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According to Gartner, two out of five businesses disappear within five years if they suffer a major IT outage[1].

Following the recent severe weather conditions in Australia, including the recurring floods in remote NSW and QLD, as well as, the recent bushfires in Tasmania, it is becoming increasingly apparent, that we are by no means immune to external factors that have the potential to cause major disruption for businesses including serious disaster recovery scenarios such as IT outages for businesses.

With the cost of downtime-per-hour increasing 65% over the last two years[2], having the correct mechanisms in place to provide the right level of resilience and protection for corporate data and information is imperative. The term ‘business critical’ gets used repeatedly in the corporate world, however in this instance, nothing could be more fitting or accurate when you consider what is at risk if you fall victim to a major outage including the loss of historical data, customer records and intellectual capital.

Given the significant implications IT outages can have on businesses, regardless of their size, few can underestimate the potential impact they can have, especially on SMBs where the consequences can have far reaching effects, possibly even resulting in closure in the long term.

In the same way that we insure our cars, homes, and even our lives, it is critically important for SMBs to think about the way they can insure or securely backup their company data, as part of a broader data protection strategy.

Preparing for Disaster Recovery

The good news is SMBs have the agility and flexibility to rapidly adopt new technologies, methodologies and techniques – such as cloud-based solutions – that have the scalability to be adapted to suit the specific needs of almost any business. Cloud-based solutions can also help businesses achieve cost savings and drive efficiencies; essentially enabling them to become and remain, competitive.

Australia is recognised as one of the most virtualised markets in the world, largely because a significant portion of the Australian business market is made up of SMBs. It is also due to the fact that as a whole, Australia has one of highest adoption rates of cloud-based solutions.

In fact, a recent survey conducted by Forrester Research and VMware revealed that cloud adoption among Australian organisations increased to 58 per cent in 2012 compared to 43 per cent in 2011[3].

One misconception among the SMB community however, is that investment in ‘the cloud’ is restricted to large enterprises, which is simply not the case. SMBs should not feel bound by legacy backup solutions designed for on-premise that were built for technology 15 years ago.

Given how nimble today’s SMBs are, they are often in a much better position to think more creatively about how they prepare for disaster recovery as part of a broader data protection approach.

With the introduction of virtualisation, cloud computing, and many more applications; the aging data protection technology in use by most companies today is simply no longer adequate. Having the flexibility to choose, is a key consideration for today’s modern approach to data protection and most importantly, understanding what type of backup or storage solution is the best fit for your business; be it on-premise, cloud-based or possibly a combination of both, is critical.

Benefits of utilising the cloud

For any organisation having offsite storage solutions for backups is critical, however it is amazing how many organisations in fact, do not. Often we see backups stored through more traditional methods such as tape backup, however this runs the risk of tape being perishable, subject to magnetism, partial to user error and, more importantly, it can often be a lengthy and difficult process to recover data in this way.

Tape can play a role in backup archiving, but it is not ideal at reducing exposure following an outage. Recovery options are often limited and lengthy.

Taking a virtualised approach to data protection, including the likes of virtualised backup and replication solutions is not a new concept for SMBs. Hosting these backup solutions in the cloud, is however. This cloud-based approach represents a new paradigm for SMBs.

Leveraging tools for virtualisation to provide for multi-tiering storage offers an important alternative for SMBs looking for powerful and non-disruptive solutions with minimum interruption to local backups or recovery operations.

There are also several key benefits for adopting cloud-based solutions as part of a modern data protection strategy. This includes financial benefits, as cloud storage services are often billed on a ‘per use’ basis in terms of capacity. This makes it easy for business owners to budget for the storage they need for disaster recovery, rather than invest in an expensive storage array.

When SMBs explore the possibility of making a move to the cloud, some believe there is elasticity associated with cloud-based storage – storage in infinite – however SMBs only need to pay for what they use.

Furthermore, as SMBs are not bound by the same data sovereignty laws as larger financial and government organisations are, data sovereignty can be less of a concern – opening up more choice when it comes to cloud storage. Many of the larger cloud providers including Amazon and Microsoft Azure, do offer a geo-redundancy package, with data stored outside Australia.

Key considerations for SMBs when moving towards modern data protection:

Making the right choice for modern data protection

The key to effectively leverage the cloud as part of a disaster recovery strategy is, ensuring you make the right decision when it comes to the tools you implement and the partners you choose to engage with. Make sure the solution you choose makes sense for your business.

There is choice out there for SMBs when it comes to backup solutions that are affordable, easy-to-use and guarantee minimal disruption to your business. It is important to conduct your research and assess what solution will match your specific business needs.

Do your sums

It will be important to weigh up the cost implications associated with your data protection strategy to determine if disaster recovery in the cloud makes sense for your business. From a financial perspective, assess whether it makes sense to back everything up to the cloud, or only certain information.

In most cases it will make sense to take a multi-tiered approach to storage, using a combination of local backups, tapes and cloud storage solutions to ensure complete protection. It is important to assess the risks – if you don’t invest in the right solution, how could this potentially impact your bottom line in the long term?

Have a plan

While taking a modern data protection approach to disaster recovery in the cloud is not quite as simple as implementing backup tools or copying data to storage, if SMBs plan appropriately if can be! SMBs need to make sure they have a plan in place for disaster preparedness.

This involves understanding what the environment looks like before a disaster, to allow it to be rebuilt in the case of an outage.

Make sure you also have a disaster avoidance strategy. Monitoring tools are ideal to alert backup and performance issues before applications and users are affected. In the event of an outage, ensure you and your employees can still be productive for the duration of the outage, and set expectations of what the duration of the outage may be.

Above all, if you are going to have a plan, make sure you test it – you don’t want to find out it doesn’t work in the event of a disaster.

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Charles Clarke

Charles Clarke

Charles Clarke is the Technical Director for Veeam Software in the Asia Pacific region, based in Sydney. He has over 17 years’ experience in the IT industry working with a wide range of technologies and organisations around the world. Clarke educates the market on the benefits of virtualisation management solutions, delivering keynote presentations, media interviews and high-profile customer engagements across the region. He also ensures that Veeam provides a grade-A technical service to customers, prospects and partners, leading a team of dedicated pre-sales consultants. Clarke joined Veeam in 2011, and previously held senior roles with Quest Software and QA.

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