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Disaster recovery (DR) does not get the attention it deserves from businesses because of the cost and complexity of deploying a full DR capability. Moreover, business units do not see a direct benefit from DR — until a disaster occurs. Traditionally, IT organizations duplicate their infrastructure in a second datacenter (i.e., doubling the infrastructure cost) or rent standby resources from a third party. Either solution is an expensive endeavor just to protect from an unlikely event. Yet, disasters do happen and not always to the other guy. Best practice organizations have robust DR capabilities that are regularly tested. This Technology Spotlight examines how cloud computing can be leveraged to develop DR capabilities that are both less expensive and easier to deploy than traditional methodologies. The paper also looks at the role of Commvault's cloud-based DR solution, Simpana, in the important market for DR services.

The traditional model for establishing a disaster recovery plan for IT services requires at least two datacenters, each with identical infrastructure. In some cases, organizations use a specialized third-party datacenter that hosts multiple subscribers. One of the advantages of this approach is that a third party is responsible for maintaining the second datacenter. The disadvantages are that it's difficult to maintain hardware compatibility, the resources are costly and sit idly waiting for a disaster, and the systems may be shared with other organizations in the event of a regional disaster.

In other cases, organizations leverage two or more internal datacenters, again with duplicate hardware. The advantages are that both systems can be utilized (active-active) and are fully dedicated to the owner. On the downside, both sites must be significantly oversized to support a disaster, and facilitating failover is a remarkably complex process with respect to both technology and people. Either scenario involves significant costs to guard against a relatively rare occurrence. As a result, too few organizations give DR the attention that it deserves.

The emergence of cloud computing has introduced attractive new opportunities and capabilities for organizations that need a complete disaster recovery solution or are looking for ways to reduce costs without sacrificing service. In many cases, cloud infrastructure can be acquired "on demand" so that the organization will ultimately pay for only what it uses. With its cost advantages, cloud can make full-blown DR solutions available to small, medium-sized, and large businesses alike.

Despite the obvious benefits of cloud DR, it's not without challenges. Like all IT projects, it requires collaboration between business unit leaders plus careful planning. The biggest mistake organizations can make is to view DR as a purely technical exercise; DR is the classic triad of people, process, and technology. Recovery from a full disaster will require a coordinated effort across the entire enterprise, but it is an effort that can be driven by the IT group.