More and more, organizations are looking to the cloud as the ultimate place for data backup and recovery. This approach can reduce the need for provisioning local storage, sparing IT pros some complex operations and associated headaches. Moreover, given how the physical data center backing the cloud is often located in a different geographic region from the company offering the data, there’s a good chance that any major catastrophic event affecting the company won’t take out that data center (and data) as well. (That being said, remote hosting can also become a weakness if catastrophe hits that data center.) A new class of cloud services—offered by companies such as Doyenz, Quorum Labs, IBM, Nirvanix and Quantum—is emerging to further curb the reliance on traditional backup and recovery. The core idea is that, by running a duplicate virtual instance of an application in a remote data center, users no longer need to back network files up, or wait forever for files to be recovered across a wide network; instead, they can simply access the duplicate in a matter of seconds. One example of this is rCloud from Doyenz, which hosts a replica of the client’s IT environment in the cloud, allowing them to quickly recover any application. Those same users can also test new applications on rCloud to judge any impact on on-premise systems (the platform is fundamentally hypervisor-agnostic, insists the company). Sri Pinnaka, CEO of Ntire IT LLC, which provides a set of managed services marketed under the name Zoom IT Solutions, has been leveraging the Doyenz platform to provide recovery services to customer in the San Francisco Bay area. He said that while the service hasn’t completely eliminated the need for local backup, the number of instances where customers require a local backup has been sharply reduced. “One of the things I like best is that when something is moved to the Doyenz platform they test it,” he added. “And if there is a problem they actually send me an alert about.” That’s a far cry when from the days of when most IT organizations discovered that a backup file was corrupt only when they needed it most. A similar service is being provided by Quorum Labs offers a similar service, which allows users to backup and recover any file with a single click. According to Quorum Labs CEO Larry Lang, recovery times in the cloud are so bad that organizations wind up asking cloud providers that use traditional backup and recovery software to ship disks to them overnight. For the cost of $3,000 to $4,000 a server that whole issue goes away—which is one reason Quorum Labs now offers a trade-in program for Symantec backup software. Quantum, a provider of traditional backup and recovery systems, is currently beta-testing a disaster recovery service in conjunction with Xerox that leverages virtualization and an object-based file system in the cloud to provide instant access to applications and files. “All the replication, data de-duplication and backup required will be included in a data protection service,” said Quantum CEO Jon Gacek. Not everybody agrees, however, that local backup is dead. What’s really required, they argue, is a new approach to cloud backup. Instead of relying on a single, remote data center, they advocate a peer-to-peer architecture allows data to be more cost-effectively distributed across a network of data centers. One of the leading advocates for this approach is Symform, which just picked up an additional $11 million in funding. Symform CEO Matthew Schiltz suggests that replicating the entire production environment in the cloud is an expensive proposition, and that a better approach consists of a storage network made up of data centers that make excess local storage available for free or a flat fee. Symform’s recent survey of 600 IT professionals suggests that, while interest in cloud storage is high, there are rising concerns about the amount of data that needs to be stored, as well as costs associated with that storage. “Those cost concerns have been holding back adoption of cloud storage,” said Schiltz. Whether data is simply backed up to the cloud or entire production environments are replicated, there are a lot of options that go well beyond what most organizations think of when it comes to storing data in the cloud today. While those choices may not be right for everybody, it does show that backup and recovery, like everything else in the age of the cloud, is rapidly evolving.