Since its inception more than two decades ago, cloud computing has evolved into one of the most prominent technological advancements of our time. It has completely redefined business for countless organizations across the globe thanks to its far-reaching capabilities in the realms of data storage, server provisioning, analytics, and more.
Disaster recovery (DR) is another area in which the cloud excels. Using this environment as a vehicle for DR can alleviate much of the stress that comes with outages. In a traditional computing environment, it can be difficult to put all of the strategies in place to ensure that your business can continue in the face of a disaster. Between provisioning the necessary resources and maintaining them in house, the logistics of managing DR efforts often prove too complicated for many organizations to handle. As a result, they are left unprotected against outages and the penalties they can bring.
Additionally, the cloud streamlines DR, shouldering much of the burden for your company. Integrating DR into a cloud environment thus allows you to facilitate a much more robust strategy for business continuity and data protection.
Let’s review everything you should know about cloud disaster recovery:
What are the pros and cons of cloud-based DR?
Transforming your on-premises disaster recovery plan with cloud-based disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) in mind can result in a slew of benefits, but it also comes with some drawbacks. Understanding the scope of these pros and cons will help you formulate a more effective DR strategy for the cloud.
Pro: It’s much faster than traditional DR
DRaaS has the biggest advantage against traditional DR when it comes to recovery times. In an on-premises setup, it could take you hours, days, or even weeks to bring all of your servers back online following an outage. This is because physical DR setups go live only while you are replicating data onto them or in the midst of a disaster. Since they are not available all the time, you won’t be able to boot them up instantaneously when dealing with an outage.
In comparison, cloud-based DR sites are available at a moment’s notice. When backing up your data, your provider will virtualize all of the contents of your servers and host them in a data center of their own. Should your in-house systems go down, the provider can retrieve your information using a virtual host in a matter of seconds.
Pro: Scaling is easy
Like any other “as a service” cloud offering, your provider will make their DRaaS solution available on a flexible, as-needed basis. Having scalable DR capabilities is essential for any business, as a company can quickly outgrow in-house recovery servers. Instead of needing to purchase additional hardware to accommodate for more workloads and data, your organization can simply provision more resources from your provider.
Con: You may experience issues with latency
In order to provide the best protection for your organization’s data, your DRaaS provider will typically store copies of your resources in numerous sites in different geographic locations. This can be both a boon and a detriment to your company’s DR plan. On one hand, dispersing your information creates more protections against localized outages. On the other, using data centers that are too far from your location can lead to issues with latency. If your provider doesn’t have data centers close enough to you, then you may experience delays when attempting to recover your data in an emergency.
How to facilitate an effective DR plan
Migrating your DR capabilities to the cloud is not as easy as copying data and moving it to an offsite server. You must formulate a detailed plan, which should include considerations for what to move to the cloud, what type of DR will be best, and how you will ensure that your DR system works. Here are a few tips on how to create the most effective plan for DR:
Assess the current situation
You can’t begin your disaster planning until you get a look at the resources you have through an audit and business impact analysis (BIA). Start with your infrastructure. How much equipment do you have? How much data is contained within that equipment?
Then, you have to look a bit deeper and determine if the information you have stored in your on-premises environment is essential to your day-to-day operations. What types of risks could affect your data center and cause outages? More importantly, how would losing that data affect your business? Establishing a recovery time objective (RTO) will help you gauge how long your organization can go without access to your stored information before incurring serious repercussions. All of these factors will affect your cloud DR planning, so you should be as thorough as possible with your assessment.
Know your options for DR
Depending on your organization’s DR needs, you can choose one of several options for backing up and restoring your information. You could choose to back up your data to the cloud and restore it from that environment during a disaster. This recovers your information and moves it on premises.
Alternatively, you could choose to restore your stored data to the cloud. This involves the provisioning of virtual machines to restore your backups. If your organization has an incredibly short RTO, then you could choose to replicate applications and house them within cloud-based virtual machines.
Test your DR plan
Cloud-based DR gives you the opportunity to test your DRaaS solution, something that would be too complex to do on site. You should perform comprehensive DR testing on a regular basis, analyzing your setup’s ability to recover information to meet your RTO. Make sure to test all aspects of your recovery environment, from workloads to applications. This will allow you to pinpoint and address problems before facing a real disaster.