The main driver for Disaster Recovery (DR) is enabling safety backup plan to ensure the continuity of your business. On a more technical level, that mean getting meaningful RPO (recovery point objective) and RTO (recovery time objective) service level agreements for restoring critical applications following a disaster.
Choosing a Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) solution requires partnering with third-party technology and DR management experts to systematically meet those critical objectives. But the question: how to select that partner? What parameters and features should you focus on as you shop for DRaaS solution?
Let's start from the beginning.
How the DRaaS Process Works
The DRaaS environment administers failover and failback between protected on-premises environments and the cloud. Failover is far more than simply bare metal server recovery and restoring data on-premises. Restoring full applications this way can take many hours to days to weeks, depending on the scope of the disaster. By spinning up priority applications in the cloud, you can protect RPO and RTO.
DRaaS continuously replicates image-based VM images to the cloud. Upon a disaster event, application processing automatically or manually shifts to the cloud. DRaaS also takes over AD authentication to cloud servers, and is responsible for providing secure connections for end-users.
Upon restoring the primary site, or preparing a secondary one, the service fails back applications, configurations, and data. It also turns over user authentication to the on-premises system. This process keeps your business up and running, and in regulated industries makes sure you do not run afoul of compliance regulations.
However, the DRaaS process is not simple. For example, take a multi-virtual server application with web-enabled front ends that connects to databases running in the cloud. This involves strict level restore priorities.
In addition, authentication and quickly establishing end-user connections is a given. This is not a DR task that IT can quickly whip up during a disaster, but is the type of task that DRaaS was created to solve.
10 Tips for Finding the Right DRaaS for Your Company
Not all DRaaS offerings are created equal. When you are shopping for DRaaS, don’t stop at the equivalent of the first managed service provider (MSP) in the Yellow Pages. Here are 10 tips to finding your best DRaaS providers.
1. Stay Flexible
Many businesses have turned to multicloud to optimize different workloads in different cloud environments. Backup and DR-optimized clouds are popular drivers for multicloud portfolios. Look for MSPs and their software vendors, and cloud provider partners who will work with you to customize your application availability SLAs.
2. Integrate Backup and DRaaS
Best practices are to invest in an integrated DRaaS and a Backup as a Service (BaaS). Most MSPs offer both integrated services, and this optimized integration gives you the best of managed backup/restore and DR.
For example, when you contract for both BaaS and DRaaS with the same MSP, deployment and management are simple. You can quickly and easily back up data for rapid recovery in case of data loss or corruption. You can also replicate images of your systems, applications, and data so you can immediately failover to the cloud for uninterrupted processing.
You need a service that is highly reliable. The last thing the world you want is to find that spinning up the failover service is going to take 24 hours before it starts to work, or that your admin should have gotten the alert for manual failover but never saw it.
You also don’t want to put all your eggs into the proverbial single basket. Check to see that your DRaaS provider is replicating your DR data to multiple geo-locations. Even if your regional DRaaS cloud center goes down to the same disaster as yours, your provider’s other data centers are not affected. They will immediately begin to process your applications.
4. Choose the Right MSP
Choose a managed service provider who has been in business a long time, has healthy financials, happy customers, and is experienced with BaaS and DRaaS. Also look for an MSP who partners with top backup/DR software vendors and cloud providers. (Hint: One public cloud storage partnership is not going to give you the choice and flexibility that you need to protect your critical applications.)
Look for an MSP who understands how to non-disruptively replicate applications, infrastructure, and data to the failover environment in the cloud. The service should be flexible enough to meet your organization’s specific SLAs and provide excellent customer support. Your MSP should not insist that you choose the only backup software provider or the only cloud partner that your MSP works with.
5. Choose the Right Cloud Provider
Your choice of cloud is equally important. An MSP who insists on limiting you to a single cloud provider, usually AWS or Azure, does so because they have a sweetheart deal with that specific cloud. This is not necessarily the customer’s optimal choice, because none of the hyperscaled public clouds, AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud, makes their money from customizing SLAs for millions of customers. Again, understandable for them. Not the best choice for you.
You need an MSP and a cloud provider who will work with your differing priorities for your applications. Your Oracle financial database is going to have a higher priority than the legacy ERP that a single department is using (and that you’re going to replace in the next fiscal year). A single support plan for a single set of SLAs is a monolithic system that will not work for you very well, or for very long.
A highly customized cloud for backup and DR (BDR) is best at helping customers optimize DR planning by application, workload type, vertical, geography, and compliance factors.
6. Choose the Right Software Vendor
The best partner choice is often your DR software provider. Most major backup offerings also provide DR replication to the cloud. Your MSP should suggest backup partners who work closely with the MSP and cloud provider, and with you.
Look for a software vendor who replicates to a variety of clouds. When you sign a cloud provider to your multi-cloud portfolio and want to use it as a DR target, your software vendor should make it simple to identify the new cloud as a target in the interface.
7. Rapid and Reliable Failover
Depending on customer choices, failover will occur automatically or manually. Automatic is of course costlier. When your environment is restored, your DRaaS provider should restore applications, data, and configurations with no or negligible interruption.
Look for offerings that let you prioritize failover and failback not only by application, but also by operating system and hypervisor. Also look for built-in WAN acceleration with features like caching, TCP/IP protocol optimization, and media multicasting.
8. High ROI
DRaaS is a premium service and will cost more than backup and recovery services.
However, calculate the cost of the service against the business losses from a significant disaster event for true ROI. When a mission- or business-critical application must be continuously available, DRaaS is the service that will keep it up and running. This protects the organization from major financial hits, should a critical application be unavailable for hours or days.
Security concerns with DRaaS include user authentication and data movement security. To counter these concerns, look for MSPs and their partners who enable secure DRaaS replication, failover, and failback.
Hold out for hardened data centers that are physically and digitally secure, and that have the certifications to prove it. Your providers should also be in compliance with regulations like HIPAA and SOX.
Verify that your data is encrypted at-rest and in-flight, and choose key management systems that maintain your data’s security and keeps key management in your hands. Also understand how your DRaaS provider authenticates users from the virtual failover environment.
10. Expert customer service
DRaaS can be complex to deploy and manage, but that complexity should not affect you. Insist on top-flight customer support that doesn’t break the bank. You should have access to 24x7 expert engineer support, and teams who will work with you to customize your SLAs.
Customers entrust their valuable data to their DRaaS providers, and unresponsive or amateur support is never going to cut it.
Conclusion: Avoiding Disaster
Customized and cost-effective DRaaS protects your computing environments from loss and disaster. Picking the right plan will take some upfront time and energy. But once the plan is in place, you can rest assured: you will no longer be flirting with disaster.