Disaster recovery (DR) was one of the first cloud-delivered IT services to catch on. Whereas now many organisations have no qualms about moving their entire infrastructure to the cloud, in the early days its main value proposition was as a data backup solution, since it eliminated the significant cost of replicating physical servers and expensive backup tapes.
Since then, the cloud version – Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) – has only grown in popularity. The uptake of DRaaS has been so profound that Gartner predicts that the number of organisations using DR as cloud services will exceed the number sticking with traditional recovery methods and services by 2018.
How the Cloud changes things
DRaaS means an organisation outsources data recovery to a third party provider in a cloud model, rather than setting up its own on premise data centre for the purpose. Business data is automatically replicated and regularly refreshed to a managed service provider’s secure cloud where it sits ready to be activated at short notice if a disaster is declared by the organisation.
Using DR as a cloud service means the organisation doesn’t have to invest in – and maintain – its own off-site DR environment. As companies face increasing business risk of security breaches and the like, the ability to move operations to secondary facilities – in effect the data centres that act as the hub of all enterprise activity in a connected world – quickly, reliably and cost effectively is becoming more critical than ever.
Managed IT Services
CIOs and IT managers need to free themselves up from routine tasks such as taking backups in order to spend more time on innovation. Activities such as DR, backup, storage, and replication traditionally require a lot of time and manpower. The cloud hosted version frees IT managers from having to operate and configure difficult systems and run tedious backups, meaning they have more time to spend on projects that deliver business value.
For this reason, DRaaS can be especially useful for medium enterprises that lack the necessary expertise to provision, configure and test an effective disaster recovery plan.
Assessing the business impact
In many cases, however, company leaders are reluctant to invest in DR because the impact to the business of potential downtime is not known, which explains why it’s a common victim in budget cuts. As one IT leader told CIO Magazine, “Too many times I've seen [DR] initiatives slashed upon budget review, only to haunt executives months later and cost the company many ‘factors of ten’ more than the original budgeted project. Just because you have never experienced an IT disaster, does not mean you wait for one to prove the need for disaster planning and business continuity.
The way to validate your business’ needs for disaster recovery in a language that executives understand is by carrying out a Business Impact Analysis (BIA), because this is where you define the Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) and the Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs), which will assist you in identifying mission critical IT assets and data.
It’s best to have an IT expert run the BIA workshop for you, but if you have the in house expertise to do it yourself, make sure that your chosen DRaaS vendor is fully aware of the objectives and agrees to honour them when it comes to implementation.
Once you have established your desired RTOs and RPOs, you are equipped to discuss with prospective IT service providers whether they can meet your requirements and provide the appropriate solution for your recovery needs.
Still more to come…
The disaster recovery market has matured significantly, but it’s not a set and forget solution just yet. The use of a DRaaS provider does not mean that internal IT departments are off the hook.
DRaaS doesn’t eliminate the need to devise strategies to help prevent disasters – creating a robust primary operating environment remains a priority. For this reason, IT managers need to take a precautionary approach. Disruptive events can occur at any time, and preparedness is an absolute must.
In next week’s blog, we’ll discuss what’s involved in choosing a DRaaS provider.
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