Disaster Recovery for SMEs: No apologies!

Disaster Recovery currently plays a minor role in the strategic planning and daily routine of SMEs. Yet this negligent attitude can cause harm to the business in a fraction of a second. With the advent of new operational models in the cloud age, there is no longer room for excuses.

A disaster recovery strategy is absolutely essential

The digital transformation tsunami will also hit SMEs. When the main shift will strike is individual and not 100 percent predictable. However, one thing is for certain – the cloud, social, mobile and big data quake has already erupted. The mid-market businesses will feel the altered reality with greater intensity, as they are generally unable to ensure the high availability of business critical IT services and applications.

IT security and emergency plans in companies are still an annoying and expensive prevention procedure to secure the mission-critical digital assets and to keep the company alive in exceptional circumstances. When it hits the fan, all ways and means are set in motion to initiate appropriate rescue operations and life-saving procedures. But at this point, it is usually too late and the struggle for survival begins. Technical shortcomings and human errors in IT systems will lead to helplessness and long production environment downtimes when no solid disaster recovery measures have been instituted prior to the incident. Business operations can be affected for days, leading to high internal costs as well as substantial damages to one’s image. This is a fatal and negligent behavior. Today, no company can get away by leaving its partner, supplier or customer without access to its own IT infrastructure over a long period of time.

Those looking for the culprits only in the IT departments are searching at the wrong hierarchy level. Administrators and CIOs have the disaster recovery topic on their agenda but have their backs up against the wall. On the one hand, they are incapable of action since they have no budget for it. On the other hand, in the case of exceptional circumstances they put their heads on the line. In IT, the incremental ROI from deploying a disaster recovery strategy is not easy to measure and, hence, it has low priority for decision makers. For this reason, insufficient budgets for a true disaster recovery strategy are provided. At the same time, emergency plans based on a classical backup data center setup are very complex, as well as cost-intensive and time-consuming.

A further challenge can be found on the architectural level. Cloud models are changing the way applications are developed, operated and provided. Applications are no longer only operated on the own, on-premise infrastructure, but can also reside in a hybrid model, distributed across one or multiple cloud or hosting providers. The multi-cloud concept is more ubiquitous than one expects. This trend will strengthen in the coming years and have a direct impact on disaster recovery strategies that aim the recovery of information and applications in cases of emergency, without time and data loss.

From hardware to service: The metamorphosis of disaster recovery

At present, a good portion of the IT budget in companies is spent on storage and server systems as well as software solutions to implement own backup concepts. In most cases, today’s approaches do not consider any procedure for a 24×7 recovery of data and systems and include only a simple backup and RAID architecture. Comprehensive disaster recovery scenarios are very complex. Because of hybrid application architectures and distributed data management, this complexity will increase further over the next years.

This development will reach companies in the mid-term, having an impact on the spending ratio for hardware and software, as well as on services and audits. From 2014 to 2018, Crisp Research expects a significant shift of cost pools for IT resources in these product categories.

This shift of the cost structure is due to the following influences:

  • New operating models (e.g. Cloud Computing)
  • Virtualization
  • Standardization
  • Converged Infrastructure

Based on these influences, companies can build and provide new operational concepts, which are less complex and cheaper but now with the same effectiveness that historically only big enterprises have been able to establish and use. This leads to a clear decline in technology investment (hardware/ software) and redistribution of investment to the other areas over the next few years. Hence, the spending on services (cloud and managed services) as well as in the areas of audits/ compliance rises. Audits, in particular, will acquire a higher importance. On the one hand, this is due to the steadily changing laws to meet compliance standards. On the other hand, it results from the growing effort to control disaster recovery providers with respect to compliance with legal guidelines (Period for data storage, data management in accordance with law, etc.).

Requirements of SMEs on modern disaster recovery solutions

The market for disaster recovery solutions develops continuously. In this context, three requirements that affect the market sustainability stand out:

  1. Cost efficiency
    Technology expenses must decrease significantly in order to lead to cost reductions and utilize different disaster recovery areas (services, audits) more cost-efficiently. In this context, reducing maintenance and physical resource costs must also be considered. The disaster recovery solutions are used as a service where the systems are predominantly located on the provider side. On the customer site, only marginal consolidated hardware-/ software resources are needed.
  2. Reducing complexity
    When it comes down to implementation, operations and maintenance, measures for a disaster recovery strategy are multi-faceted. In addition, the complexity through new cloud and architectural concepts rises to ensure the DNA as well as the 24/7-availability of distributed data and applications. New disaster recovery solutions should decrease the complexity on the customer site by moving the essential tasks that are encapsulated within on-premise appliances to the provider’s site.
  3. Disaster recovery scenarios across locations
    New operational models for productivity environments require a change of thinking for SMEs in the process of creating a disaster recovery strategy. By the usage of hybrid-/ multi-cloud infrastructures, cloud-services and the usage of colocations, the DNA for the case of a disaster must be updated to ensure a fail-safe operation for mission-critical applications and data. Only in this case, the consistency of all productivity systems can survive the whole overall lifecycle, and current as well as prospective business processes are optimally sheltered.

Rather drive with a spare tire on board

A disaster recovery strategy is comparable with a spare tire of a car. As a rule you don’t need it. But what if you get stuck on the road in a thunderstorm…

With the growing importance of the digital economy and the increasing growth of digitalization, no company can afford to relinquish a disaster recovery. The deployment of services and applications in real-time as well as the increasing requirements, reliability and the guarantee of as-short-as-possible time to restore services are the essential drivers behind this development. For this reason, a disaster recovery strategy must necessarily be part of the business strategy and get higher priority at executive decision-making levels.

Modern disaster recovery solutions embarrass companies who hide behind excuses and, therefore, drive an automated emergency management. With clearly calculable effort and less complexity, SMEs are now able to obtain the same disaster recovery effectiveness, which had formerly been reserved only for big enterprises, and also at acceptable cost.

In the future, modern disaster recovery-as-a-service solutions will support a growing number of businesses in implementing a disaster recovery strategy with little effort and less cost. For this purpose, the market will offer different approaches and solutions that address varying needs and requirements.

By Rene Buest

Rene Buest is Gartner Analyst covering Infrastructure Services & Digital Operations. Prior to that he was Director of Technology Research at Arago, Senior Analyst and Cloud Practice Lead at Crisp Research, Principal Analyst at New Age Disruption and member of the worldwide Gigaom Research Analyst Network. Rene is considered as top cloud computing analyst in Germany and one of the worldwide top analysts in this area. In addition, he is one of the world’s top cloud computing influencers and belongs to the top 100 cloud computing experts on Twitter and Google+. Since the mid-90s he is focused on the strategic use of information technology in businesses and the IT impact on our society as well as disruptive technologies.

Rene Buest is the author of numerous professional technology articles. He regularly writes for well-known IT publications like Computerwoche, CIO Magazin, LANline as well as and is cited in German and international media – including New York Times, Forbes Magazin, Handelsblatt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Computerwoche, CIO, Manager Magazin and Harvard Business Manager. Furthermore Rene Buest is speaker and participant of experts rounds. He is founder of and writes about cloud computing, IT infrastructure, technologies, management and strategies. He holds a diploma in computer engineering from the Hochschule Bremen (Dipl.-Informatiker (FH)) as well as a M.Sc. in IT-Management and Information Systems from the FHDW Paderborn.