Making it pay
Often, the only way to get funding for disaster recovery systems is to demonstrate that they deliver more than just "insurance," or that they can even pay for themselves. For example, Strand uses FalconStor Software's Continuous Data Protector appliance to replicate about 50TB of data and 25 virtual servers between its remote offices and headquarters. This is not only easier and less expensive than using a colocation facility, but the higher bandwidth required for the replication also makes it easier for employees to videoconference and share complex engineering documents.
That bandwidth also allows Strand to "take snapshots every hour on the hour, so we can facilitate a file restore in about three to five minutes," says Bell. Given the expense the company would incur if an engineer had to repeat several hours of work, the ability to take snapshots helps justify the cost of disaster recovery even without a disaster, he says.
Thorntons Inc., a Louisville, Ky.-based convenience store operator, recoups much, if not all, of the cost of disaster recovery by using DataCore Software's SANsymphony storage virtualization software on XIOtech SANs it purchased to support its newest servers, while moving its older Dell Compellent SANs and older servers to nearby space it already leased as a disaster recovery site. Senior network engineer Kevin Schmidt says that gives the company disaster recovery for its full application environment, not just its data, and it has improved performance and cut the time required to produce a profit and loss statement from 10 or 12 hours to less than five hours.
Another benefit is that virtualization allows the company to use the Dell Compellent storage, for which it paid $350,000 in 2007, as a recovery platform for its newer XIOtech storage.
Cloud disaster recovery? Not so fast
Some providers say cloud-based disaster recovery will bring the benefit of true disaster recovery, rather than just backup, to small and midsize businesses that until now couldn't afford it.
Pat O'Day, co-founder and CTO of Bluelock, a provider of public cloud virtual data centers, says customers are increasingly satisfied with cloud security. Many security experts say even public cloud environments in which multiple customers share hardware can be made secure with the proper processes.
But a fall 2011 Forrester Research survey showed that only 11 percent of large enterprises and 9 percent of small to midsize businesses had adopted recovery as a service, with 35 percent of large enterprises and 41 percent of SMBs saying they were interested in it but had no plans.
Berger says cloud providers only promise "not to go into your servers" when he questions them about security. "To me, that's not enough," he says, adding that the disaster recovery prices he's hearing -- $500 per month per server -- are "more than I can justify." He instead uses Acronis Backup & Recovery to back up approximately 60 VMs at two data centers. The facilities are only a half-hour apart, so this setup would not meet some definitions of a disaster recovery system, but he says it covers most of his needs because the applications aren't mission-critical.
Hecht downplays resistance to cloud-based disaster recovery, saying the smallest companies typically host their entire infrastructures in the cloud, and thus get some level of disaster recovery simply by keeping applications and data off-site.
Smaller companies that do choose the cloud typically don't do it for the savings, he says, but because "it's just so much simpler to have a system you set up and forget."