Jack McCarthy, Steven Burke | crn
For Tim Shea, the founder and CEO of Alpha NetSolutions, a 10-year-old managed services and cloud computing provider based in Millbury, Mass., Hurricane Sandy was a non-event for his customers. That’s because of the technology advances that have come with dramatic improvements in cloud computing, Shea said, and its accompanying backup disaster recovery.
“We had a few calls, but it’s business as usual,” said Shea, discussing the impact of Hurricane Sandy that wreaked havoc up the East Coast. “No one has lost data. All our managed services clients are prepped for this, and we have contingencies in place. None of my customers are in fear of losing their data. If something happens we know what to do. We have been through this so many times it isn’t even funny.”
Although Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast this week, creating widespread damage, cloud networks held up for the most part.
The very nature of cloud computing — the ability to host data center assets off-premise in remote, distributed data centers — can protect data from a disaster, even if it’s a hurricane that spans several hundred miles.
“One of the most understated use cases for the cloud is disaster recovery,” said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst with ZK Research, a networking and cloud research firm. “The cloud is built for back up and recovery, with geographically disbursed networks.”
Cloud Sherpas, A Google (NSDQ:GOOG) partner delivering Google Apps and other products to customers in a cloud model, has had few problems of network availability, said Michael Cohn, senior vice president of Cloud Sherpas.
“With Google, data doesn’t live in any data center,” Cohn said. “It’s fragmented and distributed in multiple data centers.”
Like Google, Rackspace has data centers located around the world and can ensure networks remain operational in a disaster.
“We have the tools now to build out disaster recovery using the cloud,” said John Engates, Rackspace CTO. “People are going to think about having a disaster recovery in the cloud because of the hurricane this week.”
At Alpha NetSolutions, literally 100 percent of the company’s customers rely on some form of cloud computing including hosted Microsoft Exchange, says Alpha NetSolutions’ Shea.
“If you have two feet of water in your data center, your servers and backup are gone, but if you are on a cloud platform, you just drive to Starbucks or McDonalds and you are up and running.”
Alpha NetSolutions includes hosted Exchange as part of its standard managed services package. “Hosted Exchange is so important to us, we give it away with our support plan,” said Shea. “Some people think cloud is about saving money, but it’s about a more robust platform that costs less. You couldn’t afford to put in the redundancy you have in a cloud solution with an on-premise solution and make it accessible to so many people regardless of their location.”
All of this, of course, was not the case even six years ago, says Shea, when many of his customers were still relying on tape backup that was just plain unreliable. “We used to cross our fingers,” recalls Shea. “With tape we would be praying we would be able to get the data back. We never felt comfortable. It was pretty bad back then. A lot of times my guys wouldn’t want me to know what kind of problems we were having with this stuff. Today, it’s just no big deal.”
“BDR [Backup Disaster Recovery] technology has really matured,” said Shea. “We haven’t had a customer lose a file in the last four years.”
Alpha NetSolutions has standard BDR services and best practices that make data recovery for his clients a non- issue. “A big part of our managed services is getting our clients to standardize best practices with the same level of fault tolerance, antivirus, battery backup, redundant ISPs,” he said. “All of that is part of our standard managed services practice. Every one of our clients gets our backup disaster recovery [BDR] service. Ten years ago, every one of our clients was a one off. Today, we have a single standard best practice.”
Alpha NetSolutions’ product arsenal includes StorageCraft’s ShadowProtect service combined with the latest virtualization technology and hosting from Rackspace. These days, says Shea, he can even virtualize data in the cloud. “We can have customers back up in 10 minutes,” he says.