Photo credit: mendhak / Flickr

Photo credit: mendhak / Flickr

By Yan Ness, co-CEO

Backup and recovery. Has there been less emphasis on the second half of a duo since Simon & Garfunkel split up?

Already the ugly stepchild of IT, never getting the same priority as customer issues, and often shipped off to be handled by other organizations, backup and recovery plans frequently overlook one important aspect: Getting backed-up data back to a production environment in the case of disaster.

Yes, data is backed up. Yes, the backup is occurring at the right times. But if you can’t easily recover that data – let’s call that “stranded backup” – the job is only half complete. In an earlier post, I compared backup and recovery to being a sailor: You must have a painstakingly detailed plan that covers every possible scenario of a two-way trip, there and back.

Similarly, data needs to be backed up from a production environment and it needs to be able to get back to a production environment in the case of disaster. Most offsite backup solutions leave data in isolated, undisclosed storage locations with many barriers creating risky or unreliable transit back. That sounds like a stranded backup plan to this sailor.

Imagine a business suffers data loss because of a disaster and calls on its backup provider for help retrieving volumes of mission-critical data. The goal is to get that backed-up data to a ready-to-go production environment ASAP and to restore normal operations before the business is severely compromised.

So the backup provider sends the 500 GB of data back to you via high-speed network or on disc or tape via physical delivery. Where does it go from there? Your recovery plan now includes searching for new servers, network and other infrastructure – all time-consuming and costly tasks. (Unless, of course, the organization happens to have funded redundant assets, a model with even worse IT resource utilization than most physical servers. Those idle assets are better used for customer development.)

Rebuilding servers to utilize the backed up data might take days – or weeks, if you need a SAN – and the data is stranded. Business stops or is severely hampered.

So what is the solution to stranded backup? Cloud providers, who are in the business of having idle assets just waiting for someone to need them. Although they certainly weren’t designed with this need in mind, they do have exactly the right capabilities to eliminate stranded backups. Their business models depend on the ability to turn up new infrastructure quickly. Back up your data to a location that can immediately begin helping with your restoration and provides local access to your backup data from on-demand infrastructure.

Sound like a lot of work? Making this change doesn’t require a completely overhauled disaster recovery plan. Simply point backup to a provider with cloud assets to quickly get data back into production in the event of a disaster. Better yet, you don’t pay for it until you need it.

The overall point is to understand the value of not only offsite backup, but the value of offsite recovery. Organizations need access to IT systems that can put successful backups to work at a moment’s notice.