If a critical system goes down or your data is lost, how long would it take your organization to restore operations? For many businesses, it will come down to what disaster recovery efforts are in place, and if these initiatives are successful in practice.

Unfortunately, a number of companies are not ready for emergency situations, and it can take a significant amount of time to restore operations. The 2014 State of Global Disaster Recovery Preparedness report found that nearly 25 percent of respondents lost most or all data center functions for hours or even days, with losses ranging from thousands to millions of dollars. This isn't even considering the reputation and customer losses that downtime incurs. Implementing cloud solutions can significantly speed up the disaster recovery process and improve your operations in a few key ways:

1. Accessible from anywhere

Backing up critical files and assets provides a layer of flexibility to ensure that you can access and restore systems quickly. For data loss situations, the cloud provides instant connection to the necessary files, preventing heavy fines from industry governing bodies to recover information. This also minimizes productivity deficits and missed revenue opportunities. Accessibility to this essential data will help streamline recovery while reducing potential costs.

Cloud assets are available anywhere with an internet connection, speeding up recovery time.Cloud assets are available anywhere with an internet connection, speeding up recovery time.

What happens if work machines malfunction or the power goes out in your facility? You can no longer operate at that location and must wait for the issue to be fixed. The cloud makes it possible to conduct business outside of the office, allowing parts to be ordered to repair hardware or the power to be restored. However, as Ars Technica noted, this measure is only a short-term stopgap for many organizations. Your cloud disaster recovery plan must anticipate region-wide outages or other events to ensure that you're ready to cope with them if they occur.

2. Ease of use

Tape and disks have been used for system backups for decades. While these methods have their place in disaster recovery strategies, their age is starting to show, particularly when compared with cloud benefits. Tape and disks must be kept under particular conditions and are susceptible to environmental damage and deterioration. Backing up to and restoring data from these devices can also take a significantly long time and impede your operations.

Cloud backups run in the background on a scheduled basis, recording and saving changes to every essential document. This ensures that organizations have the most recent version of data on hand upon restoration. According to an infographic by ERS Computer Solutions, 52 percent of companies are moving to the cloud for disaster recovery efforts due to its ease of use, leaving the complexity of traditional solutions behind. In fact, 32 percent of respondents using cloud for disaster recovery are able to recover within 24 hours, compared with only 23 percent of those that don't leverage the cloud. An additional 20 percent of cloud users are able to restore operations within a few hours, while only 9 percent of non-cloud users could say the same.

"If an emergency happens, how do you know that your strategy will work?"

3. Automated testing

Many organizations believe that because they have a disaster recovery plan in place, that's good enough. However, if an emergency happens, how do you know that your strategy will work? Are you certain that your backup methods have been recording and restoring the right pieces of information? When disaster strikes, if you don't have the necessary information on hand or if your backups aren't working, it will take a lot of money and a significant amount of time to restore everything – if it can be restored at all.

You might be saying, "But we don't have time to test our plan every time a change is made." With the cloud, you can easily automate your disaster recovery testing to eliminate the guesswork and ensure a predictable, reliable recovery program, according to IT Biz Advisor. Evaluating your plan with automation will increase visibility into service-level agreements, adhere to regulatory requirements and reduce potential costs of a disaster.

Disaster recovery can be a tricky pursuit, but with the cloud, organizations can be better prepared for an emergency. Cloud-based solutions are available anywhere and easy to use, driving faster restoration capabilities. Contact ISG today to find out more about how the cloud can improve your disaster recovery strategy.