The same bean-counters – excuse me, cost-conscious CFOs – who are forcing every part of IT to deliver more services for less are now reshaping disaster recovery.

As I recently reported for Computerworld, the days of dedicated “hot site” DR with banks of expensive servers and storage waiting around for a volcano to blow are long gone, except for the most mission-critical applications.

Most customers are more pragmatic. Some are using virtualization to quickly reshuffle production applications onto less-critical test or development environments in case of an outage, forcing the less-critical workloads to wait until the trouble is over. Others are providing limited uptime rather than immediate 24/7 coverage. If that means payroll has to work from 9 PM to midnight on Sunday night to process paychecks during the emergency, so be it.

Some vendors are claiming the cloud will finally bring DR to the small to medium sized businesses who until now couldn’t afford it. But I found some SMBs who are not only skeptical of security in the cloud, but turned off by the prices some vendors are charging on a per-server basis. If you’re marketing cloud-based DR. be ready to prove it delivers on ease of use, low cost and security.

Anyone claiming to provide cloud DR also must show how its lets customers monitor the health and security of their DR site. Across all sectors of IT, customers are demanding business-friendly reports and dashboards so they can constantly monitor the costs and the benefits of their internal and external service providers, and that also goes for cloud DR.

In this era of wired and cloud-centric everything, I was surprised to learn how many companies still back up data by physically shipping tapes or (increasingly) portable hard drives to remote locations. That is still more cost-effective, it seems, than spending big bucks on the replication software and huge network connections it would take to move today’s data stores over the network. As one user joked, “FedEx is still the largest-bandwidth network out there.” Obviously, lower-cost, easier or even automated options for replicating data over today’s networks are a good play.

A final note to cloud and DR marketers: The confusion around different types of cloud and DR is reaching crisis proportions. For example, sometimes the term “private cloud” means a virtualized, on-demand infrastructure within an organization’s own firewall rather than that of an external provider. Other times, it also means a customer’s dedicated hardware running at an external site. Sometimes “hybrid” means a mixed public/private cloud, and other times a mix of virtual and physical servers.

I’ve seen some reports that such confusion is spooking customers so much they’re throwing up their hands and delaying a purchase decision. That’s a disservice not only to you, but the entire market. Whenever you’re unsure if “everyone knows” what your definition of “cloud” means, the safest bet is to explain it anyway – as clearly and simply as you can.

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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