In this article, we provide tips for what can be a particularly challenge task: deciding when and how to implement DRaaS in the enterprise.
Buy It, Don’t Hire It
Some organizations already have an in-house team with the necessary expertise to establish and maintain a sophisticated DR plan. But plenty of others don’t even come close. In those cases, it is probably easier to buy the necessary DR technology and resources from the cloud than to try to hire it and build it in house.
“DRaaS is often a good fit for small to midsize businesses that lack the necessary expertise to develop, configure, test, and maintain an effective disaster recovery plan,” said Wayne Meriwether, an analyst for IT research firm Computer Economics.
Eliminate In-House DR
But lack of expertise may not be the only reason to go with DRaaS. Greg Schulz, an analyst with StorageIO Group, said that there are many companies out there who are already looking at how to relieve budget pressure by either dumping their in-house DR equipment or adding to what they already have with the cloud.
“Implement DRaaS when you need to either eliminate your on-site or in-house DR capabilities, or when you need to complement what you currently have by leveraging cloud resources,” he said.
DRaas for Flexibility
Additionally, flexibility can be a DRaaS driver. Organizations with a stable IT environment with predictable traffic loads may have less trouble setting up adequate DR capabilities compared to companies that have to deal with ever-changing traffic loads, seasonal variations and massive amount of change. For the latter group, DRaaS offers the ability to ramp things up and down according to demand.
“An additional benefit is that DRaaS contracts can be flexible as the business needs change,” said Meriwether.
Customer Service Counts
Surveys by Forrester Research point out that cloud customer satisfaction is low, with over 50% saying their providers are not responding to their needs or care about their success. Therefore, the selection process should include checking into references carefully. Anyone can put up a website claiming they have great service. But what do customers say? Ideally, speak to some who have experienced a disaster and used that DRaaS service successfully.
“Providers should ensure expert support is just a phone call away should you need it,” said Lilac Schoenbeck, Vice President of Product Management and Marketing at iland.
Meriwether backed up this sentiment about choosing carefully. There are many that say they can recover data and systems in a heartbeat. But can they deliver when the company is on the line? He advised businesses to verify that the DRaaS service provider has the compute resources and storage, as well as the ability to start critical applications in their cloud when needed.
“Also, the business should ensure the provider can deliver the appropriate quality of service while the application is running in its cloud,” said Meriwether.
Test your DRaas First
Chris Schin, Vice President of Products at Zetta.net, acknowledged that the cloud can make it difficult to do all the testing you want upfront. But there are ways to put DRaaS through its paces upfront.
“If you perform an upfront acceptance test you will know exactly what you are paying for,” said Schin. “Once the solution is running, test it at least every six months.”
He’s talking about a full blown drill that simulates an actual disaster. See how long it takes to get a particular system or an entire office back online.
Backup is NOT DR
There is no shortage of vendors offering cloud storage and backup options, so it’s easy to settle for a quick, inexpensive option. However, knowing data is saved somewhere does not mean it can be quickly recovered or that applications will be up and running in an acceptable time frame.
“True disaster recovery plans minimize downtime so business continues to run when something goes wrong – whether brought on by human error, cyberattack, local event or natural disaster,” said Schoenbeck.
That said, providers should also ensure expert support is just a phone call away should you need it.
Not Just Technology
Many companies who spent a fortune in technology have been embarrassed to discover right after a disaster that servers, storage and facilities are only half the DR picture. You must have in place a workable plan that takes into account a multitude of details such as how to contact employees in the event of a catastrophe, what systems have priority, having a diesel generator to provide power and a whole lot more. Similarly with DRaaS, having a provider in hand is far from the whole story.
“Companies with a DRaaS contract that are serious about DR must have the organization structure, company policies and procedures, and some technical expertise to make it work when push comes to shove,” said Meriwether. “The plan must be constantly maintained as the application portfolio changes.”
Prioritize People and Process
Schoenbeck added that instead of only assessing infrastructure and technology needs, organizations should put as much or more time into understanding the people and process requirements of DR. As part of the planning process, companies should clearly identify who is responsible for triggering a failover, how it will be triggered and how operations will failback after a disaster is over.
Safeguard Applications Not Servers
IT staff tend to concentrate on what they know. That’s why they sometimes arrange their DR plan around servers and storage arrays. But recovering a server isn’t enough. These days, it is the applications that count.
“Replicate your applications, not standalone servers,” said Mark Jameson, General Manager, Acronis Disaster Recovery. “Your primary objective is to recover your business from disaster, not your IT systems.”
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