Leveraging Azure for Disaster Recovery & Cold Storage


Disaster Recovery (DR) has long been a difficult challenge in any data center. Historically, the options have been manual processes, or, automated processes that have typically placed expensive constraints on the limited supply of resources available in the organization. The most common approach we've seen is a set of libraries backing up volumes of data to a tape drive or disk volume. In many of these cases the backup system is dependent on a single human being taking tapes out of the data center on a timed basis, which of course opens many security holes. In the best cases, organizations leverage multiple data centers to create a comprehensive plan for moving data across the wire to provide redundancy & automated DR.

However, this can be very costly due to excess consumption of drives, tapes, & bandwidth.  Azure has given us a new tool in the arsenal, and DR as well as Business Continuity issues are readily addressed within the new Azure platform.

Dare We Say… Cloud?

We work with hundreds of clients, most of which are wrestling with the cloud questions:  What is it?  How does it apply to me?  How can I leverage it?  Should I be delivering applications using the cloud?  Can I drive innovation into my business using the cloud?  There is no single right answer to these questions; it depends on the organization, the business requirements, the IT requirements, and an overall planning effort.  However, we are seeing organizations start to agree on one simple concept:  The cloud makes sense as a Disaster Recovery platform.

Out of the gate, Azure provides a viable solution for DR because of the billing model. First & foremost, it’s free to upload your data to Azure drives or blobs, making it a no brainer to move data to the cloud. Second, once in the cloud, data hosting costs are among the most competitive in the market at $0.932/GB/Month or $0.1252/GB/Month for geo-redundant data storage. Based on numerous cost studies, that is less than 20% of the cost of storing the same data in most private data centers & less than 10% of the cost of hosting in a co-located data center.

Azure For Hosting All Data

Azure is great for cold storage such as a DR scenario, but can become expensive for data that is more transactional in nature. For instance, if you were to use Azure Drives as a cloud-based external drive, the drive is cheap but bandwidth would be very expensive. At a rate of $0.09 / GB of egress bandwidth, your costs would quickly add up. However, for cold data you can’t go wrong. This is well represented by Symantec’s recent decision to adopt Azure for their new DR as a service platform & their own DR storage mechanisms: http://www.symantec.com/about/news/release/article.jsp?prid=20120611_01

Beyond the Cloud

Native Azure is a great solution, but can require a bit of work to get up and running; it's not just flip-a-switch-and-go.  There are tools that go beyond the cloud to help make it even easier to leverage DR in the cloud.  For example, ComVault, StoreSimple, & others provide a convenient means of pushing your data to Azure directly out of your SAN or data historian.

However, before picking up one of these products, we’d highly suggest you leverage existing Software Assurance vouchers to conduct a full AZDPS (Azure Deployment Planning Service). Under an AZDPS, your partner (whether Oakwood or someone else certified to deliver the AZDPS engagement) will work with your architects to educate them on all of the aspects of Azure, and will help you envision and architect an enterprise-level strategy for implementing cloud services in the way that best suits your organization.  (Any partner should also be able to offer you a fee-based AZDPS engagement if you don't have SA vouchers available.)

Leveraging Azure

The cloud can be complex & nebulous, and the “cloud questions” difficult to wrestle to the ground.  Leveraging Azure for Disaster Recovery is a clear way to start leveraging the cloud to your advantage.


About Oakwood

Since 1981, Oakwood has been helping companies of all sizes, across all industries, solve their business problems.  We bring world-class consultants to architect, design and deploy technology solutions to move your company forward.   Our proven approach guarantees better business outcomes.  With flexible engagement options, your project is delivered on-time and on budget.  11,000 satisfied clients can’t be wrong.