Much is said about Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), and yet there can often be a lack of clarity about its true potential and benefits. Whilst some may argue it is no more than a backup solution, in reality, DRaaS can be - and is - a crucial piece in the Digital Transformation journey of a company, that goes way beyond simply backing up data to the cloud.
In a nutshell, Disaster Recovery is an emergency plan, the concept of preparing for the unexpected. It outlines all the processes and measures a company will need to continue operations as normal in the event of a disaster. Think here about instances like fire, flooding or a cyber attack - anything unforeseen that can put a business at risk by disrupting its operations.
Disaster Recovery as a Service, on the other hand, is one of the several solutions an effective DR plan could include. It is a cloud-based solution that involves replicating and failing over websites and applications from a virtual or physical environment to a secondary DR data centre, in order to protect a companys data and infrastructure in the event of a disaster. This ultimately allows for business continuity in the shortest time possible.
From an expert perspective, IT managers should look into DRaaS solutions that utilise secondary certified and compliant DR sites. This means that the hosting provider chosen is committed to maintaining very high standards of information security, adding even more peace of mind to the job of a CTO.
However, Ive often been asked: How can I know what Ill need to keep the wheels turning if I dont know what, or even if, it will happen?. Naturally, the extent to which businesses can predict a disaster is limited. What they can - and should - do is estimate the exact time it would take to get operations back up and running in the event of any disruption. Thats where Recovery Objectives come into play.
There are two main aspects that companies should assess prior to creating a DR plan. First, the Recovery Point Objective, the actual point in the servers timeline that they can return to after a disaster. Secondly, the Recovery Time Objective, the amount of actual time it would take to recover from a situation - in terms of data loss. Both objectives help businesses to set expectations about recovery times. And, as Benjamin Franklin once advocated, time is money.
Needless to say that outages can cost a company anywhere from a few thousand to many millions in financial losses, not to mention lost trust and negative brand reputation. Take ticketing websites for instance - if their site goes down when tickets go live, it can be extremely detrimental to the business image (Glastonbury rings a bell?). It also means economic damage, as a mere second offline can cost hundreds in lost transactions.
An effective way to avoid that or any other type of disaster scenario is by having an effective DR solution in place prior to the event. And yet, theres still a lot of industry chatter around whether or not it is, in fact, a non-essential nice to have addition to a companys budget.
Different types of DR solutions
Like any other product in the market, there is a type of DR solution to cater to each company requirement and budget.
Hot DR, for instance, is best suited for companies with larger budgets and rigorous compliance requirements, as it is a fully automated and equipped solution that requires an always-live secondary site. It provides robust replication and instant failover, being therefore ideal for businesses that cannot tolerate any downtime.
Warm DR, in turn, is more convenient for enterprises with smaller budgets. It enables businesses to protect their data by copying it to a secondary site, but avoids the need to run it continuously. The main copy is taken, and changes to sites or applications are updated incrementally, not in real-time. It is worth noting that, in this case, changes need to be updated to the secondary site frequently, so that there is no risk any will be missed in the event of an outage.
Last but not least, a DRaaS solution tends to be the most flexible and cost-effective option. Like Hot or Warm DR, it also protects companies data and applications by storing and synchronising critical data in a secondary data centre. The main advantage here is that companies dont need to invest in or maintain their own off-site DR environment, only paying for the servers if needed. Failover is near-instant instead of automatic, therefore more convenient for small and medium-sized enterprises that could tolerate small amounts of downtime.
I personally believe DR should be a fundamental part of every business IT strategy, since the aftermath of a crisis can be devastating. Also, as businesses embrace the Digital Transformation process, they need to assess and understand the risks presented from a business impact perspective, as well as to have a DR plan in place. Otherwise, all the efforts in the Digital Transformation process could go down the drain.
The current pandemic, for example, has disrupted businesses operations worldwide and forced most of them to adopt remote working. This means limited access to primary data centre locations and office environments. The immediate action enterprises are seeking is stability and business continuity, and an efficient DR plan should allow for companies to resume operations almost immediately. Evidently, companies who hadnt had a DR plan in place prior to lockdown measures are struggling considerably more than others.
Thorough due diligence of any hosting provider is essential. Ensure they are reliable, with solid accreditations and customer testimonials. If possible speak to a similar business to yours who are already using their service. Finally, ongoing maintenance is critical to ensure robust DR support if and when it kicks into action. Businesses should test services constantly - because in addition to having a comprehensive DR plan in place, business continuity also needs to be safeguarded in the event of a new technology fail.
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