As Scott Lowe points out in his article “C-levelers: Be an Active Participant in Your Backup and Recovery Strategy”, a cloud backup and recovery strategy in which the relevant applications and data are run from the cloud by a backup service provider such as Lighthouse Computer Services has advantages. It provides fast recovery that can be accessed from any location and that is independent of the local situation – that is, it works even if the local site is totally inaccessible or completely destroyed. The tradeoff of course is cost – these are premium services with a significant price tag.
Therefore the question comes down to the business value of the service versus its cost. And that is a CFO-level decision that can only be made in the context of the overall business and, in the case of a major disaster, its plan for business recovery.
However, cloud backup and recovery services do also provide benefits to IT, which could tip the scales if a decision hangs in the balance. It offloads emergency procedures, and associated expenses, from your data center to the service provider at a time when your staff may well be occupied with other pressing issues.
A core database failure, whether the problem is data corruption, a simple hardware failure, or a company-wide disaster such as a fire, is an “all hands on deck” emergency. Suddenly your staff is faced at minimum with a complex restart of a vital business system such as Microsoft Exchange or the company ERP system under huge pressure from the business, which needs access now! And depending on the cause, this may be complicated by the need to move the application to whatever hardware is available, which may be a smaller, slower system, until a replacement hard drive or other component can be installed. Not the best of situations.
At such moments, being able to call the service vendor and ask, “How soon can you have our database up and available in the cloud?” can move all that pressure off the staff. Now instead of an emergency that might require expensive one-off purchase and overnight shipment of new hardware and staff overtime, or more drastic and expensive action depending on the nature of the problem, your staff can take the time to do things right during normal business hours, knowing that the vital business services are already available via the cloud. The question may become whether the company ever wants to move the application back in-house at all.
Another advantage comes in testing. Too often SMBs in particular never dare test their DR plan, with the result that it fails when they really need it. CIOs who do run these tests always describe the moment when they actually pull the plug on the main system and cut over to the backup as a heart-stopper. A cloud solution also should be tested, but in this case the test just involves a call (to the service provider) and a stopwatch (to measure the actual time between that call and the moment when the application goes live in the cloud). Meanwhile the internal system can remain running normally.
Action Item: When considering moving from a tape or other manual backup system to a cloud solution, definitely also consider subscribing to the service provider's premium service that can provide online access to core business applications and data via the cloud in an emergency. And while the main deciding factor in the decision must be service cost versus the cost to the business of 24-hours or more without access to the business functionality that database supports, keep in mind also that this will automate not only scheduled data backups but also disaster recovery of the systems, allowing you to eliminate those procedures, including dry-run drills, as well as the extra internal expense of responding to an emergency.