The short list of benefits that come from moving DR into the cloud includes lower TCO, the ability to consume DR as a service, the ability to get DR as an add-on to data replication and the fact that DR is dovetailing with mobility.
If you're a small organization that doesn't have to pass compliance audits every year, simply signing up for a cloud-based backup and DR service may well be sufficient for you. However, if your organization is larger and regulated, you'll need to put a lot more thought behind those DR plans, and many large organizations still haven't done this.
Consider this scenario: the vacant lot next to your building has been sold, and a construction crew has moved in to start building a new office tower. This has nothing to do with your DR plans, right?
"If there's a construction site near you, or especially if there's construction in your building, we recommend to our clients that they get a rider on their insurance policy in the event that they're displaced as a result of the work being done," says Ginnie Stouffer, a master certified business continuity professional with IDC Partners, a business continuity firm in King of Prussia, Penn.
Construction workers could spark a fire, cut a buried power line or break through a natural gas line. Any of these events could disrupt power or force nearby businesses out of their buildings. Stouffer noted that most businesses are underinsured for disaster recoveryÂsomething the cloud will certainly not help you withÂand even those with DR plans in place may forget to scrutinize the fine print.
What happens if you need to install new servers for an on-premises system? Will you be able to get the gear in a day or two? If not, can your business afford to be down for however long it takes? Many businesses will fail if they are offline for three or four days. Equipment providers offer quick-ship agreements that you have to sign up for ahead of time. Has your organization signed up for one? If not, does it have a third-party provider in mind that can deliver gear quickly?
Even if you are in the cloud and don't have to rebuild your own servers, have you thought through what a disaster really means?
"All the cloud provider does is keep the servers running," Stouffer sags. "It doesn't provide you with office space in an unaffected nearby town. It doesn't give you directions to that office. Most providers fail over from disk to disk. Do you want tape as part of the disaster recovery solution? Is your data being replicated to a different region? After [Hurricane] Katrina, we know how important that is."
In other words, the good news is that the cloud has made DR affordable for business of all sizes. The bad news is that cloud-based DR just scratches the surface, and many organizations, whether consciously or not, are doing little more than scratching the DR surface.
Jeff Vance is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who focuses on next-generation technology trends. Follow him on Twitter @ JWVance.
Read more about IT strategy in CIO's IT strategy Drilldown.