The natural disasters that hit New Zealand in 2011 provided a wake-up call that storage is not just about somewhere to park business data. Any discussion about storage – how and where your business data is housed and how quickly and easily you can recover it if needed – should include business continuity: more specifically data protection and disaster recovery (DR). Few businesses today can survive major data loss without a comprehensive backup and DR strategy in place. The cost of downtime can be catastrophic – an average of $1 million an hour for a large enterprise, according to the Meta Group and for SMBs it costs US$366,363* a year in lost productivity. A small business - such as a florist that makes half of its annual revenue on Valentine’s Day - could be wiped out altogether if it lost its order and delivery system on 14th February. The challenge of keeping business-critical digital assets secure is exacerbated by data explosion which continues unabated - a typical SMB produces almost 40TB of fresh data each year*. That is an awful lot of data to store and protect. In today’s business environment, organisations are presented with three different platforms for their backup and recovery strategies: physical, virtual and cloud. Each platform has its own unique challenges and benefits. Ultimately the success of a company’s backup and recovery strategy should be measurable by the availability of its systems and the external impact that associated downtime has in terms of lost revenue and lost customers, regardless of the environment the data and systems are stored in. As companies back up more and more data, the limitation of physical storage devices becomes obvious. Businesses start to virtualise their servers, which brings in the challenge of backing up virtual machines (VM). The Acronis Global Disaster Recovery Index 2012 revealed that 29% of SMB servers will be virtualised by the end of the year. Yet many businesses that already own virtual servers are taking a significant risk because they don’t back them up as often as physical servers. SMBs cite increased efficiency, flexibility and speed of deployment as the main drivers for server virtualisation. While it has become more affordable and relatively easy for SMBs to implement, many are playing Russian roulette when it comes to protecting data housed on virtual machines because they do not consider backing up virtual systems as critical as backing up physical servers – and yet the monetary value of data hosted on virtual servers is almost identical to that hosted on physical servers. For businesses that do back up their virtual servers, many of them use multiple solutions to protect their data in physical and virtual environments, which is adding unnecessary complexity to the business. The Acronis survey found moving data between physical, virtual and cloud environments is the greatest challenge the vast majority of IT managers face in a hybrid environment. Yet the survey also found most businesses are still failing to consolidate their backup and DR tools to address the challenge. Another common backup issue is the lack of an offsite backup strategy. Instead of automating offsite backups, many businesses still rely on a more traditional method of physically backing up onsite on either a tape or disk and then taking it offsite at the end of the day. Because this relies on an individual employee being responsible for and remembering to carry out their task, it runs a high risk of human error. Businesses need an automated Disaster Recovery Plan incorporated in their backup strategy. In the event of disaster or system downtime, recovery should not be dependent on a select few IT staff members with special knowledge of the systems and the technical know-how to recover them. With the DR plan, recovery can be done by anyone, not just by the people who are trained to do it. Such a feature gives business the tools and peace of mind knowing they will be able to minimise any unexpected downtime by restoring stored data and systems quickly and easily. When it comes to keeping the digital assets of a business secure, protected and immediately available in a hybrid world, businesses of all sizes should consider a unified, easy-to-use solution across multiple platforms that makes it simple to minimise the potentially devastating losses of unexpected downtime and recover data quickly.