How to manage data protection and disaster recovery in the cloud


Cost savings are often cited as the primary attraction of cloud computing. The case is particularly compelling for cloud-based storage services.

Rather than buying expensive storage infrastructure and maintaining a physical data centre to house it all, why not take advantage of cloud storage for pennies a gigabyte?

With businesses amassing data at an ever-greater rate, cloud services offer them on-demand access to flexible storage that can be leveraged with minimal IT investment. This data then flows freely to and from cloud storage services. In fact, IDC predicts that by 2020, nearly 40% of the information in the digital universe will be “touched” by cloud computing providers at some point in its journey. However, despite the benefits of the cloud, questions still remain about the best way to manage data protection and disaster recovery in a cloud environment.

Security: the role of the broker
Understandably, security is a prominent concern in any discussion about cloud computing. Some companies are hesitant to move their data off-premises and into a cloud provider’s systems, simply because they think this means it’s no longer within their control. And following recent headlines, such as the NSA revelations, there’s an even greater desire to keep data as close to the business as possible.

One way organisations can layer on a level of authority and control is to use a cloud service brokerage (CSB) service. Back in 2011, an eternity ago in cloud time, Gartner Research coined the term CSB. A CSB can be thought of as the mediator between the business and vendor. By acting as an intermediary, it can help to manage security across multiple cloud services and providers.

The CSB communicates with cloud providers using APIs (application programming interfaces). Each cloud provider has a different API, and, in fact, one of the primary benefits of the CSB is to smooth over the differences between these APIs. For data storage, this means that a business is able to use a variety of cloud storage providers, without being locked into just one. A CSB also provides for disaster recovery, by “striping” data storage across cloud storage providers.

Cloud evaporation: what happens if your cloud storage solution disappears?
What if your cloud storage provider decides to exit the market? If your business is locked into only one cloud storage provider, this is a big problem. We have recently seen Nirvanix file for bankruptcy and hastily exit the cloud storage market, with over a petabyte of customer data in storage. We also saw Iron Mountain exit the cloud storage business. A cloud service broker, by acting as a go-between across multiple cloud storage providers, removes this risk.

The European problem
Additional data protection complexity arises around the issue of legislation, particularly in the European Union (EU). European data protection laws stipulate tight controls on the processing of personal data and its transfer outside of the region. This can make things complicated for businesses with a global presence, which need to move data around a number of different geographical areas, each with its own government regulations. Luckily, there are ways to make meeting compliance frameworks easier, including the Safe Harbor agreement between the EU and US about the transfer of data across borders.

Disaster recovery – it’s down to the business
Deploying a disaster recovery programme is a must if you want to mitigate the risk of outages or data loss in the cloud. Businesses must compare the performance of different cloud service providers without being locked into a single offering if they want to get this right. A cloud service broker solution is the key to enabling this.

It’s clear that businesses need to get disaster recovery and data protection right if they want to make their cloud projects flourish. However, whether you’re buying or building a product, the onus is on the organisation to ensure its data is secure in the cloud.


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