Data safety is a core business concern these days, even for small to midsize businesses (SMBs). But being prepared to ensure that your business operates even during potentially catastrophic disasters requires more than simply implementing business cloud backup. While such services are certainly part of a healthy disaster recovery (DR) plan, there’s a lot more to be considered before you can call your organization safe, especially from an IT standpoint. A “disaster” refers to a complete halt of most or all of your systems simultaneously. If someone asks what your organization would do if all of its systems went dark one day, and you can’t answer that question with confidence, then you’re setting yourself up for serious problems down the road—and that’s “when,” not “if” because disaster hits everyone sooner or later. Fortunately, the cloud and the internet combine to make recovering from system disasters easier than ever.
Many SMBs dismiss planning a coherent DR policy because they believe such strategies are only for deep-pocket, enterprise-scale IT budgets. What can an SMB do? In the past, SMB-style preparation usually meant doing frequent backups and storing backup tapes offsite. Effective and cheap. Enterprise DR followed the same rules, but added provisioning for a hot-site, meaning another office that could be provisioned to house data center infrastructure and workers on short notice, or at the very least, have spare “dark” hardware and infrastructure capacity on hand to quickly replace failed systems. These measure do ensure some level of disaster-proofing, but they’re both slow by today’s standards and exceedingly expensive, which is why many SMBs opt to ignore DR planning entirely.
Fortunately, today’s options are not only more effective, they’re also cheap enough to be affordable for businesses of any size. That’s due to two important IT enhancements: software-based infrastructure and the cloud. Virtualization allows businesses to provision servers as software instances on top of disparate hardware. So, for example, SMB X may have a single physical server in a data closet somewhere, but using Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware ESXi (among other virtualization platforms), they could be running two, three, or more software servers on that hardware with each software instance looking and behaving like any other server as far as the network and users are concerned. By implementing servers as software-based instances, IT managers get the ability to back those servers up by using the same methods they would for data.
But while backing up your virtual servers to a separate disk or tape gives you the ability to restore the server on another server eventually, backing them up to the cloud puts them in another data center—a shared data center that can not only restore your servers, but also initialize them and operate them just like you would and on just a few minutes’ notice. That means, instead of paying for another building with an expensive data center you’ll only access in emergenices, you can configure a cloud account to continually backup the most recent instances of your servers and simply switch them on if the primary servers at your local site fail. Instant Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS). And, since most of these cloud services operate on a pay-as-you-use basis, this lets even small businesses operate with sophisticated DR options at a fraction of what it would have cost in the past.
In this roundup, we tested five different DRaaS offerings, including Carbonite Server Backup, Microsoft Azure Site Recovery, Quorum onQ Hybrid Cloud Solution, Zerto Virtual Replication, and Zetta Backup and Recovery. All of those solutions are based on the DRaaS model, combined with some client-side software, as well as remote storage options.
Featured Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service Solution Reviews:
Pros: Support for Linux and Windows, physical and virtual. Support for VMware virtual machines (VMs). Support for Windows Server and System Center management tools.
Cons: Requires IT-level knowledge for all but the simplest disaster recover (DR) scenarios. Failover a manual process. System Center Virtual Machine Manager required for multi-VM configurations.
Bottom Line: Azure Site Recovery is an excellent choice for companies seeking to protect critical workloads running on either Hyper-V or VMware. Pricing is competitive and a tight integration with System Center makes this a very strong choice for companies that have standardized on the Microsoft stack.
Pros: Easy to use. Almost instantaneous recovery. Flexible deployment scenarios. Fully scalable.
Cons: Expensive compared to other cloud-based services. Limited reporting. On-site appliance-oriented.
Bottom Line: Quorum onQ represents a top-of-the-line disaster recovery (DR) solution. Combining flexible backup with IT-grade options for off-site protection, multi-site failover, and the ability to store and execute virtual machines (VMs), Quorum has enough feature depth to attract almost any kind of business.
Pros: Easy-to-use interface. Supports a variety of cloud options. Converts between Amazon Web Services (AWS), Hyper-V, and VMware virtual machines (VMs).
Cons: Can be expensive. Supporting infrastructure can be challenging to configure. Doesn’t support protection of non-virtualized resources.
Bottom Line: Zerto Virtual Replication’s higher-than-average price tag and need for qualified IT staff on the customer side definitely make it a solution that’s best for larger organizations. However, the solution’s flexibility make it worth a look for any company with custom requirements.
Pros: Simple setup for any level of user. Fast, efficient, and secure backup to the cloud. Business continuity capabilities through Zetta.net’s own data center. No appliance required.
Cons: Backup and restore process favors the Windows environment. Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) must be configured by Zetta.net prior to use. No true bare metal recovery option.
Bottom Line: Zetta Backup and Recovery offers a refreshingly fast and powerful option for true disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) at the right price. While the cloud failover component is unpolished and it lacks a true bare metal restoration process, Zetta remains a solid option that shouldn’t be ignored.
Pros: Unlimited server licenses. Low price of entry. Easy to install. Excellent 24/7 support staff. Software-specific backup/restore options. Bare metal restore to dissimilar hardware.
Cons: No third-party cloud support. Potentially time-consuming cloud restoration option. Limited to Windows and Mac OS X operating systems.
Bottom Line: Unlike some of its competition, which are looking to broaden their capabilities, Carbonite remains focused on one goal: mission-critical data safety. However, within that constraint, it does well; delivering an easy, effective product that suffers only slightly from slow restores and a lack of Linux support.