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Opportunity for disaster recovery in the cloud

Cloud-computing services offer a new opportunity for businesses to take backup and disaster recovery seriously, with options between the "enterprise class" and "consumer" levels.

The vast scale of services like Amazon S3 or Google Apps provide new ways to establish or augment backup and disaster recovery plans.

Realistically, many large corporations won't trust their data to Google or Amazon.com (and they probably shouldn't). However, they will trust IBM, AT&T, and other big companies, as they start to expand their offerings.

If you are using AT&T bandwidth, and you can tap into its data centers for data recovery, you've just solved a major problem in a theoretically secure manner.

Managed backup and data recovery services do exist today, but they tend to be very expensive "enterprise-class" or very mediocre consumer-oriented services. There should be a way for cloud infrastructure to become a real option for enterprises.

Here are a few of the issues that would need to be addressed:

  • Automation: How does the data get from internal servers to the cloud, or how does it get from individual desktops?
  • Security: What is the security model that can be applied and managed universally?
  • Data integrity: How do I know that my data is actually my data if I am not in private space or virtual machines?
  • Risk: What is the risk of losing my data without a defined service-level agreement?
  • The broad adoption of virtualization can be very beneficial but can also present some challenges, considering the lack of tools and options available. And considering that virtual machines are what most of today's clouds are built on, odds are that you will run into the very real challenge of how you even manage your virtual machines effectively.

    According to the latest disaster recovery research report from Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC), based on surveys of 1,000 IT managers in large organizations worldwide, 35 percent of an organization's virtual servers are not included in its disaster recovery plans.

    Worse yet, not all virtual servers included in an organization's disaster recovery plan will be backed up. Only 37 percent of respondents to the survey said they back up more than 90 percent of their virtual systems.

    One way this lack of attention to disaster recovery could be addressed would be direct connectivity from one cloud-computing provider to another, giving users the ability to replicate data. Alternatively, users could set up virtual-machine farms internally that push the data to the cloud as a backup.

    It won't be long before we start seeing storage clouds popping up. My bet is on the big IT vendors to get there first.