By Chanel Patrick, IONOS UK
Disaster recovery, a key tool in business continuity management, has a vital role to play in keeping critical business processes running in the event of unforeseen downtimes.
While disaster recovery plans differ from business to business, whether you are a large organisation with multiple data centres or an SME who relies on temporary cloud use, planning is key to mitigate outages and ensure business continuity.
With hardware and network failures, software and IT system failures and of course the rise of cyberattacks, it is more important than ever for IT teams to have a fully developed, communicated, and ready-to-use disaster recovery plan.
What is Disaster Recovery and Disaster Recovery as a Service?
There are a variety of ways in which businesses can ensure the continuity of their business-critical data, from utilising existing hardware, the cloud as backup sites, or using a DRaaS provider and their software, as a backup site.
The difference between these three options depends on both the size and expertise of the business.
Disaster recovery through a do-it-yourself approach means organisations can be extremely flexible, with the freedom to design a platform, which may span across multiple clouds, to fully address their needs. Organisations with dedicated IT teams who have significant knowledge of the cloud could consider this option, whereas those without that expertise may need to look at working with a DRaaS provider.
DRaaS providers offer a ready-made cloud platform that automates data backups and initiates recovery procedures. Whilst this can reduce the responsibilities of a business’ IT team it is still important to understand precisely what the business-critical data is and what the DRaaS provider has backed up. Understandably then, there will be different levels of costs corresponding to the type of service needed. Defining business critical data and communicating that with leadership is vital, in order to choose whether the business will opt for a DRaaS provider or design its own backup.
Today, disaster recovery capabilities are far more accessible than they once were because the cloud can be used as an alternative to a secondary data centre and hardware. In some cases, organisations may even use the cloud temporarily as a means of continuing business.
This is obviously a newer and more flexible approach, counterpoised to the traditional disaster recovery strategy which would involve obtaining and setting up new hardware in order to restart operations. This can incur higher costs and time spent offline in the process.
However, some organisations may benefit from utilising a hybrid-approach, with backups to both the cloud and their own existing hardware, especially in case of large datasets produced locally, such as video, photo editing or technical drawings.
Benefits of DRaa
As demands on business change, disaster recovery using a cloud approach, either in a do-it-yourself or DRaaS manner, allows organisations to upscale and downscale without the need to buy or sell additional hardware. This is a huge benefit for businesses as they are not required to overinvest in servers and maintenance, or even accidentally underinvest, leading to prolonged and unforeseen downtimes.
Using DRaaS providers as a means of backing up business-critical data, whilst less flexible, means that organisations can rely on third-party experts and their already built and designed platforms to maintain their business continuity.
In the event of an attack, the process of a disaster recovery plan can be started quickly from any location, provided there is an internet connection. Either the DRaaS provider will automate this process in the event of a disaster or a business’ IT team will have started the process. In either case, downtimes are significantly reduced, allowing a business to recover quickly and restart operations as normal.
From understanding the ability to upscale or downscale, utilising third party experts and the quick response, these benefits are all crucial points to communicate within the business when choosing and then implementing the chosen strategy. The benefits can outweigh traditional disaster recovery plans, allowing a business to navigate an attack more effectively, helping to ensure additional costs aren’t incurred and time is saved.
DRaaS in Practice
There are three different models which DRaaS providers offer:
- Self-Service DRaaS – the cheapest of the models; it requires both management and planning by the customer.
- Assisted DRaaS – useful when there are in-house IT specialists with enough skills to manage a recovery plan and verify the backup status; responsibility for this model lies mainly on the customer’s side.
- Managed DRaaS – the most expensive option, where the provider assumes complete responsibility for creating backups based on the customer’s needs, as well as verifying the data is coherent alongside creating and executive a disaster recovery plan.
Choosing the right provider and the right service model is therefore essential, so businesses and IT teams need to decide before and be clear on where the responsibilities lie. Companies need to consider many factors when building their cloud disaster recovery plans keeping front of mind whether they need it to be cloud-focused, hardware focused, or does a hybrid approach best suit the business needs?
Through DRaaS, businesses can rent hardware resources as well as cloud software storage so it’s important to understand what the businesses needs are, but whilst some of the DR management effort can be handed over to a DRaaS provider, IT personnel within the company need to oversee the specific transfer of data. Each IT employee needs to know what they are responsible for, so that every element of the recovery process is covered as effectively as possible. This minimises confusion and maximises time online.
When cooperating with a DRaaS provider, testing the disaster recovery plan is essential. It helps to understand what the process looks like in practice and can help to identify any problematic areas which may have been previously ignored. Testing the recovery plan will ensure that it is up-to-date and relevant to the business’ needs, it will also ensure that staff remain properly trained and that automated processes are working properly.
The final tip is ensuring the plan is in place and ready to be communicated across the wider business. It is crucial that employees understand who their point of contact is in the event of a disaster so that they can be back online as quickly as possible.
With the reality of disaster striking through cyber-attacks, hardware failures or even system failures, disaster recovery is more important now than it ever has been. Coordinating with a DRaaS provider can help in crafting the right recovery plan to suit the business’ needs, but communicating that plan effectively is also crucial to ensure a business and its assets are not only prepared for but protected against disaster.