A Server is A Server & Clouds Are Not Always Benign: Colocation versus Cloud for Disaster Recovery and Backup

I recently came across the following article titled “10 best practices for using the cloud as a backup and Disaster Recovery service” .  While I agree with much of the article I would challenge the use of Cloud alone (versus Colocation) for DR and Backup.

The average non IT person cannot define the Cloud, or you will at least get as many definitions as the number of people you ask.

Perhaps the most basic definition is that it’s simply a business model that sells computing capability on an almost infinitely scalable basis, (greatly aided by virtualization: dividing up a single server into many smaller servers / storage devices, with all of the commonly purchased slices able to talk and share amongst themselves), with buyers of the slices able to buy as much or as little as they want, whenever they want.  But it is not cheap.

Sort of like rental real estate that rents by the day – say apartment hotels.  Try staying in one for a year @$300/night for example.  There is a reason why it is that expensive.

To extend the real estate analogy, you can take a house a large family would live in and divide it up into 4 unit hotel.  In IT speak you have just “virtualized” the house.  If you then made that 4plex part of a large pool of 4plexs; you could rent 1, or 4 or 10 etc, as required, by the night, to accommodate visiting friends/relative.  But you can, if need be, access all of your rented units through one door, because they all have adjoining doors. For the company providing these accommodations, it costs money to buy those properties (servers), divide them up (virtualize), furnish them, manage them, maintain them, market them (and pay personnel for all of the foregoing).  Hence the $300/night.

However, if you had no visiting friends or relatives, and you needed a place to call home permanently, you would probably want to buy one or more units in the hotel (or the whole thing), because it would be cheaper than renting. Almost always is; if you need to use / consume 100% of something constantly – like Disaster Recovery and Backup, you want to own it – Colocation.

Cloud (renting) is great for anyone [1] not needing 100% of a server, and/or [2] folks occasionally needing, for a short period of time, significantly more.

Virtualization also allows owners of servers (Cloud and other Service Providers) to optimize the usage of their expensive servers ie they can sell server capabilities in slices less than a whole single server and cater to the needs of clients whose requirements change on a reasonably regular basis.

However, DR and Backup are, relatively speaking, fairly static requirements and typically volume intensive.  I would not of thought the economics of Cloud could compare to a Colocation solution.  Plus, with co-location, you know where your data resides ie it is not going to disappear because it sat on a shared device physically located in another country, that was seized under another country’s laws.