DRaaS provides peace of mind for accounting firm

Renee Mengali was 3,000 miles away when Hurricane Sandy hit, but the aftermath hit home and made her realize her accounting firm needed DRaaS.

Renee Mengali was 3,000 miles away when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in October 2012, but the aftermath reverberated all the way to her small CPA firm in northern California.

Mengali, president of Healdsburg, California-based Mengali Accountancy, saw her colleagues on the other side of the country go dark in the lead up to tax season and knew she had to do more to protect her own clients' data and solidify her disaster recovery (DR) plan.

"It was a humongous eye-opener to me to say, 'I can't let that happen to Mengali," she said.

The company sought disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) providers and within a month had a deal in place with Houston-based iland to back up the data in locations outside California and establish a four-hour recovery time objective (RTO).

It has absolutely solved for what we were going for, which is backup solution and peace of mind.

Renee Mengali,
president, Mengali Accountancy

"It has absolutely solved for what we were going for, which is [a] backup solution and peace of mind," Mengali said. "It's working just as we wanted [it] to work."

Even before moving to cloud for DR, Mengali felt she had a fairly advanced setup to address the distance between her main office in Sonoma County and the majority of her clients 75 miles away in San Francisco.

"We had to be cognizant of paperless and remote access and data living in different locations, so that lack of close proximity has driven a lot of our technological advances forward," Mengali said.

The agency went paperless in 2007 and three years ago Mengali realized a foolproof DR plan was necessary for the agency to quickly get back up and deliver on billing and payments.

The first step was to virtualize servers to consolidate from four servers to three. An image backup also was stored at a secure facility 10 miles away.

"That was a great first step, but very quickly I started thinking to myself that's not the best-case scenario because if there's a natural disaster they could be just as affected as we are," Mengali said.

The 12-person firm has more than 250 clients. Its focus is on outsourcing accounting services and deals with highly complex and confidential information. Two staff members work remotely in San Francisco through a terminal server, and the main software systems include Microsoft Office, QuickBooks, MySQL Express and DocuWare.

Along with an IT consultant, Mengali researched cloud providers that would be compatible with its Veeam Software and VMware products. Mengali, who declined to say how much DRaaS costs her company, said she wanted the best in class.

"Cost was not really my concern," Mengali said. "It was failsafe, redundant and a professional, top-of the-line company because this was such a mission-critical, absolutely could-not-fail type of situation for me."

Disaster recovery is priced on a monthly fee by iland, based on the scale and ongoing storage requirements. In the event of a disaster, resources consumed are billed according to typical cloud pricing for on-demand capacity, according to iland. That translates to the typical midsized IT shop paying $3,000 to $6,000 per month for DR.

Mengali hasn't run a cost analysis since signing with iland in November 2012. Still, she said it provides a considerable difference in retaining and adding clients by providing something other agencies couldn't.

"When I'm talking to a new client, I will explain our suite of services and products that support them, and it has become pretty much a no-brainer in terms of closing deals," Mengali said.

DRaaS catching on

There is no shortage of DRaaS providers these days, and cloud services are becoming increasingly popular as companies look to shrink or eliminate the time it takes to get up and running following a disaster. Market players include strictly DR companies such as nScaled Inc. and EVault Inc.; telecommunication vendors such as CenturyLink and Verizon; and IT infrastructure stalwarts such as IBM, VMware and HP.

A January DRaaS vendor review by Forrester Research put iland and Wayne, Pennsylvania-based SunGard ahead of all other competitors. Both offer flexible services to cover the entire resiliency spectrum and allow users to pick from a range of standardized offerings, according to the report.

Company officials said the differentiation for iland is the ability to customize a plan for a client and the capacity to simultaneously meet many clients' needs in the event that a region becomes impacted.

As long as iland is given a 30-day notice, Mengali can test its services to ensure failover is successful -- an extra incentive Mengali said she plans to take advantage of every year.

If there's one recommendation she would give others considering the switch to DRaaS, it's to make sure to do the initial data transfer through backup discs. Mengali did its transfer using existing bandwidth, which took weeks and created a few headaches along the way.

Trevor Jones is the news writer for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at tjones@techtarget.com.

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