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The cloud is here to stay. Computing in the cloud is becoming a permanent fixture in small business vernacular. In the April issue of Novell Connection we talked through the tools being made available to knowledge workers that don't exist on their desktop. Rather, these tools live as elements of SaaS, or software as a service. Frankly the affects of oil at US$130 per barrel will have profound affects on the economy, commuting habits and computing habits.

Computing habits...how?

At a high level, the use of collaboration software will increase as the justification for business travel becomes even more stringent. Following suit, anyone who is business-continuity minded knows the media containing your backed-up data must be off site. Depending on the compliances standards your business subscribes to, there are proximity guidelines outlining where this secondary data can and cannot live. This data often lives in a separate data center located blocks, miles, timezones or even multiple power grids away. The problem is a large part of the global economy can't afford this type of redundancy or protection. With the commoditization of broadband, the principle barrier which has kept smaller businesses from enjoying industry-leading backup practices has been eliminated.

Reducing the costs associated with moving data as well as leveraging the available bandwidth fully, especially as it relates to larger files is similar to the arguments in support of cloud computing. Realistically, associating these bedrock principles of computing provide a foundation on which a robust online backup environment can be built.

A number of cloud computing players exist in the market. As with any market, the sound, well-built solutions normally bubble to the surface. Nothing is different with regard to technology; the cream rises to the top and is then purchased. For example, Mozy Enterprise was an industry-leading online backup solution provider for personal and smaller enterprises. EMC bought the company in January 2008. This was a logical and sound strategic move on EMC's part much the same as its purchase of VMware and Legato. Mozy catered to the small to medium enterprise market which happens to be the fastest growing segment of the global economy. The acquisition seems obvious.

As an aside, this type of merger and acquisition is the method of innovation de jur for larger, well-established companies living in a Web 2.0 world. The creation of an innovative solution is often handled by smaller, more versatile organizations that can focus on a particular niche. In other words, they can put more wood behind a particular arrow in the market identification and building stages instead of having to cover multiple markets, with multiple products, across multiple business units. Long story short, companies such as EMC and Novell—with the purchases of SiteScape and PlateSpin—can take a technology to the next level without having the stress of determining if there is a market for a particular product.

Getting back on track. The small- to medium-enterprise market has unique requirements that make it ripe for cloud-based solutions. An overarching reason is the lack of an in-house technical staff.

Traditionally, IT coverage was performed by committee, meaning whoever had time or knew the most was the IT man of the hour. This can work but it can also be time consuming and dangerous. For example, let's talk car repair; would you feel comfortable working on your brakes? What about the brakes of your child's car? The point is, on some occasions the risks outweigh the perceived short-lived financial savings.

For example, many organizatons have learned the hard way that backup and recovery, namely the execution of it, should be left to the pros. Regarding the execution, I'm talking about the removal of media from its original location. This could be a tape drive or autoloader. The setting of the appropriate retention policy, which is how long the organization wishes to keep archived data should also be considered. You also need to think about the configuration of a backup policy that adheres to acceptable Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) and Recovery Time Objectives (RTO).

RPO and RTO, although easy to understand, are noteworthy.

Why?

Data recovery parameters, such as RPO and RTO are a portion of the reason why backup and recovery should be kept in the hands of experts. Moreover, if not taken into account when configuring the backup environment you'll have an environment that's not fully protecting your organization. This protection is deeper than simply being able to recover a file here and there which accounts for 43 percent of all recoveries.

Recovery point objectives (RPO) describe the acceptable amount of data lost within a specific amount of time. While RTO (Recovery Time Objective), describes the duration of time within which a file or set of files must be restored. Both of these configurable settings are often aligned with a business process or service level agreement which outline acceptable parameters of recovery.

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