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Disaster recovery and the cloud - three options for 24/7 businesses

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(Image credit: Shutterstock / issaro prakalung)

Now that organizations around the world have switched to working from home, it is more important than ever for systems and data to remain available 24/7. Across industries, from online retailers to healthcare organizations, even brief periods of downtime can have disastrous consequences. But avoiding service interruption is a tough task for IT departments, who work around the clock, and in many cases have fewer resources than usual.

As a result, IT professionals always have an eye on potential cost savings, with many looking to modern cloud solutions as a source of efficiency and a potential move away from major capital IT projects. However, it is impossible to make significant efficiency gains without a well-established cloud strategy and an effective user adoption plan. What’s more, these must be implemented in a way that contributes to a more resilient IT environment, which is a prerequisite for 24/7 availability.

Organizations pursuing a cloud-first strategy should realize that there is simply no universal model for housing disaster recovery (DR) in the cloud. However, they can choose from three options, each of which has the potential to meet today’s technology and business priorities. These include hosting Disaster Recovery in a public cloud, hosting VMware environments in a public cloud, or the option of implementing disaster recovery as a Service (DRaaS).

But where do the merits of each of these options lie, and why might an organization consider embarking on such a path ahead of their existing approach?

1. Disaster recovery in the public cloud

For organizations looking for the lowest-cost model, purchasing infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) from a public cloud provider is often the most suitable option. Trading in a physical secondary location for a public cloud destination drastically reduces investment costs and hours spent on maintenance, day-to-day management and upgrades. This remote storage in the cloud - without the need for human intervention - represents a more simple and affordable way to meet data protection requirements. This applies, among other things, to compliance with the 3-2-1 backup rule, which requires organizations to keep three copies of their data on two different data carriers, one of which must be stored at an external location.

Public cloud providers offer their customers on-demand IT resources to meet evolving business needs. This makes it a lot easier to scale alongside data growth than if an organization arranges everything itself. In public clouds such as AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud and Oracle, numerous services are available to help organizations cover themselves against downtime in a way that would otherwise only be achievable with great difficulty and significant in-house investment.

2. Host the VMware environment in the public cloud

Organizations with VMware-based virtualization environments have historically faced specific complexities in moving to the cloud, including applications that do not lend themselves to a direct migration or a IaaS solution. In many cases, this is the point at which large companies have previously opted to leave the cloud option behind, being unwilling to spend time and money on a major overhaul of all their applications and configurations. However, Oracle Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud now offer the capability to migrate and protect native workloads while preserving policies and configurations for VMware in the same way as an on-premises environment.

As a result, organizations no longer have to adapt their applications, so DR migration relating to VMware environments is much faster and requires minimal changes. This gives large organizations the freedom to optimize their DR without the tremendous complexity traditionally associated with a cloud-based backup and DR strategy.

Disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS)

The primary reason organizations are moving to disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) is that they simply lack DR capabilities in-house. But in addition, other important reasons might be that they need to improve recovery objectives or that their DR capabilities are limited to tape backups. With DRaaS, however, they can partner with a cloud specialist who can help them achieve their Recovery Time Objectives and Recovery Points Objectives and provide them with expert support. In doing so, they can offload their backup and DR tasks to a level that makes them feel comfortable.

In this scenario, a DRaaS provider takes care of the implementation to ease the pressure on the IT department. And if the organization has to meet specific compliance requirements or has a need for self-service options, the DRaaS partner can also provide customization.

The net result is that DRaaS provides access to many of the benefits of the public cloud, such as reliability and scalable support for the 3-2-1 rule. This is complemented by specialist support from the DRaaS partner that contributes to mature backup and DR processes and thus a more resilient IT infrastructure. This allows for better recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs) while making it much easier to test these procedures more regularly with little or no disruption to business processes.

Emphasizing resilience

For any modern organization focused on 24/7 availability, moving DR infrastructure to the cloud represents a logical step. Not only can hosting backups and DR in the cloud help organizations achieve significant cost savings, but it can also lay the foundation for a resilient IT environment that will also benefit other cloud initiatives. Thanks to all the innovations in cloud computing in recent years, and the support for hosting VMware environments in the public cloud in particular, there are options for cloud-based DR available for organizations of all shapes and sizes.

Given the variety of internal and external risks that today’s highly connected, digitally transformed businesses face, robust and resilient DR that allows organizations to return to business as usual without delay is essential. Resilient IT allows businesses to be ready for any type of disruption, planned or unplanned, allowing them to mitigate the risk of downtime and focus on the projects that drive transformation.

By placing the emphasis on resilience, networks can be built with the ability to seamlessly adapt to change while protecting business functions and customers from all types of disruptions and disasters, from technology misconfiguration, cyber attacks and even natural disasters. In today’s uncertain and rapidly changing circumstances, these are valuable capabilities.

Gijsbert Janssen van Doorn, Director of Technical Marketing, Zerto