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The Evolution of Disaster Recovery and the Emergence of Cloud

August 8, 2013 No Comments


The advent of computers dramatically changed how companies protected their business information.

With the growing dependence on technology, hard work and tons of data could be lost in the event of a building fire, flood, or even rodents chewing through wires. In the early days, most companies fortunately had the knowledge to do things manually if warranted. They could still go back to “pen and paper” in a pinch.

However, over time, most companies lost that manual back-up ability as the work performed by their systems became more and more complex. IT departments were forced to come up with more sophisticated backup plans. Luckily, many IT professionals, were former ex-military guys who were used to having contingency plans. So the idea of a disaster plan wasn’t far fetched.

Since much of the IT at the time was provided by IBM, companies turned to “Big Blue” for assistance. As a result, IBM’s disaster recovery business was born.

Disaster recovery has had a long and steady evolution for almost 50 years

Over time, back up tape technology has moved from reel to cartridge. Tapes became faster and able to hold more as disk technology did the same.

But business leaders still needed to get their data offsite faster – especially in the advent of a natural disaster. Hence, online backup was born.

This allowed companies to get their data offsite and ensure easy access whenever they needed it. Most companies today now have a combination of both tape backup (because it’s relatively cheap) and online backup (because it’s fast).

As the old saying goes, “You can have good, fast or cheap. Pick two.” 

Costs skyrocketed! When the economy tanked, companies started looking for a way to get all three. They knew that the ever increasing amount of servers needed to run their operations were causing both complexity and recovery headaches. They soon realized that the servers were not always fully utilized. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a really good way to move workload around and optimize the servers without significant work.

Virtualization is Key

Executives needed a better way of using physical servers and the answer was a technology that had been around since 1972, virtualization. Companies needed a secure and reliable option to fully utilize their systems by sharing them among different users. Enterprising business continuity managers looked at virtualization technology and began to think to themselves, “Can we use the same approach for disaster recovery? Could virtualization allow us to recover multiple servers as opposed to backing them up with physical servers?”

The answer was yes and the revolution had begun.  Amazingly enough, the same reasons that virtualization was applied in the early 70s are now being applied today. With cloud today, physical machines can be easily recovered and backed.

Cloud has revolutionized the way we recover from disasters

Cloud has taken the world by storm and changed how companies use both their production machines and how they recover operations. No longer constrained by physical machines, both production and recovery is now faster, cheaper and better. This really has revolutionized how disaster recovery is performed. Days spent recovering a server farm can now be accomplished in hours. While cloud is a great technology for solving a multitude of problems, there is more to the revolution.

Cloud and network improvements have now enabled small and medium sized companies to have access to something that was typically only affordable by larger companies, a second datacenter. Disaster recovery services can be procured quickly, safely and affordably via the cloud. The cloud enables companies to have a virtual second datacenter without all of the costs associated with building and maintaining that second site. Data can be replicated to the cloud and a farm of virtual machines can be ready to recover operations quickly.

As with any revolution, individuals and companies need to adapt. Virtualization and cloud for disaster recovery are not as easy as just flipping a switch. Processes need to be changed; people need to be trained and executives need to be educated. This is a moment of opportunity that makes the work well worth the effort. Join the revolution and rally around the flag!

IBM’s Virtualized Server Recovery service is an example of cloud service that takes full advantage of virtualization and replication of data online to speed recovery of servers. Data is replicated to a recovery center and servers are provisioned when needed for either testing or actual recovery.

About the author

Richard Cocchiara is an IBM Distinguished Engineer, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and the Managing Partner of Consulting for IBM’s Business Continuity & Resiliency Services. He has over 30 years of IT experience and has performed consulting engagements to many Fortune 500 companies around the world, particularly in the finance and securities industry.

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