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It is practically an axiom that proper disaster recovery requires a plan that is regularly tested and well honed. That wisdom is as old as information technology, and it has proven to be a solid strategy. However, that doesn't mean that crafting a reliable recovery plan must be difficult. With the tremendous growth of cloud and the rise of cloud-based disaster recovery, there is a persistent hope that cloud developments will ameliorate some or all of the complexities of disaster recovery planning.
There are numerous technologies, including cloud-based copies of business-critical data sets, that are being used by organizations of all sizes, according to Cindy LaChapelle, principal consultant at ISG. Smaller organizations in particular can easily use cloud-based disaster recovery tools to achieve higher levels of data protection and data recoverability.
"Cloud-based solutions also offer small to midsize businesses the ability to enable a more global footprint for their DR and backup needs, which provides greater reach and flexibility," LaChapelle said. But that potentially makes the company more susceptible to compliance concerns or natural disasters in other geographies that were never considered in the overall DR planning, according to LaChapelle.
Cloud DR customers in 2020
Looking at the topic from more of an enterprise perspective, customers generally treat cloud as a DR option, but it still isn't the default recommendation, according to Jerry Rozeman, senior research director at Gartner. "It is great for smaller customers and for tier 2 needs of bigger customers," he said.
When it comes specifically to disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), IDC research director Phil Goodwin predicted some serious growth.
Christophe BertrandSenior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group
"We estimate that the DRaaS market will reach $4.5 billion in 2020 with a 15.4% [compound annual growth rate] through 2023," Goodwin said. But the biggest growth is coming in what he called the "Goldilocks solutions." There are a lot of options, ranging from going the DIY route on one end and bringing in consultants on the other.
"Most IT organizations seem to prefer the middle ground where the provider offers some resource management, but they are willing to do most of the work themselves," Goodwin said. "We think it will remain a standard bell curve across that range of options for the next few years."
Rozeman said he has seen many customers starting with the idea of doing cloud-based disaster recovery, "then at the end they do something different or, at most, end up with a mixed approach."
Those who take the plunge seem to prefer AWS. However, Rozeman explained that the first challenge organizations immediately face is that they will likely need to master a different hypervisor with a different operating environment. That can bring some confusion to the table, "which can be compounded by having an entirely different DR environment," Rozeman said. That reality is what organizations would need to deal with if disaster recovery were suddenly needed. "It's like asking a Windows programmer to instantly function in a Linux environment." he added.
What's in store for the cloud DR market?
In short, it's a mess out there. "There is still some work to do to get coherent and consistent [recovery point objectives and recovery time objectives] in the cloud or to get the cloud to be like what has been achieved with on premises and for backup as a service," said Christophe Bertrand, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. Still, he remarked that many improved or new offerings came to the forefront in 2019.
In 2020, Bertrand said he believes SaaS backup and recovery will become a higher priority for end users. For one thing, vendor education campaigns will increase awareness of the data protection issues associated with SaaS service-level agreements, which Bertrand considers misunderstood by many. These campaigns will also likely accelerate adoption of protection tools. In the enterprise space, he predicted that backup and recovery for Salesforce will become a more important issue for customers, while Office 365 backup adoption will "become less differentiated across vendors."
However, a large market opportunity will still be available in 2020 and beyond, according to Bertrand. "Remember that SaaS applications may be highly available on the surface -- outages have happened in the past and will likely happen again -- but the protection of the data remains the customer's responsibility," Bertrand said.
A bumpy road ahead
Meanwhile, despite persistent optimism, cloud costs keep escalating, forcing organizations to reexamine their backup practices and methodologies.
"With compute, egress and ongoing storage driving up costs, we expect that a 'reality check' will occur in many organizations," regarding cloud-based disaster recovery, Bertrand said. He said he believes there could be some organizations repatriating to on-premises environments driven by cloud costs.
"This may offer a great opportunity for [managed service providers] and regional service providers to win business over hyper-scalers," Bertrand said. Likewise, he explained true multi-cloud support will become increasingly critical as end users rely on multiple providers today, "and are looking to hedge their bets and build a flexible hybrid infrastructure."
Rozeman has also seen some evidence of cloud discontent. "In the cloud, you have to be sure you have performance and that your resources are guaranteed," he said. "If we are all using AWS in U.S. region east, and we all have to use DR capability at the same time, are there sufficient resources?"
While not putting organizations off of cloud in general, this potential lack of resources could be cause for hesitation to commit to a major cloud-based disaster recovery provider.
"For that reason, I know customers who don't want to use Amazon and some are now even looking at colocation providers," Rozeman said.
2020 cloud predictions