Recovery-as-a-Service (RaaS) may still be in its infancy as an industry, but research firm Gartner sees it gaining popularity in the coming years. The firm recently predicted that nearly one-third of midsize enterprises would rely on the cloud-based services for disaster recovery by 2014.

At present, just more than 1 percent of midsize companies, defined by Gartner as those with annual revenues between $150 million and $1 billion, use RaaS to manage replication of virtual machines (VMs) and production data in a service-provider’s cloud. Joshua Geist, founder andCEO of Geminare Incorporated, which provides cloud-based technologies for the RaaS market, explained in HPC in the Cloud that RaaS could help companies avoid application downtime when server outages occur by providing a replicated system in the cloud from which employees can continue to work. What’s more, Geist also said that RaaS environments provide a place in which IT professionals can test application upgrades and fix glitches before they upgrade the main system, helping to ensure normal system functioning after improvements are made.

Gartner sees RaaS as a potential solution to four main areas of disaster recovery:

  1. Recovery testing/exercising costs by limiting or eliminating unnecessary spending.
  2. Change skew, or providing “consistency between the current state of the production data center infrastructure, applications and data, and their state at the time of the last recovery.”
  3. Recovery configuration startup, or managing the complexity of interrelated applications upon startup through “replication and recovery of application-specific and interdependent groups of VMs.”
  4. Testing scope, or setting appropriate priorities on what testing should take place and when.

Many companies currently handle recovery testing within their own data centers. Gartner said that “traditional recovery testing and exercising often constitute a significant portion of the annual disaster-recovery budget,” often at a cost of $100,000 or more for each exercise. Like other cloud-based services, RaaS gives companies the opportunity to scale storage needs, paying to replicate applications on an ongoing basis and quickly ramp up resources needed to run the application from the cloud when a disaster occurs. This pay-as-you-go model can reduce the recovery budget while allowing IT to run important recovery tests during normal business hours without disrupting business processes.

Despite the advantages that RaaS offers, Gartner still sees the primary market for RaaS within midsize companies. They explain that “larger companies (with annual revenues or operating budgets of $1 billion or more) are more likely to have established recovery management facilities, infrastructures and support teams that are too complex to move fully to the cloud,” while small companies often have no formal disaster recovery model in place.

For companies that are considering moving disaster recovery to a cloud-based service, John Morency, a research vice president at Gartner who covers the management of disaster recovery and IT resiliency, suggested that they begin by conducting due diligence on the potential cloud infrastructure, particularly for applications that are run outside the company’s data center. Morency explained, “They should then qualify system image replication and failover support and probe how the provider can support application connectivity during recovery testing. They also need to check provider operations controls for potential regulatory compliance exposure and pilot a bounded implementation of the target configuration. This will clarify the potential service benefits as well as the level of management support that the in-house IT team will still need to provide.”

How does your company currently manage disaster recovery? What do you see as the benefits and risks to using RaaS?

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