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Cloud providers ramp up their DR services

Cloud-based disaster recovery services are a hot trend among SMB customers who lack the money to build their own DR configurations.

Companies looking to use the cloud in their disaster recovery plans have plenty of options, with DR services available for organizations of all sizes.

Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) is no longer limited to large providers such as SunGard and Verizon Communications. According to Gartner's recently released Magic Quadrant for DRaaS report, there are more than 170 DRaaS providers in the market.

According to Gartner's recently released Magic Quadrant for DRaaS report, there are more than 170 DRaaS providers in the market.

"In 2008, there were four to six providers focusing on recovering virtual machines on a secondary site," said John Morency, Gartner's vice president of research. "We are now seeing a lot more providers jumping on the bandwagon and they are focusing on enterprise customers with compute environments based on Windows, Linux, Oracle Solaris and Microsoft Hyper-V, KVM and Xen. The recovery configurations are becoming more complex."

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, through its InMage acquisition, have rolled out offerings for DR services. Gartner's DRaaS vendor list includes Acronis, Seagate (EVault), Axcient, Bluelock, Windstream, Peak 10, Databarracks, IBM, VMware, Iland, Verizon and SunGard Availability Services. The report outlined three types of cloud-based recovery services -- DRaaS, recovery using infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and recovery using backup as a service (BaaS).

Gartner defines DRaaS as when a service provider manages virtual machine replication -- and optionally physical machine replication -- from the production data center into the cloud. The providers also manage activation and recovery of the virtual or physical machines in the cloud.

"The DraaS market originally emerged to address IT organizations' need to support increasingly aggressive recovery-time targets and more frequent and lower-cost testing while understaffed," according to the Gartner report. "Initially, small organizations with less than 100 employees were DraaS early adopters. However, improved DRaaS maturity, greater provider choice and lower monthly service costs have broadened the appeal of DRaaS across organizations of all sizes."

Using cloud instead of tape

DRaaS often starts as an extension of cloud backup. Bill Mann, CIO of the Borough of West Chester, Pa., wanted to get away from managing tape so he turned to cloud provider Axcient to back up files servers in a hybrid cloud configuration. His next move is to adopt DRaaS through Microsoft Azure.

"There is a wide range of comfort with the cloud," said Mann. "I'm on the far range of accepting it. You just need the right provider with a good strong service agreement and know what you are getting into."

Trusting the cloud an issue for enterprises

Dave Simpson, storage analyst at 451 Research, said most of the DR services are still in the lower end of the market because enterprises have invested millions in building their own DR data centers.

"It's a pretty hot trend among SMBs," he said. "But some larger customers don't trust third-party providers. They want to maintain control and they have the money to do it. Some people just don't trust the cloud. What if they drop the ball? It's not like they give you your money back. They just give you a discount."

Gartner estimates the size of the DRaaS market at around $1.3 billion with a compounded annual growth of approximately 30 percent. The research firm predicts the DRaaS market will surpass the more traditional subscription-based DR by 2018. Still, only 13 percent of large businesses (5,000 or more employees) have adopted DRaaS, according to Gartner.

Axcient customer Mann started in 2013 by backing up about 2 TB in the cloud for the municipal government's file servers. The local government office has two Axcient appliances installed on site, one to back up data from the municipal building and another for the public works department. Mann said he chose a hybrid model because files can be restored faster from the local appliance.

"I was constantly dancing with tapes," Mann said. "It was an ongoing management issue. I had two clerks manage the tapes for me. I just wanted something that was managed on its own. I wanted something that just worked. I needed a backup solution that is not complex and does what it is supposed to do on a daily basis."

Mann is already discussing his DraaS plan with Azure, and he expects to have applications running in the cloud in 2016.

"In 2016, we will be more deeply invested in Azure by having a server there," he said. "Some of our applications will be running in Azure."

Backup vendors branch out into DR

Other backup vendors such as Barracuda Networks, Unitrends and Zerto have joined Axcient in moving to cloud DR services.

"They have backup software but the software pushes data to the cloud," Simpson said. "They can back up on premises but then a copy goes to the cloud. This allows you to have true DR without having to build or lease a data center for the purposes of DR."

Next Steps

Examining DR-based cloud services

DR services to replace traditional DR?

DRaaS simplifies testing your DR plan

Dig Deeper on Disaster recovery storage