backup sites as well as plenty of bandwidth. In addition to the investment in the two storage arrays, the license fees can run in the tens of thousands of dollars. Even large companies tend to reserve this for their mission-critical systems, Balaouras said.

Companies that intend to keep doing DR internally should leverage virtualization, as well as a range of new replication technologies, as much as possible. "If you have 10 physical servers at your production site, you don't have to have 10 physical servers at the recovery site; you could have less," she said. In addition to cutting the cost of hardware, virtualization reduces the square footage of the recovery site, whether that is leased space from a colocation provider or one's own.

Software-based replication, where software is used to make and send a copy of the data over a WAN or LAN to a local or distant backup server, is more flexible. "The benefit with software-based replication is that the technologies are completely agnostic to the storage. You could have storage, not have it, you could have direct-attached storage," Balaouras said. "You also can replicate from physical to virtual environments, another way to potentially save money."

Balaouras said solutions that she likes in this category include those from Neverfail Ltd., CA XOsoft and Double-Take Software Inc.

Software-based replication costs less up front and has lower ongoing operational costs, Balaouras said. A perpetual license for software-based replication typically costs $1,500 to $2,000 per protected server. Maintenance fees run 10% to 15% of the original cost. Rather than the optical connectivity required in many storage-based replication solutions, software-based replication solutions will replicate over IP, Balaouras said.

Faster outsourced recovery at a lower price

Small and medium-sized business that relied in the past on an IBM or a SunGard to recover their data from tape could expect to wait 48 to 72 hours to get back up and running, and that's not fast enough anymore, Balaouras said. Yet more advanced solutions with faster recovery times are much more expensive, costing millions of dollars a year.

Enter Storage as a Service and other disaster recovery/business continuity services. "There was nothing in the middle, until now," Balaouras said.

The growing acceptance of these on-demand services can be traced to consumer offerings such as the photo sharing site Flickr, said Jeffrey Kaplan, managing director of ThinkStrategies Inc. In Wellesley, Mass.

"It was that consumer experience which popularized the concept of online storage and drove home the value of protecting professional records for many small and medium-sized businesses," Kaplan said. The online services automate functions that in the traditional mode (redundant systems, shipping tapes) required investment in infrastructure and time.

With the proliferation of vendors offering such services, the midmarket CIO's most important task is to choose a reliable provider with the wherewithal to survive a dicey economy. "There are brand-name companies now in this business, including Dell, EMC and Digital Iron Mountain," Kaplan said.

Balaouras recommends four ways to attain this DR by remote control:

  • Backup as a Service: A fully managed, subscription-based service. Vendors include: Iron Mountain Inc.'s LiveVault service, i365 EVault and IBM Business Continuity and Resiliency Services. "You just download a piece of software from these guys onto your servers and it backs up your servers over the Internet to their sites. It's that simple," Balaouras said.

  • It was that consumer experience which popularized the concept of online storage and drove home the value of protecting professional records for many small and medium-sized businesses.

    Jeff Kaplan, managing director, ThinkStrategies Inc.

  • Storage as a Service (also referred to as disk-to-cloud): A subscription-based service, this is for companies that are already backing up locally with, say, Symantec Backup Exec or Microsoft Application Manager, and want to get that data off-site for DR purposes or maybe want to stop shipping tapes to Iron Mountain. Balaouras explained, "You continue to back up locally to disk, but when you want to get it off-site and make a second copy of the data you send it electronically to vendors" such as Iron Mountain CloudRecovery, Amazon Simple Storage Service or Symantec Protection Network.

    The solution eliminates the security risks associated with transporting tapes, Balaouras said. The risks associated with backing up over the Internet to a vendor in the cloud with multiple tenants are mitigated by the use of encryption, she added.

  • Replication as a Service (virtual recovery): This fully managed, subscription-based service provides full business continuity. Vendors in this space will replicate your data as well as your system information to their sites, so they can recover you to virtual machines and help you fail back when you are ready. Solutions include SunGard Virtual Server Replication, CA Instant Recovery On-Demand and i365 EVault.

  • Application Continuity as a Service: A fully managed, subscription-based service that provides complete continuity and recovery for a specific business application. Balaouras said a prime example is Dell MessageOne, an on-demand email management service that includes archiving and disaster recovery. The service is priced per mailbox and nuanced, so companies could not only decide which mailboxes to cover, but also buy send-and-receive continuity services for everyone and then add replication just for the executives.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Linda Tucci, Senior News Writer.


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