“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”
~Bob Dylan, Shelter from the Storm.
One thing we have learned over the last year or two is that disasters can strike anywhere.
When the earthquake hit in Japan last year, lots of data centers were no doubt put out of commission for at least a period of time. When a freak October snow storm struck Massachusetts last Fall, some places were without power for more than a week.
And the disasters seem to be happening with increasing frequency. How can you as an IT Pro protect the data side of your business? Well, the answer could come via the cloud.
As I wrote in Data Center in a Box Could Save Your Butt in Disaster, there is actually a product that ships to you within a couple of days after an outage — and gives full data center capability in a unit about the size of a large refrigerator.
But should it actually have to come to that? In some instances, it’s unavoidable, but in many cases you could save your organization a lot of pain by storing your data in the cloud where it’s in another location and backed up across multiple locations.
It actually makes little sense to keep your data center where you do your business because if disaster strikes, not only is your business hosed, so is all of your data. You can always find office space somewhere away from the center of the disaster but getting your data back could be a stickier matter.
The cloud can help and given that the cost of storing data in the cloud continues to drop, it’s not only cost-effective to move your data to the cloud, it’s downright sensible.
As I’m sure you know, there are risks associated with the cloud too. Cloud vendors are not immune to natural events any more than you are as the lightening strike that shut down both Amazon’s and Microsoft’s Irish data center last summer proves. But the cloud gives you a better chance of saving your data in the event of major disaster in the vicinity of your business and that’s the way you have to look at it.
Cloud vendors also tend to have redundant backups and storage across multiple centers in multiple geographic locations to hedge against that disaster shutting down large groups of their customers (although as we’ve learned it can still happen).
If your business is in a hurricane or earthquake zone, then I probably don’t have to tell you that you need to have your data backed up somewhere far away from the business location. This is just common sense. It may be that you can spread out your data centers just by virtue of the size of your organization, but not every IT department has that luxury.
That’s why you need to sit down as a company with all of the stakeholders and come up with a unified disaster plan. Now, how you implement that plan will depend on the size of your organization, how spread out you are geographically, your tolerance for using the cloud as a backup medium and so forth.
But you need to think about this before you’re down for a day, a week or even worse that you’re dead in the water. The cloud makes sense for a lot of companies, but not for everyone for a variety of reasons including, for example, privacy rules in the EU, but you can’t deny the cloud offers you safe harbor (in most cases) when that disaster inevitably strikes — and you should at least consider it as part of your overall strategy.