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Banks Offloading DR to the Cloud

Institutions such as Highland Bank are cost-effectively improving business continuity by adopting Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service solutions.

If the most recent estimates by Forrester Research and IDC Financial Insights are any guide, banks worldwide will spend approximately $12 billion on disaster recovery solutions this year. Beyond the monetary costs, the resources required for keeping continuity systems current can distract already-stretched IT departments from mission-critical projects.

But, like everything else, the cloud is providing the answer in the form of Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS). While technology essentially comes in two flavors, appliance/cloud hybrid and cloud-to-cloud, the overall demand for DRaaS is becoming increasingly strong. According to a February 2014 Forrester Wave report, approximately 19% of enterprises have already adopted with another 22% planning to deploy.

[Risks and Rewards of Disaster Recovery in the Cloud]

For early-adopter Highland Bank the rewards from deploying a hybrid appliance/cloud DRaaS solution are significant. Headquartered in St. Michael, Minn., Highland ($450 million in total assets) started working with DRaaS provider http://nscaled.com/company/>nScaled in the summer of 2012.

"Our the four-person IT team has reduced the time required to apply updates and patches related to our previous SAN-to-SAN data replication model from about five hours a week to zero," says Craig Boivin, CTO and SVP at Highland. "In addition, our DR site went from a branch location about 20 miles away to half way across the country at nScaled's Ashburn, Va., facility."

"More importantly, we could only replicate between SANs at night, so our recovery point was about a day," he adds. "Now, replications occur hourly."

Even on-site continuity is improved. "If our SAN goes down, we can operate from the nScaled appliance," Boivin says. "Essentially, this gives us two layers of high-availability."

But, nScaled isn't the only hybrid appliance/cloud option, as both the Forrester report and analyst Eric Slack of Storage Switzerland point out. Another contender is Quorum, an early "DR in a box" provider.

"The hard part of DRaaS is creating a high-availability solution," says Slack. "Quorum originally built its box as a high-availability many-to-one failover server that you rack-mounted alongside your production boxes. Not only is it proven, it's also easy -- the most important DR functions are a one-button operation."

Quorum made headlines last month by becoming the first solution of its type to be certified PCI-compliant. While there are other ways to satisfy compliance regulators, Quorum certification removes one more DR complexity hurdle.

To get the best fit at a competitive price a 2013 Gartner report recommends sending RFPs to no fewer than three providers. That's because Gartner found considerable pricing variations in this market.

No matter which solution a bank adopts, Highland Bank's Boivin offers some advice. "If you choose an agent-based solution, don't expect to flip on a switch," he says. "There will be a transition period. For example, some agents may install seamlessly and others may have issues to resolve."

"Also," he continues, "the first replication of a large data set takes time. One of our servers required three weeks. However, subsequent replications are incremental, making them fast."

Another challenge to avoid is lack of compatible connectivity. "When we deployed, our WAN connectivity vendor wasn't a partner of nScaled. That resulted in a several-month delay while the agreements between nScaled our provider were completed."

Still, the effort has been so successful that Highland hopes to leverage nScaled for its new virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). "We're still considering options for how we would do it," says Boivin.

"Regardless," he adds, "for DR we've eliminated significant capital costs as well as operational maintenance. And nScaled is so user-friendly that we like to joke that a non-technical person could be trained to administer it. Best of all, it runs like a champ."

[Cloud computing certainly has benefits, but how can banks and other highly regulated enterprises meet security and compliance demands? Learn how financial firms can structure a hybrid cloud to gain efficiencies, while also meeting compliance goals. Attend the Reigning in the Cloud – Solving Identity, Access, Compliance and Governance Issues in a Hybrid Cloud World session at Interop 2014 in Las Vegas, March 31-April 4.
You can also REGISTER FOR INTEROP HERE.]

Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio

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Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
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3/27/2014 | 7:24:39 PM
re: Banks Offloading DR to the Cloud
Storage is truly a commodity now, so it makes sense that it is the first to go to cloud.
Anne R Gabriel
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Anne R Gabriel,
User Rank: Author
3/26/2014 | 4:08:10 PM
re: Banks Offloading DR to the Cloud
Thanks Jon. I agree on the savings but provisionally with respect to risk. Depending upon where a bank is located, DR is just as essential as other business-critical applications. In the case of the bank highlighted here, I'm inclined to agree.
Jonathan_Camhi
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Jonathan_Camhi,
User Rank: Author
3/25/2014 | 7:10:28 PM
re: Banks Offloading DR to the Cloud
It's also one of the least risky areas to move to the cloud and one where the capital expenses saved by using the cloud make it very worthwhile.
Anne R Gabriel
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Anne R Gabriel,
User Rank: Author
3/25/2014 | 4:18:51 PM
re: Banks Offloading DR to the Cloud
Thanks Nate. It's interesting that storage is often considered the "least exciting" IT topic when it's frequently storage initiatives that drive innovations like, as you point out, moving applications to the cloud.
Nathan Golia
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Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
3/24/2014 | 8:10:53 PM
re: Banks Offloading DR to the Cloud
Thanks Anne. We see the same trend in insurance. Often companies' first entries into the cloud are due to DR initiatives. Then the other applications follow.
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