When talking about backup and disaster recovery (BDR), there’s a secret that every IT professional knows: although ransomware, WannaCry and other attacks get most of the publicity, more-mundane scenarios are often the cause of an outage. From human error to technology simply wearing out, everyday occurrences can be just as dangerous as a targeted attack.
For all these reasons, backup and disaster recovery represent mission-critical services in every IT organization. On the flip side, though, few IT departments devote enough time or resources to those imperatives. Every organization and IT leader is constantly balancing time and money between business-critical projects and the insurance policy that disaster recovery or backup and recovery services represent.
To work in IT is to live with such seemingly no-win situations. Increasingly, though, IT is finding a way to improve BDR while spending less money and time on it. What’s different now from even a couple years ago is the availability of reliable cloud-based BDR solutions. These technologies are bringing what we all love about the cloud to an area we all, frankly, are challenged with managing daily.
The next question is, what’s driving organizations toward cloud-based BDR?
The first couple answers will be familiar to organizations that have already moved data or applications to the cloud. As with any new technology, cost is, of course, a major driving factor, and cost savings are doubtless a major driver moving BDR to a cloud model. The economics of the cloud for these services have become real and shouldn’t be ignored.
Intricately related to cost is flexibility. Here we don’t just mean the flexibility to quickly and easily add and remove capacity and capability without adding physical servers, personnel and all the other expenses that come with the on-premises model. Although those things are certainly compelling benefits, we often hear about the flexibility that moving BDR to the cloud gives to the IT organization as a whole: the flexibility to focus on business-critical projects, the flexibility to tweak metrics as needs change, the flexibility to offload BDR tasks to a service provider and so on.
A third major driver that we’re hearing a lot about is confidence. This one represents a pretty serious shift from just a few years ago. Once, when companies wanted to be sure about their security, when they had sensitive data or when they couldn’t afford downtime, they chose on-premises.
Increasingly, though, stretched IT departments faced challenges in delivering on the standards needed to meet technology and business objectives, and they ended up with a system that might fail to do the job. On-premises DR is the most incomplete IT experiment. Moving BDR to the cloud can change that answer considerably.
Here are a few lessons we’ve learned from working with some of our best clients on how to make that cloud BDR transition as smooth as possible.
What Cloud Works for You?
Any organization that has looked at cloud options knows there is no shortage of choices. This is especially true of disaster recovery and backup. For example, disaster-recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) offerings come in many different flavors. On one end of the spectrum are a group of cloud resources a company can employ, but that company is still responsible for licensing, app profiling and other critical tasks. On the other end of the spectrum, a provider can help you define your technology requirements; help you prioritize, configure and manage your data and apps; help you through testing; and continue to help with your testing and testing plan at regular intervals.
What level of cloud service do you need? As you might expect, the only way to decide is to understand the capabilities of your organization. A service provider can help you, but you must look formally at your IT resources and expertise, then determine—realistically—what will work best for you. The more detailed and comprehensive you can be in this initial audit, the more likely you are to get a cloud-based BDR solution that works well for you.
Focus on Connectivity
Organizations, rightfully, focus on their critical processes and data when considering BDR. It’s important, however, to remember how your data gets from place to place. It’s this connectivity that many organizations neglect to consider when developing their cloud-based BDR strategy.
It’s not enough to just send your data to the cloud for backup; you must be able to get it back on a timeline that meets your objectives. IT departments often underestimate the role connectivity and latency play in cloud BDR solutions. They think they have lots of bandwidth and it’s relatively cheap, so if and when the time comes, it’ll just work. Then, when they’re testing or when they have an outage and need to get that data back, they’re missing their recovery-point objectives (RPOs) and recovery-time objectives (RTOs).
Looking at connectivity up front may be the most overlooked task we see as organizations consider cloud-based BDR.
Production Workloads in the Cloud Still Need BDR
To close, one interesting pushback we’re seeing from some organizations is the thought that production workloads deployed in a cloud are automatically protected. Infrastructure, data and applications are still susceptible to all the same challenges as on on-premises deployments, and BDR solutions are just as critical.
The “cloud” comprises a set of physical and virtual resources that may eventually suffer outages. Rather than ignoring the need for BDR, the best IT departments are asking a more nuanced question: An organization has these cloud and on-premises resources, so how do they keep it all backed up and create a DR strategy at an appropriate price?
Given the advancements in BDR, teams have many more options if a physical server breaks, a site experiences a power outage, a hacker tries to break into the network or someone hits a snag today. Cloud-based BDR is a great way for stretched IT departments to get the security and peace of mind of BDR while receiving the benefits that the cloud offers.
About the Author
Lief Morin is the president of Key Information Systems, a regional systems integrator providing compute, storage and networking solutions and professional services for the most advanced software-defined data centers.