Lynn LeBlanc, CEO and founder of HotLink Corporation, has more than 25 years of enterprise software and technology experience at both Fortune 500 companies and Silicon Valley startups.
There’s so much talk about disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) in the cloud, you might be considering such an option for your data center. After all, the cloud promises unlimited capacity in a pay-as-you-go model – the perfect combination for affordably ensuring that your IT operations continue uninterrupted. Best of all, perhaps you can finally sleep at night without dreading the inevitable outage and fallout that ensues.
It’s true that cloud-based resources have created a host of new products and services, many with exceptional value. Unfortunately, it’s also true that amid the cloud-washing of the past few years, some data protection vendors decided to reclassify their virtual machine (VM) backup products as cloud-based “DR” solutions.
This shift may have started when Gartner predicted 55 percent annual growth for DR as a service (DRaaS) over the next five years. Perhaps it happened when the backup market became so crowded and undifferentiated. Maybe it’s just aspirational marketing. Whatever the reason, before signing on the dotted line, be sure your new DR/BC vendor explains exactly how they will provide seamless and automated failover of critical business operations when your disaster strikes.
In other words, be sure your DR solution actually has an “R” and not just a “D.”
Four essential DR/BC capabilities
When evaluating a potential cloud-based DR/BC offering, look beyond simply replicating your data and VMs and be sure your new solution can offer:
Recovery: Protecting critical data and VMs with no place to recover is obviously not going to be much help with continued operations following a failure. While enterprise business-critical applications may justify the expense of standby resources, most workloads don’t warrant the cost of redundant computing infrastructure. If you protect these workloads in the cloud, where will you run after a failure?
Moreover, VMs can be very large and the Internet is slow. If the cloud-protected VMs have to be recovered to an alternate site, how long will that take? The ideal solution combines in-cloud protection with in-cloud recovery. That way you don’t need redundant hardware, and you won’t have bandwidth or latency problems.
Automation: You will need an automated way to failover to an alternate cloud-based computing infrastructure in the event of on-premise failure. When a disaster strikes after hours, the last thing you need is to have your team scrambling around reconfiguring networking and VMs.
Testing: If you cannot easily test the ongoing changes to your VM infrastructure inside your DR/BC environment, you should not reasonably expect a pain-free recovery. Testing is the Achilles’ heel of any DR/BC plan, whether cloud-based or not, so testing early and often is vital. The reality is most BC solutions are labor-intensive to test, and as a result, they are tested infrequently. When evaluating cloud-based DR solutions, look closely at:
- What exactly is involved in testing?
- Can I automate the testing?
- How can I trigger this test myself?
If the testing activity is difficult, it is a mere indicator of how trying the recovery process will be.
Management: Assuming a green light on automation and testing, now consider how you will manage and monitor the servers running in the cloud. With some cloud-based DR/BC solutions, management is fully integrated with your existing on-premise management infrastructure, and you will manage the cloud-based resources in the same way as your on-premise servers. With others, you have a separate console provided by the DR/BC vendor. In yet other cases, it’s a managed service in which the vendor is running the show. Regardless of which option is best for you, it’s vital to look closely at how your operations will continue in a failure scenario.
Make data protection solutions a priority
Focusing on these four essential DR/BC capabilities should clear up some of the confusion when evaluating the sea of cloud-based data protection solutions. Most importantly though, IT managers need to ensure that DR/BC plans are on today’s to-do list.
Few IT disasters take out your entire data center; usually it’s hardware failure, software bugs or security breaches, and these happen every single day. Leveraging low-cost providers such as Amazon Web Services can provide cloud-based BC at a price any IT organization can afford.
Not taking advantage of this newest generation of cloud-based DR/BC solutions and just hoping that “the big one” doesn’t take out your data center (and your job) is the worst possible continuity strategy.
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