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The cloud brings SMB disaster recovery within reach

Gina Narcisi

Small and medium-sized businesses don't always have the luxury of spending money on what-if scenarios. As a result, SMB disaster recovery typically falls by the wayside.

Traditional disaster recovery (DR) can present large upfront costs, and restoring systems from tape can take days. On the other hand,

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DR as a Service can enable recovery in a matter of hours. Cloud providers have a good opportunity to sell this service to SMBs that already are looking to the cloud for more flexible and cost-efficient IT.

At the same time, cloud providers have to educate SMBs on the value and capabilities of DR as a service. By bundling it with other cloud offerings, cloud providers can help their smaller customers understand the value in backup and DR services.

Enterprise versus SMB disaster recovery: It's marketing, not technology

Size doesn't matter when it comes to the technology behind DR as a Service, noted Lynda Stadtmueller, program director of cloud computing services for Frost & Sullivan Inc. in San Antonio. Cloud providers offering DR for both the enterprise and SMBs must always have sufficient redundancy if high availability and recovery are to be achieved, as well as the right network connectivity, she said. 

"It's more like who [the cloud provider] is marketing to, as opposed to technology differences behind the scenes," she added.

While the cloud is an appealing SMB disaster recovery option because it only requires the business to pay for what is used, adoption rates in the SMB market remain modest. In order to make DR as a Service more attractive to SMBs, cloud providers can bundle DR services, Stadtmueller noted. Cloud providers have an opportunity to help SMBs understand best practices and offer cost-effective services, she said, noting that providers can package collaboration or business productivity applications and storage, then offer regular backup and recovery for them. 

"I'm a big fan of bundling services," she said. "SMBs need to see an ROI, and with a full package of cost-effective cloud services, the value of DR will become quickly apparent."

Cloud providers also must keep contract size in mind for its SMB customers, noted Rachel Dines, senior analyst for infrastructure and operations at Forrester Research Inc. 

"The minimum size of the contract cannot be too large, and the provider can't start at a high number of storage or virtual machines to be protected," she said. 

Strong customer support also will be crucial in attracting SMB customers. Unlike enterprises that might have dedicated IT employees to handle DR, smaller businesses will be looking for failover and testing support. 

"Any additional hand-holding or support that can be offered by a [provider] during setup or testing will be really key in attracting an SMB customer," she said.

More on SMB disaster recovery:

Best practices: SMB disaster recovery

SMB disaster recovery apps drive virtualization adoption

Survey: Users have many SMB disaster recovery options

Backup services: A baby step towards SMB disaster recovery

SMBs already are backing up their data to insure business continuity, but DR is a different story.

Many SMBs don't have a burning need to recover data in 15 minutes, and general backup to the cloud is different from DR services, noted Gytis Barzdukas, senior director of product management for Mozy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC Corp. Mozy specializes in online backup services for SMBs, and has more than 75,000 customers. 

"For many SMBs, just taking the step towards backup in the cloud is significant step for them, and sufficient in many cases," he said.

Customers can subscribe to Mozy from the Web and download the agent for the server to back up their virtual machines. Many users will ask for email or accounting systems to be recovered quickly, but other SMB workloads can wait, he said, noting that Mozy doesn't offer service-level agreements.

Disaster recovery might be the next tier up from backup services, but both services should be built around keeping customers in business. 

"Typical SMBs may have an IT department, and backup services are a nice insurance policy for business continuity," Barzdukas noted.

Different levels of SMB disaster recovery for different applications

Some applications are more important than others, and providing different tiers of SMB disaster recovery can help budget-conscious customers settle on a comfortable level of DR for each application.

Vision Solutions Inc., an Irvine, Calif.-based business continuity disaster recovery provider, offers two services geared towards SMBs -- Double-Take Availability and Double-Take Recover Now. Both services offer the same level of protection and recovery-point capability, but Double-Take Availability allows for quicker recovery times.

"Double-Take Recover Now has a longer recovery time; it could take an hour to restore and bring a server back online, where Double-Take Availability can recover data in minutes," said Doug Piper, vice president of product strategy for Vision Solutions. Otherwise, there are no technology differences between the two services, but Double-Take Availability is more expensive. SMBs typically protect their mission-critical applications with Double-Take Availability, he said.

Some SMBs use both services, depending on what recovery times are acceptable or according to the type of application or workload, Piper noted.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.


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