continued from part 1

  1. Business Continuity

The Essential Benefits of Hybrid Cloud Backup is the ability to achieve business continuity. Business continuity is a proactive way of looking at disaster preparedness for your network. By having the proper tools and procedures in place, businesses can be assured that they will remain functional during a disaster scenario, large or small.

Business continuity, in the context of data backup, means that in the event of a disaster, cyber-attack, human error, etc., a business will never lose access to their critical data and applications. In the data backup industry, the lack of access to business critical data is referred to as downtime. Business continuity is critical to any business, because downtime can potentially bring operations to a halt while IT issues are being repaired. This can be extremely costly for any SMB to endure.

While proper business continuity planning is necessary throughout an organization, one technology that enables continuous up-time is virtualization of servers and workstations. A virtualized server or workstation is commonly referred to as a virtual machine or VM. This is essentially a copy of a workstation or server that runs on the hardware of a cloud server, as opposed to the hardware of the original production machine2. The VM is booted off of a production machine’s backup file that is housed in cloud servers. Once the VM is booted, every aspect of the virtual machine (i.e. operating system, applications, and files) will run exactly like the original machine did.

This is invaluable in disaster scenarios, because if the original production machine is taken out of commission, a business can transition to the virtual machine immediately, while the original production machine is repaired or replaced. This is known as failing over. By allowing servers to failover to the cloud, a business is able to combat downtime and continue to manage their data and applications until the local IT infrastructure is fully operational.

The flexibility of the hybrid cloud platform is truly what enables IT Service Providers to deliver business continuity to their clients. Since backup files are stored both on the local device and in the cloud, it is possible to virtualize both on-site and off-site.

For example, if a failover virtualization is necessary because of a server malfunction, it can be done quickly and easily on the local device. The business will function off of a VM of their malfunctioning machine. Once technical issues are resolved, and the server is back up and running, the business can transition back to their original infrastructure with a bare metal restore (BMR)3 . The BMR will return all backed up data and applications to a new or repaired server so operations can continue as usual without losing any changes in data that occurred during the outage.

In the event that an actual disaster occurs on-site, where a production machine and the local backup device are taken out of commission (e.g. fire, power outage, tornado, earthquake, etc.), the business data is not lost. Virtualizations are still possible via the off-site cloud. Businesses will run off of VMs just as they would if it was stored on the local device, while a new local device will be seeded with data to replace the destroyed device.

After the device is replaced on-site, the VM can be transitioned to the replacement device. The business will continue to run off of the local VM until a BMR can be performed. Once the BMR is completed, the business will have returned to full operations without incurring downtime, even if their office was completely destroyed.

The flexibility to virtualize both on-site and off-site mitigates the threat of downtime. Businesses can continue to function regardless of external or internal challenges their IT infrastructure may encounter.

Assessing Your Backup Solution

When assessing whether a particular solution is capable of providing business continuity, two key metrics need to be assessed. The first is RPO, or Recovery Point Objective. This figure represents how frequently backups can be taken, or how much data one is willing to lose if a production machine were to fail.

For example, if a business is utilizing a backup solution with an RPO of 1 hour, then a backup can be taken once an hour. If a business were to utilize that solution to backup an important server, then it is stating that it is comfortable with sacrificing up to an hour of data change on that server in the event of an outage. Both business continuity and traditional backup solutions can provide good RPOs, with some business continuity solutions achieving RPOs of up to 5 minutes.

Where business continuity truly differentiates itself is with the Recovery Time Objective, or RTO. RTO represents how long it will take to get data back after a disaster. This is an essential figure to know because even though data is backed up and secured from loss, a business cannot function properly until the data is recovered.

Enterprise-class business continuity solutions should be able to provide RTOs of under 10 seconds. This is far superior to the weeks it can take to download large backup records from online services, or the hours that it takes to covert server images for virtualization on a traditional BDR unit.

  1. Data Insurance

The hybrid cloud backup process generates a backup locally, and then a backup of the backup is replicated off-site (in some cases, data is replicated to two off-site locations). This provides a great deal of data security. With local hardware, all data is in-house, protected by preexisting firewalls, security protocols, and the encryption inherent to the backup device. Furthermore, by sending encrypted data to dedicated data centers, users are ensured that there are redundant copies of the data secured off-site. This is invaluable in the event of a disaster.

The combination of local and off-site backups affords far greater peace of mind than simply pushing data over the web to a backup service provider or strictly housing data locally on a NAS or in a data center.

This figure is a representation of how data is secured in the hybrid cloud (page 5). As the diagram shows, at any given moment, copies of a client’s data will be located in three unique locations. The original on the client’s server or workstation, a backup on the local device, and a mirrored backup in a data center off-site. Also, since both clouds not only store data, but are also capable of virtualizing and restoring the production machine, MSPs and VARs have multiple comprehensive resources to assist their clients in data protection and restoration.

²Production machine: A production machine is the “live” workstation or server that is in place at an end-user’s business. These are the machines that are being backed up.

³Bare Metal Restore (BMR): A bare metal restore is the complete restoration of a machine, from operating system to applications to individual files, onto new or original hardware.

Essential Benefits of Hybrid Cloud Backup to be Continued...