Cloud Computing is the industry’s next big thing. It’s always fun to watch as the different companies reposition themselves to support the next wave, unsure if the wave will hit or not. The good news is… at this point, the wave has already hit, but now we are looking at continued waves and a steady increase of size and quantity.
Cloud is here now. Looking at the infrastructure pieces, let’s begin with hardware. Disk that is scalable, maintaining the ability to carve virtual volumes, offerings security services, and low cost are the main criteria in vendor selection and there are a ton of vendors that meet these requirements today.
Server hardware is essentially the same for cloud and non-cloud with exception to the fact that your typical cloud server is higher end with more processing and memory on board to accommodate higher density computing. The last main component is virtualization software. VMware is currently leading the pack. But offerings from Microsoft with Hyper-V, especially with Windows 8 and Hyper-V 3.0 on the not too distant horizon, and Citrix XenServer, make this field very interesting. It only promises to heat up as cloud continues to grow.
Would You Prefer Cloud Backup or others backups?
The key elements for cloud are in place today. All we need is a good use case or two to really kick it into gear. Let’s take a look into one use case that seems to be really taking hold and gaining momentum: cloud for backup. Backup is one of those things we love to hate. It is absolutely essential to our survival from failure and disaster and is often one of the things that is underspent and improperly set up in a lot of places. It all boils down to this…
How important is your data? If you lose your data, will your business survive?
This can be applied to a very small business all the way on up to the largest enterprise. Data is equally important to any size company. The main difference between them is at the small scale, companies do not have the huge IT budgets that the larger companies have to survive a disaster.
This is where cloud-based backup becomes more interesting. True enterprise-class, cloud-based service offerings allow any size business take advantage of the economies of scale. That means that any size company, no matter how small and how tight the budgets are, can leverage these services.
Freedom of choice
Now comes the freedom of choice. Almost every vendor in the backup space is either offering cloud today or working towards cloud-based offerings. Some of these are private and proprietary to the vendor and others leverage existing cloud infrastructures like Amazon.
Cloud-based backup offers the ability to back up your data to an offsite location for the “Just-In-Case” moment when things go bad. There are two basic types of cloud backup. One is where you back up your data locally and then replicate it to the cloud. The other is where you back up data directly to the cloud. The first option, with local backup data, is better if you want to be able to recover large quantities of data in a hurry. If you have a system fail, the entire system image is already local and you can begin recovery immediately. This approach usually requires some form of backup system with storage and is a more costly approach, but offers better RTO (Recovery Time Objective).
The latter, where you backup directly to the cloud, splits into two types: one that backs up your critical files only and another that backs up the whole system to the cloud. If you use the “Files Only” approach and your system fails, you need to spend the time and resources to bring the system back by installing the OS and applications. If you back up the whole system, you can restore the image as a whole. The downside to either of these is you are dealing with WAN speed recovery, which for a file or several files is fine, but for whole systems or large amounts of files, can take a lot of time to complete. Weigh the differences and make a choice based on SLAs (Service Level Agreements) you have with your data consumers.
Planning is critical
In the end, a solid plan is required, no matter which direction you go. Services today are available to help you get there. Over time, these will continue to evolve and costs will continue to go down as more and more infrastructure and software vendors enter the mix. Take advantage of these services today to protect your data. Keep it fluid enough that you can migrate as less expensive offerings come about.
Will your next backup be in the clouds? I’d forecast a pretty high probability that you will back up to the cloud at some point soon.