To date, adoption of these offerings has been low, Dines says, "but there is a huge amount of interest and planning going on at end-user companies. Instead of buying resources in case of a disaster, cloud computing and its pay-per-use pricing model allows companies to pay for long-term data storage while only paying for servers if they have a need to spin them up for a disaster or test."
Cloud-based DR has the potential to give companies lower costs yet faster recovery, with easier testing and more flexible contracts, Dines says.
In a 2012 report from Forrester, the firm says cloud-based DR threatens to shake legacy approaches and offer a viable alternative to organizations that previously couldn't afford to implement disaster recovery or found it to be a burdensome task.
Perhaps the biggest downside to the cloud from the standpoint of DR are concerns surrounding security and privacy management.
"You still see with some major events, such as the lightning strike in Dublin [in 2011] that took out the cloud services of Amazon and Microsoft, that there can be some temporary loss of service," says John Morency, research vice president at research firm Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn. "The cloud shouldn't be considered 100 percent foolproof. If organizations do need that 100 percent availability guaranteed they need to put some serious thought into what they need to develop for contingencies."
A growing number of larger companies with complex IT infrastructures are putting in private clouds and using these as part of their disaster recovery strategies, rather than relying on public cloud services, Morency says. "They worry about being left out in the cold during a disaster" if service providers are not able to provide service, he says.
Morency notes that this is only true in the case of DR subscription services that provide floor space and actual equipment at a specific geographical location. "Given the more distributed and virtual nature of public clouds, this is much less of an issue," he says.
What the cloud has done for traditional disaster recovery service providers is make testing of their backup capabilities more flexible and less costly, Morency says.
For many organizations, server virtualization has become a key component of the DR strategy because it enables greater flexibility with computing resources.
"Virtualization has the potential to speed up the implementation of a disaster recovery strategy and the actual recovery in case of a disaster," says Ariel Silverstone, an independent information security consultant and former CISO of Expedia, who blogs at www.ArielSilverstone.com.
"It also has the ability to make disaster recovery more of an IT function rather than a corporate audit-type function," Silverstone says. "If you have the right policies and processes in place, [with virtualization] disaster recovery can become part of automatically deploying any server."
[Read Bernard Golden's 3 key issues for secure virtualization]
Virtualization enables companies to create an image of an entire data center that can be quickly activated -- in part or in whole -- when needed, at a relatively low cost, Silverstone says.
For Teradyne Inc., a North Reading, Mass., supplier of test equipment for electronic systems, virtualization has been an enabler for a much improved DR capability, says Chuck Ciali, CIO.