By David Blackman, General Manager, Northern Europe, Acronis
When cloud computing first made its appearance some years ago it was heralded as the start of a revolution within the IT industry.
IT companies and resellers, eager to climb aboard the bandwagon, rushed to bring new ‘cloud-based’ services to market, and the concept quickly gaining a momentum all of its own. Gartner went so far as to predict that 20 percent of businesses would own no IT assets at all by 2012.
The analyst house wasn’t alone in its views; when questioned for the Acronis Global Disaster Recovery Index at the end of 2010, businesses estimated they would have 30 percent of their infrastructure in the cloud in the next twelve months, an increase of 87 percent. However, the reality of the situation was that those companies only grew their cloud-based infrastructure by 19 percent.
Organisations – particularly the more midsized mainstream companies to whom the cloud was specifically marketed – were left confused by constantly changing definitions of the cloud. They harboured serious concerns about the recovery of their critical data in the event of a disaster, security risks as well as a lack of trust in cloud providers.
So what’s the opportunity for resellers today in terms of customers looking to implement cloud services for their customers? According to the recent Acronis Global Disaster Recovery Index 2012, the vast majority of organisations (83 percent) now have some form of cloud-based IT, an increase of 13 percent from 2010. However, in reality the cloud still only represents 19 percent their entire infrastructure.
Nevertheless, there may be a glimpse of a silver lining for resellers looking to sell cloud services. Its adoption continues to grow – albeit more cautiously than in the past, with one in four businesses (26 percent) now anticipating that more than 50 percent of their IT infrastructure will be cloud-based in 2012.
In terms of its take-up, companies believe cloud adoption this year is being driven by three factors: lower IT operating costs; the potential for additional or flexible storage space; and improved compliance.
However, there are still some concerns from businesses regarding the use of cloud as part of a backup and disaster recovery operation that need to be effectively addressed by resellers. Businesses cite recovery of data in the event of a disaster (56 percent), security risks in the cloud (39 percent) and workload and complexity (33 percent) as their top three concerns.
So while more than a fifth (21 percent) of companies currently use the cloud for offsite backup, almost half (42 percent) still rely on the traditional approach of physically taking backup tapes or disk offsite each day – this is a significant risk which needs to be highlighted by resellers as it relies on an individual being responsible for the task, and human error is recognised as the biggest cause of system downtime.
More worryingly than that, almost a quarter (23 percent) of those surveyed don’t have an offsite backup strategy in place at all, despite 2011 being a year of economic turmoil and environmental disasters on an unprecedented global scale that left thousands of businesses affected.
One contributing factor to this inconsistent approach to backup and disaster recovery (DR) could be that more than half (53 percent) of organisations use separate backup solutions for their physical and virtual environments. As apposed to buying one comprehensive solution that links all physical, virtual and cloud protection.
The channel must open its eyes to the fact that businesses face a triple threat in 2012; they need to protect more data, navigate shrinking IT budgets, and do it across more environments than ever before. The only real option, advocated by resellers, should involve taking a holistic approach to their backup and DR.
IDC anticipates the cloud will play a key role in what it terms as a ‘hybrid’ approach to backup and DR. In this scenario, a business will keep a copy of its data locally as well as a copy held remotely in the cloud. This approach combines the best data protection practices with the fastest local recovery option, ensuring optimum business continuity whatever happens.
Ultimately, resellers need to make sure its customers are not taking any risks when protecting their valuable data. Few businesses can survive a major data loss without a comprehensive backup and DR strategy in place. Suggesting a hybrid approach to DR will therefore enable customers to utilise the cloud, as well as their traditional on-premise backup systems to create a solution that addresses backup and DR across physical, virtual and cloud environments – a hybrid solution to protect their hybrid world.
 Gartner Highlights Key Predictions for IT Organizations and Users in 2010 and Beyond; Christy Pettey, January 2010, (http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1278413). Worldwide Storage in the Cloud 2011–2015 Forecast: The Expanding Role of Public Cloud Storage Services; Laura DuBois, Richard L. Villars, Brad Nisbet, December 2011, (http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=232115).