Disaster Recovery As a Service (DRaaS) is an increasingly popular method for businesses of all sizes to address shortcomings in their disaster recovery plan. By leveraging a combination of cloud backup and virtualization, providers are able to provide organizations with a powerful alternative to traditional disaster recovery.
Step 1: Backup
While marketeers like to throw around phrases like “it’s not about backup it’s about recovery” the truth is without a good backup, and one that captures data on a frequent basis, your recovery either won’t happen or is useless. That means step 1 has to be getting a good backup: Protecting the various operating systems and applications in your environment and getting them copied from primary storage to a secondary storage device. It should also mean getting that data off-site as quickly as possible.
Cloud backup solutions do a very good job of protecting data, they cover a wide variety of operating systems and applications. They also can perform backup very frequently since they are optimized to move only changed data. The cloud backup solution should use a local appliance to act as staging area, where backups can be further deduplicated before transferring to the cloud. The combination means the organization can enjoy frequent data protection points and data is safely stored off-site throughout the day.
Step 2: Recovery
Once the data is being protected on a regular basis then organizations can consider what recovery might look like. In many cases, hopefully most, the organization is not going to experience a data center wide disaster, or even a server failure, on a regular basis. Instead they are more likely to need to recover a single or group of files. For those situations the local appliance is ideal, so data transfers are quick and easy.
But, of course there are times where the organization will face a server, storage or site-wide disaster and this is where a DRaaS service comes into play. Of the three disaster types, server or storage failure should be more common than a site-wide disaster. In this case the system administrator should be able to start the failed or impacted applications on the appliance. They should not have to fail to the cloud, which does add some complexity especially in terms of networking.
If there is a site-wide failure, the IT administrator will want to start the most critical applications in the cloud. The cloud is also a great location to test the organization’s ability to recover from a failure. An important option to consider when selecting a DRaaS provider is what exactly should be the “cloud”. Ideally the organization should look for choices, between a purpose built cloud provided by the provider or a partner, or a public cloud provider like Amazon, Azure or Google.
Automation is Critical
While not necessarily a step, automation should permeate the process, especially in terms of recovering from a disaster. When the organization is hit with a headline-grabbing type of disaster, employees will be stretched thin, trying to remember everything they have to do while at the same time worrying about their loved ones and personal property. It will be hard to follow a step-by-step guide under that kind of pressure. Instead the DRaaS solution should provide push-button automation (that has been pre-tested) so when a disaster hits, IT simply has to pull up the GUI and push a button to move services over.
DRaaS is a game changer for many organizations, it eliminates the cost of a second site and the equipment that goes in it. But it is important for IT to understand how these solutions work so they can differentiate between the various options. Ideally the DRaaS solutions should provide the ability to provide frequent backups of the entire environment, store those backups both locally and in the cloud and provide automated recovery in the event of a disaster.