Larry Lang is CEO of Quorum, a provider of cloud and appliance disaster recovery systems.
For many years now, scientists have predicted that climate change, fueled by greenhouse gas emissions, would lead to more extreme weather. Certainly, the past several years in particular support this prediction. Sandy, a once-innocuous name, now conjures images of absolute destruction on the East Coast of the United States. The devastation caused by this so-called "Frankenstorm" can be compared to that of Hurricane Katrina, a dangerous and devastating storm that cost an estimated $81 billion in damages in the Gulf region, and the infamous cluster of tornadoes in the Midwest during the spring of 2011, which ended in approximately $28 billion in destruction. Despite efforts to predict these weather events more accurately, these extreme weather conditions continue to occur at Mother Nature's whim, and seemingly with more frequency.
Disaster Causes Human and Business Losses
While the most devastating losses are, of course, human, unpredictable weather also threatens the health and well-being of our nation's businesses. From the largest corporation with its huge enterprise system to the smallest corner market operating with a single computer, vital and irreplaceable business records stored electronically can be lost forever when disaster strikes, forcing at best days of downtime and at worst a complete collapse of the company.
It stands to reason, therefore, that when it comes to a company's IT infrastructure, the best defense against unpredictable weather changes is a good offense. Often, this begins with a tried-and-true disaster recovery plan. At one time, tape and disk backup solutions reigned, providing an adequate safety net. They are still used by many; however, they are expensive, complex and cumbersome, and do not enable real-time recovery of systems and applications. Furthermore, they tend to take precious hours or days to restore, which can be quite costly. In fact, a recent report by Aberdeen Group found that just an hour of downtime costs a small company $6,900, a mid-sized company $74,000 and a large company $1.13 million.
But just like our weather patterns, disaster recovery technology is evolving as well. Now, companies have more choices than ever before, which include solutions that leverage virtualization and the cloud. Still, for small to mid-sized businesses, it should be noted that cloud backup alone can sometimes make recovery times worse because of the limited Internet bandwidth available to them. And most large restores from cloud backup involve shipping physical media anyway, which, of course, makes it just as cumbersome as a tape or disk backup solution.
Likely the most reliable disaster recovery solutions leverage the advantages of virtualized data center replication without the high cost and complexity: hybrid cloud solutions. These solutions function by maintaining up-to-date, ready-to-run virtual machine clones of a company's critical systems that can run locally or in the cloud. And because they transparently take over for failed servers within minutes, recovery is instant and business-as-usual resumes without impact.
Whichever disaster recovery solution a company uses, it is imperative that it be tested regularly and often to make sure it will do its job when required. Again, tape and disk backup solutions can be a challenge in their ability to test; a solution offering automatic, on-demand testing will better ensure peace of mind.
In summary, understanding the weather's unpredictability is the first and most important step in safeguarding a company's IT infrastructure. And carefully exploring all choices in a disaster recovery solutions will ensure the company's critical business data remains intact, and subsequently, its revenue, customers and reputation.
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