IT disaster recovery, cloud computing and information security news

Jason Collier looks at the difficulties that SMBs often experience when developing IT disaster recovery and business continuity plans and claims that switching to a hyperconverged approach will solve many of the issues.

Disaster recovery and business continuity are becoming increasingly significant to the well-being of today’s small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) but, while disaster recovery and business continuity are closely aligned, they are not identical. Disaster recovery is the process of restoring lost data, applications and systems following a profound data loss event, such as a natural disaster, a deliberate data breach or employee negligence. Business continuity takes it a step further with the aim of not only recovering the computing environment but recovering it swiftly and with zero data loss.

A good business continuity plan for a company of any size consists of two key elements: an always-on infrastructure for running critical applications on-premises and a good backup and disaster recovery plan with reasonable recovery point objectives (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO) in case an unforeseen incident affects the primary site.

The challenges SMBs face

Disaster recovery and business continuity can be difficult to successfully implement in data centers / centres with traditional physical servers, particularly for SMBs with limited budgets and very few IT staff. There are a number of options available for SMBs but they all suffer from their own shortcomings:

  • Backup to tape is cheap, but restores are slow and tapes can be slow to locate;
  • Backup to disk onsite is faster than tape, but considerably more expensive to scale;
  • Snapshots are a popular data protection technology, but some products only allow a limited number of snapshots or they consume large amounts of data;
  • Replicating to a remote site is much faster and more efficient, but replication software can be complex and use a lot of computing resource;
  • Cloud backup is simple to set up and provides dynamic scaling, but it requires investment in bandwidth and there’s a danger of lock-in with the cloud vendor;
  • Managed service providers can take charge of the backup chores, but the service can be costly.

Is virtualization the answer?

For many SMBs, traditional virtualization is often too expensive and complex to warrant the effort, so they avoid it. But for all its complexity, virtualization is definitely worth it for SMBs as the benefits far outweigh the problems. This is especially true when it comes to disaster recovery and business continuity.

Virtualization can help to transform an SMB’s disaster recovery and business continuity environment. Backing up VMs from a handful of host servers is faster and less resource-intensive than backing up tens or hundreds of physical servers. With scheduled replication, companies achieve faster backup and much improved recovery objectives.

Hyperconverged approach could plug the gap

One way to deliver the benefits of virtualization while minimizing the potential pitfalls is to opt for a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). HCI provides virtualization without adding complexity by integrating a native hypervisor, management console, networking, storage and data protection for high availability. While HCI products may vary and some are more suited to the enterprise, there are a number of full-featured HCI products that combine sophisticated data protection with management simplicity at a low price point for SMBs.

By opting for a hyperconverged approach, SMBs can start to solve a number of major challenges to their disaster recovery and business continuity strategies:

  • Hyperconverged systems can scale storage and performance without disruption, take advantage of LAN speeds and enable high availability on-premise and offsite;
  • HCI simplifies management and streamlines virtualization and replication delivering a more efficient approach;
  • It is cost-effective and affordable for SMBs because it combines SAN, servers, the hypervisor, networking and data protection software in a single scalable platform;
  • HCI replaces the complexity and expense of business continuity in traditional data centers with simple VM-level continuous replication and efficient snapshot technology. The more critical the VM, the more frequent the snapshot can be scheduled.

HCI simplifies virtualization and business continuity

Instituting large-scale projects like virtualization can appear overwhelming to many SMBs battling to keep their existing infrastructure running. The prospect of trying to invest in business continuity plans at the same time is even more daunting. But HCI gives the SMB the chance to achieve multiple goals at the same time by virtualizing their environment, replicating data, improving backup and restore processes and offering sophisticated remote replication.

The right HCI architecture combines simplicity and a low price point to provide enterprise-grade business continuity capabilities that can be managed with a limited IT staff, making it an ideal choice for SMBs wanting to venture into the world of virtualization.

The author

Jason Collier, is co-founder and CTO of Scale Computing.

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Business continuity can be defined as 'the processes, procedures, decisions and activities to ensure that an organization can continue to function through an operational interruption'. Read more about the basics of business continuity here.

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