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The cloud: A security solution for small business

Updated: Jan 2, 2012 10:09 AM EST
Cloud solutions make it easier than ever before to have a disaster recovery plan. (©iStockphoto/Thinkstock) Cloud solutions make it easier than ever before to have a disaster recovery plan. (©iStockphoto/Thinkstock)
 
By Marc Saltzman
From IT Insider Online
 

Let's say it politely: Stuff happens.

Although natural or manmade disasters aren't too common (we hope!), even a relatively minor disruption in your organization could grind your business to a halt if you don't have a contingency plan in place. For a small business, this sort of stoppage can spell catastrophe.

Here's what to do to ensure this doesn't happen to you.

Find More Protection in the Cloud

Fortunately, cloud solutions make it easier than ever before to have a disaster recovery (DR) plan to minimize your downtime should something happen.

"Small firms are very much aware of the need to back up regularly, but it's kind of like flossing; everyone knows they should do it, but very few do so regularly," says Raymond Boggs, vice president of SMB Research at IDC. "Cloud-based storage and disaster recovery solutions are particularly well-suited to smaller firms, which lack budget and extensive IT resources."

If your backup is onsite, you likely aren't as secure as you think you are -- or as you need to be, says Boggs. "Backing up a server -- onsite -- still leaves a firm vulnerable to all kinds of disasters that have been in the news, from floods to tornadoes," notes Boggs. "Online storage providers offer higher levels of protection than that found in a typical small or even midsized firm."

The challenge is for a small business owner or IT manager to surrender direct control of precious data in order to make it more secure. "Many understand in their minds the cloud offers both solid value and exceptional security, but in their heart of hearts, they are often reluctant to give up personal possession of essential information," says Boggs.

Employ a "Partly Cloudy" Solution

One of the first real-value propositions of the cloud is disaster recovery, says John D'Esposito, founder and CTO of Techout.com, an Internet performance engineering company. But the cloud offers a lot more than just data backup.

"If you can seamlessly fall onto another offsite server, with data and applications, then you've successfully set up your DR framework," adds D'Esposito. "I call this concept ‘party cloudy' because there's a lot of value for SMBs who can't afford a more ambitious enterprise-grade disaster plan but can still benefit from accessing data, serving up applications and seamless proximity routing from one hot data center to another

You'll find a number of options these days, as many companies offer secure services to empower small companies, says D'Esposito. "If you're not leveraging the cloud, then you're not as nimble and effective as your competition, during a disaster or otherwise."

Not availing yourself of these services could have further repercussions when it comes to your business's long-term plans. "Without any cloud solutions, small companies who try to raise money from VCs will no doubt have trouble," says D'Esposito.

The Concept Stays the Same

"I'm not sure that adding the cloud to the mix really changes the fundamentals of disaster-recovery planning," says Leslie Fiering, research vice president at Gartner. "At the end of the day, it is important to know that in the event of outages, or even large disasters, critical data is stored somewhere that is safe and readily accessible in time of need."

Doing your homework when it comes to disaster recovery in the cloud is essential. You'll want to utilize a reputable, established company and have a good idea of how your cloud provider deals with its own potential outages. "We're seeing a growing number of instances where the cloud providers have outages and customer data is not available for some period of time," says Fiering. "That said, the cloud offers relatively inexpensive and simple backup options. Many smaller businesses that might not otherwise have discipline for regular backups and offsite storage may find cloud solutions a real game-changer."

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