It wasn’t that long ago that many companies had serious reservations about storing their data in the cloud and/or running their business applications there. These days, it seems that the pendulum is moving to the other extreme as more companies move their servers, IT platforms, IT infrastructures and data backups to the cloud. In fact, some startups proudly wear the label, “Born in the cloud,” to signify their affiliation with cloud IT solutions and services. If that isn’t enough proof, the CIA even announced a $600 million cloud deal with Amazon Web Services earlier this year.
Part of the market’s growing comfort level with the cloud can be traced back and attributed to the myriad consumer cloud services ranging from Netflix to online banking that are becoming a normal part of our lives. As an IT solutions provider or MSP, however, it’s important to help your customers find where the cloud best fits their business—which is rarely one extreme (100 percent on-premise IT) or the other (100 percent cloud-based IT).
Consider disaster recovery as an example. Cloud backup is a natural fit for businesses that want protection against disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and earthquakes or other events that can destroy or compromise data. But sometimes cloud alone might not be a sufficient solution for your customers. Consider the following:
- Cloud downtime is a real possibility. Several major cloud providers have made the headlines with outages. Even if your cloud provider has all the leading industry certifications, that doesn’t mean it's completely immune to downtime. Taking a hybrid (cloud and on-premise) or multi-cloud approach to backup and recovery gives your customers a redundancy safety net.
- You may be more susceptible to natural disasters than you think. Most cloud providers boast that they have a data center on each coast, which gives them the ability to fail over customers’ data in the event one of the data centers goes down. But, don’t take this to mean that your customers’ data is automatically being backed up in both data centers. Some have learned the hard way that that wasn’t the case after a natural disaster left them and their cloud provider down. Be sure to confirm with the cloud provider (in writing) that your customers’ data is being stored in more than one physical location and both locations are far enough apart that it would be highly unlikely both would be impacted by the same natural disaster at the same time. You also want to make sure that you have access to the data from both locations. A provider may use a second location as a disaster recovery facility for itself, but it might view this as a reduced capacity scenario in which you don’t have access to it, or at least not right away.
If you want true peace of mind or have business requirements to ensure that your recovery is 100 percent achievable, then a multi-cloud or a hybrid cloud solution is what your customers really need. A hybrid cloud solution entails combining a cloud backup with an on-premise backup. In this scenario, the customer gains the benefits each offers. The obvious benefit is that with copies in both locations, you’re assured of being able to recover from at least one of the backups. With a local copy, you also generally get better RTO (recovery time objective) and RPO (recovery point objective) than the cloud alone offers. Depending on the volume of data, using the cloud may also give you a better RPO than just a local appliance would. This is because you’ll have greater (and likely more affordable) capacity available in the cloud, so you can back up more recent data. Many local only devices don’t have the capacity to provide for short RPO times unless you choose a very expensive device.
Even if hybrid storage makes sense to your customer in principle, you can expect to run up against budget objections from time to time. Generally disaster recovery planning is the most difficult item for a company to commit budget to. But there are options here. Knowing that you have full redundancy in a hybrid storage scenario, you could recommend your customer use a cheaper local storage appliance or even a backup specific appliance rather than an expensive “fault tolerant” full-featured storage device.
The cloud really can be a safe place to store your customers’ data and various IT applications and core computing processes. But nothing is perfect. The key to cloud success, however, is being sure not to allow your customers or yourself to limit your mindset to cloud only or one cloud provider without considering other complementary on-premise technologies or cloud services, which become critical components to a robust disaster recovery strategy.
Paul Hoffmann is Senior Director of Cloud and Technology Solutions at Ingram Micro North America. Guest blogs such as this one are published monthly, and are part of Talkin' Cloud's annual platinum sponsorship.