As ever-increasing numbers of business operations have gone online, reliance on the availability and reliability of computer operations has grown. In turn, awareness of the importance of disaster recovery (DR) planning has come into the mainstream spotlight, helped by a seemingly endless string of disasters. For many companies subject to government and industry regulatory requirements, what was once simply good business practice is now a mandatory compliance requirement.
As important as DR planning and testing is, it’s still a costly burden that must be borne. It wasn’t all that long ago that businesses and organizations had little choice but to go it alone … establish and provision a secondary site, keep it synchronized with the primary data center, back up files and divert staff for maintenance and testing.
Many still manage their own, for good reasons and not so good reasons. Others realized that many – or even all – of their DR requirements could be met by outsourcing to the cloud. With this realization, Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) has become one of the fastest growing sectors in the cloud industry.
“As hardware reaches end-of-life stage, large companies and companies that had been running their own secondary sites see DRaaS as an opportunity to replace outdated equipment with current technology but without the CAPEX,” said Steve Hasselbach, Peak 10 solutions engineer. “It takes DR off of IT’s plate and gives them more bandwidth to focus on their production environment and react more quickly.”
The Demands of D-I-Y DR
There are a number of challenges associated with maintaining one’s own DR capabilities that can be eased or eliminated by a DRaaS solution. As mentioned above, a big one is keeping the primary and secondary sites in lock step. The DR site server must have exactly the same configuration, BIOS, drivers, etc., as the physical server you are trying to recover at the production site. Any change in primary site needs to be a mirror image to the other, otherwise you end up with “configuration drift.” DRaaS allows differences between the primary and secondary site to be abstracted using technologies such as converged infrastructure, freeing IT from synchronization shackles.
Owning the infrastructure that supports DR services requires a large capital investment in what usually ends up as grossly underutilized computing capacity. Awakening from this CAPEX nightmare, there are fewer reasons companies need to own their DR infrastructure, opening the door to the cloud and eliminating the associated upfront cost. Accessing computing only when you need it and paying on a monthly basis for what you use, will typically be just a fraction of the cost of dedicated DR.
Old DR models are manual and require keeping a physical run book that describes every outage and recovery. Done at human speed, the process is counterproductive as lost time means lost revenue. An automated process helps speed recovery and maintains accuracy.
The costs of traditional recovery testing and exercises often constitute a significant portion of the annual DR budget; for larger companies the cost of a test could be $100,000 or more. Clearly, this is a disincentive to conducting regular and thorough testing. As DRaaS does not have the same synchronization requirements as traditional DR, it can free up a great deal of time allowing you to go from annual testing to quarterly, or even quarterly to monthly. The benefits are better predictability and greater likelihood of a fast and successful recovery, more cost effectively.
“Smaller companies and new businesses naturally gravitate to DRaaS,” said Hasselbach. “Just as cloud services provide cost-effective production resources, DRaaS does the same for disaster recovery. These companies in particular don’t want to incur additional labor expense to implement their own DR. They have too many projects on their plates as it is. They just want their DR solution to work.”
Outages can have a detrimental impact on a company’s reputation. If a disaster does take down the infrastructure, fast recovery is critical and can dictate the difference between long-term success and failure. Recovery from a back-up tape, which can literally take days to recover, can be the beginning of the end for some companies. With DRaaS, companies can have access to services that aren’t as expensive and still have faster recovery time, usually in a matter of hours or minutes.
Many companies still have legacy applications that may not work in today’s cloud architectures, as clouds are designed to host applications as virtual machines. That works fine for applications that have already been virtualized. However many mission critical applications that need protection are running on bare metal hardware. While this can be a deterrent, DRaaS providers may be able to accommodate this mismatch by supporting physical, bare metal applications in DR services.
One thing is clear: the old way of backing up and recovering data is proving too expensive and cumbersome for today’s agile, dynamic data environments. The cost of buying, provisioning and maintaining vast infrastructure can no longer be justified in an era when profit margins are tight and the need to do more with less is growing. Today’s businesses need to determine where DRaaS can fit into the overall recovery strategy.