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For SMBs, Data Protection Is A Virtual Affair

Think you can't afford BC/DR to rival enterprise-class systems? If you have x86 virtualization installed, you might be surprised.

Howard Marks

August 27, 2010

4 Min Read

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What's your best-case scenario for getting back to normal after a worst-case disaster? We first polled small and midsize businesses on that subject back in January 2008; when we revisited our survey, in May, we found there's been some improvement. In 2008, 23% could get mission-critical apps back up in four hours or less. Today, it's up to 33%, based on our InformationWeek Analytics survey of nearly 400 business technology professionals from companies with 1,000 or fewer employees.

Other key changes: In 2010, 62% have business continuity/disaster recovery systems in place compared with 55% in 2008. Consolidation has increased; today, 52% are completely centralized, with one main HQ and no branch sites, compared with 44% in 2008. And the number of businesses backing up to tapes that are taken off site dropped a full 16 points, from 63% in 2008 to 47% in 2010. Use of online backup services posted the single biggest gain, up 10 points.

One head-scratcher: The number of survey respondents who say their organizations are accountable to one or more government or industry regulations fell in every area, sometimes dramatically. Given the state-level laws that have come on the books since 2008, this is wishful thinking on a massive scale, even for small businesses.

Putting a formal business continuity/disaster recovery plan in place and testing it properly costs money, and that's tough to come by nowadays. So to what do we owe improvement in BC/DR? The introduction of new technologies, notably cloud-based storage services, and the maturation of others, like server virtualization and data deduplication, have made effective disaster recovery accessible to a wider swath of businesses than ever before.

Widespread use of x86 server vitalization has had the most beneficial effect on the disaster recovery process. An obvious impact is a reduction in the number of physical servers that have to be provisioned, powered, and maintained at a DR location. A few years ago, even the smallest site would have had a dedicated server for each application that needed to be recovered quickly. But now, a single virtual server host can handle multiple applications. It's not only that SMBs can save money on hardware. The reduced size, power, and cooling footprint of a small blade chassis running several virtual server hosts means that branch offices and co-location centers become potential DR sites. That's especially important for small businesses; when we asked respondents to describe their DR setups, the No. 1 answer (with 28%) was another data center or office within the organization. Just 7% use a specialized co-location provider, such as SunGard--down from 14% in 2008.

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Research: BC/DR for SMBs

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About the Author(s)

Howard Marks

Network Computing Blogger

Howard Marks is founder and chief scientist at Deepstorage LLC, a storage consultancy and independent test lab based in Santa Fe, N.M. and concentrating on storage and data center networking. In more than 25 years of consulting, Marks has designed and implemented storage systems, networks, management systems and Internet strategies at organizations including American Express, J.P. Morgan, Borden Foods, U.S. Tobacco, BBDO Worldwide, Foxwoods Resort Casino and the State University of New York at Purchase. The testing at DeepStorage Labs is informed by that real world experience.

He has been a frequent contributor to Network Computing and InformationWeek since 1999 and a speaker at industry conferences including Comnet, PC Expo, Interop and Microsoft's TechEd since 1990. He is the author of Networking Windows and co-author of Windows NT Unleashed (Sams).

He is co-host, with Ray Lucchesi of the monthly Greybeards on Storage podcast where the voices of experience discuss the latest issues in the storage world with industry leaders.  You can find the podcast at: http://www.deepstorage.net/NEW/GBoS

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