Aug 27, 2010 (08:08 PM EDT)
Small Businesses, Big Advances In Backup And Recovery

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 Small Businesses, Big Advances In Backup And Recovery

Small businesses have an almost alarming array of business continuity and disaster recovery options, from on-site tape to sometimes pricey disk-based appliances to managed services to fully in-the-cloud offerings. With the stakes--and costs--so high, making this call can be intimidating at best, paralyzing at worst. When companies don't have a BC/DR plan, complexity is the most-cited reason, finds our recent InformationWeek Analytics SMB Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery Survey. Constrained resources runs a close second.

Small-business IT teams need to treat this rich choice of technologies as an asset, a way to meet their often unique needs despite scant resources to devote to business continuity and disaster recovery. We've worked with companies where backup systems languish without upkeep and disaster recovery plans sit on the shelf, untested and out of date. One answer: Integrated data protection plans that combine backup, system imaging, replication, and other features.

After all, SMB IT pros are all about multitasking.

Not only is it is easier to maintain a single system compared with multiple independent products, but Norm Davis, IT director for Chapel Hill, N.C., retirement community Carolina Meadows, sees data protection as a critical component of IT automation--another hot topic for small businesses, especially in healthcare. "We have made a commitment to automate our medical records as part of an overall IT modernization project," says Davis. And because Carolina Meadows is an accredited continuing care retirement community, it's subject to an audit that covers all aspects of running the facility, including data protection. There's little margin for error or downtime.

For Davis, the answer is an integrated backup and disaster recovery system from Zenith Infotech, a service provider that specializes in business continuity. The Zenith system includes server virtualization, data replication, and monitoring to ensure that everything is functioning properly, and it runs in a single server. Although the device doesn't have the horsepower of the community's primary systems, it would allow a vital system--Carolina Meadows' Answers On Demand integrated healthcare application--to be brought back up quickly and completely. As a bonus, Davis says he could pick up the Zenith server and transport it to a business continuity site in the event of disaster.

Many small businesses are similarly reliant on a few major, often highly specialized, applications. Todd Kenworthy, IT manager for the Phoenix Group, a supply chain services and construction logistics company, faced a "fickle application" that didn't tolerate conventional backups, so he got creative. Leveraging a disk imaging application from Acronis to create whole-system backups that could be saved and moved off site, Kenworthy built his own integrated backup and disaster recovery system. These disk images can serve many functions, from daily rebuilding of failed servers to site-wide disaster recovery.

The Phoenix Group is now evaluating service providers to handle the daily operation of the system. "I'm solely responsible to support over 100 users, so I expect a lot from outside services," says Kenworthy. "We experienced a communications outage previously and are adamant that it not happen again. We changed service providers, redesigned the network, and began investing in disaster recovery at that time."

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