As a business, you need to have a plan B for multiple worst-case scenarios, including an IT catastrophe. Cyber-attacks such as malware, virus, or ransomware, natural disasters, human mistakes, software glitches and hardware breakdowns pose a significant risk to your organization every day. Disaster recovery can not only to protect your resources, but also ensure business continuity. There are different types of DR available (traditional, cloud, or as-a-service). The disaster recovery strategy should be selected in accordance with your specific business objectives. In this article, we will focus on DR in the cloud.
What is cloud disaster recovery (DR)?
Disaster recovery in the cloud is a range of strategies and services involved to back up data, applications and any other type of IT resources to cloud storage via a public cloud or a dedicated service provider. In the event of disaster, the affected assets can be restored to a data center that is able to resume regular operation for your company.
The aim of cloud-based DR is basically the same as of the traditional DR, which is keeping valuable business resources safe when system disruptions happen. Both types of DR are part of a broader disaster recovery plan, which also defines such parameters as recovery time objective (the maximum length of time it should take to restore normal operations) and recovery point objective (the maximum amount of data the company can tolerate losing).
What makes cloud DR special, is that it offers many additional benefits that can’t be found in a traditional, on-premises disaster recovery. We will expand on this topic later in this article, but for now let’s look at how cloud DR works in practice.
How does cloud DR work?
Instead of supporting the continuity of operation with the use of one or multiple data centers, cloud disaster recovery switches to a specific cloud environment or environments.
Depending on the complexity of a chosen backup model, the cloud can provide safe storage for any type of data – from document files and databases to a complete picture of strategically important systems and the data they operate on. Data replication can be done continuously or at predefined intervals depending on the pricing model and the needs of your organization for supported types of resources. For data specified as critical (such as databases for customer online banking applications in the financial industry), you can set back-up processes to be carried out in almost real-time.
However, disaster recovery offers much more than just data backup. What makes it a real game-changer for business continuity is that it allows almost immediate workload takeover in the event of disaster. This is possible due to simultaneously running additional cloud resources that are always ready to take over the tasks and processes previously run by the affected environment. These strengths don’t come without a price – cloud DR is usually associated with a higher cost than data backup due to the involvement of additional resources maintained in stand-by mode. However, this solution can be cost-effective in the longer run, which is only one of its several advantages.
Key benefits of cloud disaster recovery
1. Pay-per-use options
The pay-as-you-go model offers a solution for organizations looking to set up disaster recovery (DR) facilities without high initial capital costs. Unlike managed co-location providers that often require long-term contracts, cloud services allow companies to pay only for the resources and services they actually use. This turns expenses into recurring operational costs, with the ability to adjust payments as resources are added or removed.
2. More flexible and scalable resources
Traditional DR approaches, based on local or remote data centers, have limitations in flexibility and scalability. Businesses need to invest in servers, storage, network gear and software tools, and maintain the entire infrastructure required for DR operations, and this can be expensive. On the other hand, cloud DR options such as public cloud services and disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), provide on-demand resources, enabling businesses to scale up or down as needed through self-service portals, reducing costs and providing more flexibility.
A cloud provider’s global footprint ensures high reliability and geo-redundancy, with multiple data centers supporting users across different regions. This maximizes availability and allows businesses to place their DR resources in other regions, enhancing protection against disasters.
4. Faster recovery
In the cloud, testing and recovery are more straightforward. VMs make it easy to test workload availability without affecting production. Additionally, high bandwidth and fast disk input/output options can be selected to meet recovery time objectives (RTO).
5. No limitations of a physical location
Cloud DR services are not restricted by physical location, providing the flexibility to have backup facilities situated anywhere globally, protecting against potential disasters that could affect the primary physical location of the organization's equipment.
Cloud DR vs traditional DR vs DRaaS
The advantages of cloud disaster recovery are undeniable. However, given the variety of disaster recovery approaches and the multitude of available DR solutions, organizations need to formulate their DR strategies carefully. Thus, it is crucial to understand the differences between cloud and traditional DR.
- Establishing a data center or secondary facility demands substantial initial investments in terms of data center space, networking, servers, staffing, and ongoing site upkeep.
- Activating a physical disaster recovery site involves hands-on intervention, takes a significant amount of time, and may result in data loss, impacting the continuous operation of the business.
- When there's a lack of connectivity with the physical disaster recovery setup, manual procedures are essential to reinitiate the site's functioning.
- As traditional disaster recovery relies on hardware, any damage to the hardware necessitates replacement with new equipment, resulting in expensive periods of downtime.
- The process of upgrading a conventional disaster recovery site is laborious, time-intensive, and incurs substantial costs.
- Cloud-based disaster recovery (DR) proves cost-effective as it isn't reliant on hardware. Instead of investing in storage and server resources, enterprises pay to maintain snapshots and application data in a paused state. They also cover data replication from the primary to the secondary (cloud-based DR) site for data synchronization. Moreover, with the pay-per-use pricing structure of cloud DR, businesses can adjust resources as required in the event of a failover.
- Automated cloud DR sites can be activated within mere seconds or minutes, minimizing downtime and mitigating the dangers associated with data loss.
- Initiating a cloud-oriented DR process requires only a laptop or any internet-connected device.
- Due to its foundation in virtualization, cloud-based DR enables the secure relocation of virtual servers across numerous data centers.
- Cloud-centric DR grants clients the versatility to expand resources according to their demands.
In most cases, especially where small and medium-sized businesses are concerned, organizations lack the necessary budget and resources to construct and sustain their own disaster recovery site. Here is where a disaster recovery as a service comes into the picture, which:
- Provides organizations an option to acquire DR through either a fixed subscription or a flexible pay-per-use arrangement, depending on their specific requirements, financial capabilities, and scope of operations
- Relieves companies of the responsibility to handle disaster recovery internally by entrusting this task to a third-party cloud services provider
- Often equips organizations with a ready-made platform for facilitating disaster recovery, which may encompass exclusive hardware, software, and cloud-based data centers.
If you’re still not sure about which type of DR – cloud, traditional or as-a-service – will suit your needs it’s smart to consult your business continuity strategy with experts from a professional disaster recovery center.
The primary role of a disaster recovery center is to ensure that no system failure can result in irreversible damage to your data and IT infrastructure. In the event of a significant incident, your essential systems can be swiftly restored, enabling you to maintain seamless business operations. Isn't it all about providing reassurance that you won't let down your clients in the event of a disruption in services or production?