Virtual disaster recovery: A modern solution for an old problem

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There has been a huge shift over the last year towards virtual disaster recovery, with the industry reporting 15 per cent growth in the past six months. Businesses are embracing the cloud and seeing the benefits it brings against outdated methods of physical disaster recovery. Yet there are still many businesses that rely on traditional recovery solutions to protect their most important asset - data - in the event of a disaster.

Traditionally, contingency plans for business managers would consist of many thousands of pounds spent on physical disaster recovery - storing data on tapes and shipping them out to remote locations to ensure that critical information is protected from any eventuality. In the event of a disaster, accessing the stored data off-site can be expensive, stressful and time-consuming. With this situation being easily averted with a virtual disaster recovery service, it raises the question - shouldn’t all business managers consider having such a system in place?

Virtual disaster recovery replicates critical applications and operating systems and the most recent working data into a secure cloud environment. These can be brought online almost instantly in the event of a disaster, keeping the wheels in motion in an organisation and reducing downtime to an absolute minimum.

The virtual DR service works as a simple process, where a predetermined set of processes to recover data has been agreed with a third party that manages and frequently checks all of a business’ systems and data via its cloud service. It works by automatically taking a snapshot of the servers at least once every 24 hours. These snapshots are then used as a record of the state of the servers. Should a problem occur, the last pre-recovered and successfully tested snapshot of the servers, including file data, will be converted into live working images of the system and replicated with all prior network topology and security. The working images from pre-recovered snapshots are then tested and compared with live problematic snapshots in order to diagnose and investigate the problem that led to disaster recovery being required.

After testing and diagnostics, the systems are made available through a secure online connection within a matter of minutes. This takes the pressure and worries, incurred with physical based disaster recovery solutions, away. It also means that your business is protected whatever the eventuality, whether it happens to be human error, electrical surge, or even malicious cyber-attack.

One of the key problems faced by businesses that rely on physical disaster recovery solutions is that there is more hardware that could go wrong, increasing the risk of dissimilarities between devices and meaning there is an increased chance that data may become corrupted. If physical storage hardware malfunctions then it can cause the primary location to malfunction too, as they are both interlinked. Therefore, even with precautions in place, a total reboot of systems to recover the data may not actually work. It also forces IT management staff to ensure that both sets of hardware are totally aligned, driving up costs and time. Furthermore, when disaster strikes at the primary location, not only are there lengthy steps to recover the data, investigate and resolve the problem and build safeguards against it happening again, there is also huge pressure on the IT manager to get the systems back up and running as fast as possible, so that the business can function normally again.

Physical disaster recovery is becoming a relic due to its slow speed and the inherent difficulties involved in its use. Virtual disaster recovery, on the other hand, is not only dramatically quicker at getting a business back to normal, it is also often cheaper. One of the main reasons for this is that companies do not have to invest in their own physical space and hardware to store data - they simply rent space at low cost in a third party’s cloud. The speed and increasingly low cost of virtual disaster recovery are two of the key reasons for such high exponential growth over the last six months.

According to CIO Insights, 68% of IT managers cite data loss as being their main fear this year. In order to alleviate these worries, IT managers must equip their businesses with the dual protection of data backup and disaster recovery, especially when dealing with complex systems or confidential and sensitive data. While data backup means that the information is available for restore or auditing requirements, it does not enable bringing whole systems or even environments back online at very short notice, which is why virtual disaster recovery is essential to get everything back to the way it was as quickly as possible.

Research from Neverfail showcases that one in five businesses loses up to £10,000 an hour due to IT outages and that 92.8 per cent of businesses report that they have suffered problems in the past year. This reinforces the question of why more companies are not moving to virtual disaster recovery solutions, especially when 92 per cent of IT managers are in the decision making process of how to protect their businesses.

As data and systems are everything to a business in a world where being offline too long can not only cost productivity but the company itself, virtual disaster recovery is the best way to protect your business from the old worry of losing everything when the inevitable does eventually happen.

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