Hey enterprise folk, how would you like a tool that relieves all concerns over backups or disaster recovery? Today Google announced such a feature (and it’s free).  

The Styles of Disaster

First, a bit about disasters.

Disaster recovery is usually measured in two terms:

  • Recovery Point Objective: RPO represents the amount of acceptable data loss in the event of an outage
  • Recovery Time Objective: RTO represents the acceptable amount of downtime before service is restored

Rajen Sheth, the senior product manager over at Google Apps says that for large companies running Storage Area Networks (SANs), RPO and RTO targets are generally an hour or less—and you best believe that kind of recovery costs some major dollars.

But for Google, that same target is zero, thanks to a little thing called synchronous replication.

Synchronous Replication

Sheth describes the feature like this:

“…every action you take in Gmail is simultaneously replicated in two data centers at once, so that if one data center fails, we nearly instantly transfer your data over to the other one that's also been reflecting your actions.”

Google hopes not to lose any data during the transfer from one center to another. Moreover, the goal is to transfer data so quickly that users won’t even notice when a data center experiences an interruption. And this feature doesn't only benefit Gmail accounts--users get the same level of data replication for Google Calendar, Google Docs, and Google Sites.

Free Really Means Something

The whole synchronous replication concept isn't actually new, but it is generally expensive. Google says that to backup 25GB of data with synchronous replication, a business could shell out anywhere between US$150 and US$ 500 (or more) in storage and maintenance costs per employee. That total doesn't include the cost of the applications, either. 

Google is able to offer this feature for free because they operate many large data centers simultaneously for millions of users. This results in low costs while increasing resiliency and redundancy. Secondly, they don't spend money on stand-by data centers; they utilize everything they've got at once by balancing loads between data centers as needed.

The feature is now available to marvel at (and use) within Google Apps

"Of course, no backup solution from us or anyone else is absolutely perfect," admitted Sheth. "But we've invested a lot of effort to help make it second to none."