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Disaster Recovery (DRaaS) in Cloud Computing

Businesses have adopted cloud platforms to improve computing agility and efficiency, a move accelerated by the global pandemic. Almost 70% of organizations now use cloud services plans to increase their cloud spending. As a result, cloud technologies have completely changed how the world thinks about disaster recovery (DR).

Cloud computing is an efficient way to manage digital assets, but it’s not immune from disasters. Data is a valuable asset to an organization, so protecting it from artificial and natural disasters is pertinent.

However, since it’s impossible to predict and control when the next disaster will hit, organizations must control the mitigation and recovery process. Therefore, cloud disaster recovery (cloud DR) can occur through measures such as robust system backups and using multiple servers in different locations to reduce the harm that a single natural disaster like floods could cause.

Fortunately, today’s options are faster, cost-effective, secure, and offer more scalability and flexibility than traditional DR approaches. However, disaster recovery in cloud computing has no one-size-fits-all approach.

This post looks at cloud DR, how it works, its benefits and drawbacks, and disaster recovery planning in cloud computing. It also examines Disaster Recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) and traditional DR, how the two compare to cloud DR, how to choose the right option, and how Veritas can help you.

What is Cloud Disaster Recovery?

Cloud disaster recovery (Cloud DR) enables organizations to back up and recover their mission-critical data and remote machines. It combines several strategies and services to backup data, apps, and other computing resources to dedicated service providers and public clouds.

It’s available as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) to help protect valuable enterprise resources by storing them remotely on offsite servers. It also maintains business continuity by enabling organizations to recover quickly after a disaster.

Cloud technology powers disaster recovery in cloud computing to enable faster recovery, high availability, and high flexibility. Organizations can customize their cloud DR solutions to meet their unique business requirements.

Cloud DR is easier to configure, use, and manage than traditional disaster recovery. IT departments can harness cloud technology for instant spin-up and failover. Additionally, Cloud DR provides updated RTO and RPO (recovery time objective and recovery point objective, respectively) in case of a system restore or disaster.

It also automates many processes and allows organizations to scale up and down their solutions to suit their business needs.

Types of Cloud Disasters?

There are three categories of disasters that affect businesses. These are:

·       Natural disasters: Include events like earthquakes or floods. If an event strikes the area containing an organization’s servers hosting their cloud service, it could disrupt services and require immediate disaster recovery operations.

·       Human disasters: These include anything related to human beings, such as accidental data loss, inadvertent misconfigurations, or malicious third-party access.

·       Technical disasters: Include things that could go wrong with the technology, such as loss of network connectivity or power failures.

Cloud providers are responsible for anything they retain direct control over, such as the resiliency of the technology’s general infrastructure like facilities, hardware, network, and software. In contrast, customers are responsible for other areas like secure data backups, cloud configuration, workload architecture, and availability. All these things work together before, during, and after a disaster in cloud computing.

How Does Cloud Recovery Work?

Cloud DR stores essential applications and data at an offsite data center and failover to a secondary site or virtual host during a crisis. It helps businesses quickly recover from a disaster and get back up and running to minimize the impact of disruptive events.

Cloud DR is different from traditional disaster recovery. Instead of loading servers with the application software and operating system and patching to the last used configuration, cloud DR encapsulates the entire server, including the applications, operating system, patches, and data, into a software bundle or virtual server.

The vendors then copy or backup the virtual server to offsite data centers. Since the virtual server does not rely on hardware, the vendor can migrate the OS, applications, data, and patches between data centers faster than traditional DR approaches.

Cloud vendors must ensure that applications and systems are updated and regularly patched. Additionally, since vendors can automate most cloud DR functions, it reduces errors and requires minimum involvement on the part of users.

Most cloud DR functions operate via a pay-as-you-go service, meaning businesses only pay for the number of software licenses and the amount of storage used.

The cloud-based disaster recovery process is delicate, and organizations must understand its methodologies carefully for successful recovery. These include:

·       Backup and Restore: It’s the easiest, fastest, and cheapest way to recover from cloud computing disasters. In addition, it helps mitigate regional events like natural disasters by replicating and storing data in geographically different locations.

·       Pilot testing: It’s a method where organizations replicate only the core services of their functions and needs. Therefore, they only need to replicate a small core part of their IT structure and provide a minimally functional replacement during a disaster.

·       Warm standby: It’s when organizations have a scaled-down version of their fully functional environment available and always running in a different location than the central server. Thus, the organization will have a backup version in another region if disaster strikes.

·       Multi-site deployment: It’s the most expensive of the above methodologies and provides the most comprehensive solution. It involves running an organization’s full workload simultaneously across multiple regions.

How to Create a Cloud DR Plan

Below are the steps to follow during disaster recovery planning in cloud computing.

1.    Analysis

The analysis phase includes a comprehensive risk assessment and impacts analysis of the organization’s existing IT infrastructure and workloads. After identifying the risks, the IT department can identify potential vulnerabilities and disasters.

The organization can then evaluate how its current infrastructure stands against the identified challenges and determine the workloads’ RTO and RPO.

2.    Implementation

The implementation phase helps the organization outline the steps and technologies needed to address disasters. The goal is to devise a plan that allows the organization to promptly implement all necessary measures while responding to disasters. This phase has the following steps:

  • Preparedness: A detailed plan explaining how the organization will respond during disaster events and includes clear roles and responsibilities
  • Prevention: These are the organization’s measures to reduce potential vulnerabilities and threats. It includes employee training and regular updates
  • Response: The manual and automated measures the organization will implement in response to a disaster event
  • Recovery: These are manual and automated measures in place to help the organization quickly recover data it needs to resume normal operations

3.    Testing

Organizations need to test their cloud-based disaster recovery strategies and plans and update them regularly. It helps to ensure employees remain adequately trained and the plan relevant. Testing also ensures that the automated processes and technologies are working correctly and ready for use. Additionally, it helps detect gaps in disaster recovery solutions.

Below are some things organizations should consider when preparing a disaster recovery plan:

  • The disaster recovery strategy should be part of the business continuity plan. It should include RTO and RPO definitions to help decide which cloud services an organization will need and improve cost efficiency.
  • The strategy should define the RTO and RPO for disaster recovery since they form the basis of the recovery plan and the types of services an organization will require.
  • They should design cloud-based disaster recovery strategies with the organizational goals and objectives.
  • They should design for end-to-end recovery and include every business aspect the organization needs to remain operational.
  • They should create specific tasks to ensure the disaster recovery planning process runs smoothly.

The disaster recovery plan is part of a larger business continuity strategy, so it needs to run smoothly for a flawless backup and recovery process.

What are Examples of Cloud Disasters?

A disaster in cloud computing is uncommon, but it can occur and affect even the largest cloud service providers like AWS. Below are two examples of cloud disasters and their effects:

1.    2017 Amazon Outage Disaster

A 2017 outage at Amazon highlighted the vulnerabilities of cloud disaster recovery and the risks of using only public clouds for disaster recovery. The 2017 disaster in cloud computing started when an Amazon employee attempted to debug a billing system issue only to take more than the needed servers offline accidentally.

The move started a domino effect that spilled over to two other server subsystems before snowballing to others. The result was thousands of people being unable to access the affected Amazon servers for several hours.

2.    2016 AWS Cloud Crash

Amazon Web Services (AWS) in Sydney, Australia, was unavailable for up to ten hours in 2016 after a utility provider supplying the company suffered power loss at their regional substation due to severe weather. It led to the failure of several Elastic Block Store volumes and Elastic Compute Cloud instances that hosted critical workloads for many large companies.

Why is Cloud DR Important?

Today’s competitive business environment means organizations cannot afford disruptions and downtime from software or hardware failure, natural disasters, or cyberattacks. Therefore, they must constantly be online to meet the growing demands of a 24/7 global economy.

Cybercrimes are growing unprecedentedly, with the FBI reporting an astounding 300% rise in reported crimes since the 2020 pandemic. Cybersecurity Ventures says annual cybercrime costs will rise to $10.5 trillion by 2025. Additionally, cybercrimes are more complex and unpredictable than before. As a result, organizations must develop comprehensive data backup and disaster recovery solutions to ensure business continuity.

Apart from cybercrimes, organizations also experience major outages that impact their business. For example, Uptime Institute reported that 44% of surveyed companies experienced an outage in 2020 due to power failures.

Cloud disaster recovery helps organizations build resilience against disasters and protects essential workloads regardless of their storage – on-premises, cloud storage, hybrid cloud, or multi-cloud environments. A robust cloud DR plan helps protect against cyber threats and other disasters and minimizes downtime and associated costs. It also ensures critical data, applications, and systems are available and secure, enabling business continuity.

What are the Benefits of Cloud Computing?

Using the cloud environment for disaster recovery means organizations don’t have to maintain data backups on physical hard drives or disks. In addition, the distributed nature cloud platforms mean providers can spread services to different servers in different geographical locations, protecting against local natural disasters.

Another benefit of cloud DR is that organizations can offload some responsibility onto the cloud provider. Cloud providers are responsible for maintaining the core resilience of the infrastructure, including the data centers, servers, operating systems, and applications.

Cloud DR is also cost-effective since providers only charge for the services used. Therefore, organizations can select the services it needs and pay for them, leading to a significant cost reduction via increased package personalization.

Other benefits of cloud DR include:

  • Flexibility: Cloud DR services use a pay-as-you-go pricing model, which gives organizations more user control. It’s also cost-effective because it makes DR an operational expenditure, not a capital one.
  • Adaptability: It allows organizations to realign and reallocate resources when needed.
  • Availability: Using multiple data centers for DR efforts means organizational data is readily available and easily accessible anywhere.
  • Scalability: Organizations can easily scale down or up their computing resources depending on their business requirements.
  • Reliability: Geo-redundancy helps ensure always-available data that is easily accessible. Therefore, even if a natural disaster or power outage hits an entire region, it will not impact data stored in a secondary site.

Drawbacks of Cloud DR

Despite the many benefits of cloud storage for backup and recovery, the technology has some drawbacks. These include:

  • Increased compliance requirements: Data migration to the cloud has its set of risks. For example, storing data offsite means businesses must comply with the new local regulatory measures.
  • Limited service provider’s SLA: Sometimes, the client’s and service provider’s standards don’t match up, which can pose problems with recovery time objectives (RTOs).
  • Potential connectivity issues: Users need an internet connection to access data in the cloud. This can be problematic when facing connectivity issues.

All in all, the benefits of cloud DR far outweigh the drawbacks. Moreover, large corporations bypass some drawbacks by using both on-premises and cloud-based DR options.

Cloud DR vs. DRaaS vs. Traditional Disaster Recovery

Cloud DR and DRaaS (Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service) emerged due to cloud computing, making disaster recovery accessible to small and mid-sized businesses. On the other hand, traditional disaster recovery preceded cloud-based disaster recovery solutions. They all have the same purpose of ensuring business continuity. However, there is a difference between them that organizations need to understand.

1.    Cloud DR

It’s the ability to failover workloads to cloud-based instances or virtual machines, allowing the resumption of operations of failed workloads. It’s a do-it-by-yourself approach where end users (organizations) assume ownership of the solution and the risks associated with public clouds.

It often uses hyper-scale cloud environments like Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services instead of company-managed secondary data centers (colocation). The organization determines the best way to replicate and backup data and how to start failover during an outage.

2.    DRaaS

It’s an as-a-service offering from vendors who specialize in disaster recovery. Cloud-based DRaaS vendors run ready-made platforms for disaster recovery while organizations leverage providers’ expertise to tune their cloud operations for failover and to host critical workloads.

As opposed to cloud DR, organizations that opt for DRaaS in cloud computing leave the heavy lifting to service providers who do everything from installation to failover and recovery. They also handle failback to operational data centers when ready – reducing the burden on IT administrators and freeing up their time for more strategic initiatives.

3.    Traditional DR

A traditional DR solution involves operating dedicated data centers somewhere near or in an organization’s existing facilities. The organization accepts the capital costs of building, staffing, running, and maintaining the data center. It also handles software maintenance, power, cooling, connectivity, and other infrastructure.

The key elements of traditional DR include:

  • A dedicated facility housing the necessary IT infrastructure such as equipment and staff
  • Internet and bandwidth to provide needed remote access to secondary data centers
  • Server capacity to provide high-level performance and scalability
  • Network infrastructure to provide a reliable connection between two or more data centers and ensure data availability

The organization must also ensure regular upgrades of the DR facility in tandem with the rest of the IT infrastructure. As a result, traditional DR comes with sizable capital and operational expenses.

Which is the Better Option?

Cloud DR and DRaaS in cloud computing offer numerous benefits to organizations. For example, they enable secure data backup and fast recovery during a crisis without complex DR procedures or expensive capital investments. However, when investing in cloud DR or DRaaS, organizations should consider their tolerance levels first.

The RTO and RPO of an organization play a crucial role in determining the best option between the two. Enterprises with a high tolerance level will prefer cloud DR while those with relatively low tolerance levels and tight RTO/RPO requirements go for DRaaS.

A Creative ITC whitepaper notes that traditional replication and disaster recovery solutions cannot effectively deal with current IT complexity. As a result, the ever-increasing complexity and scope of the modern IT landscape make cloud-based solutions like DRaaS and Cloud DR increasingly attractive propositions.

How Veritas Can Help You

Veritas helps organizations manage and protect their business-critical data using its integrated product portfolio to provide a unified data management experience and deliver unmatched performance and versatility.

Veritas provides various services, including cloud computing, system recovery, cybersecurity protection, data resiliency, and compliance.

Veritas System Recovery provides a superior and unified backup and disaster recovery solution for servers, laptops, and desktops to help organizations recover from disasters and downtime in minutes. Veritas also has a patented Restore Anyware technology to help IT administrators rapidly restore what they need whenever and wherever they need it. It includes ensuring physical or virtual machines, applications, files, and folders.

Veritas System Recovery provides cross-platform physical to virtual (P2V), virtual to physical (V2P), and virtual to virtual (V2V) recoveries, perfectly complementing physical and virtual environments.

The Bottom Line

Disaster recovery planning in cloud computing should be a going concern for organizations. It makes the process of data backup and disaster recovery flexible, scalable, and efficient. Furthermore, organizations can create a fool-proof plan for cloud DR by designing recovery plans that meet their exact specifications with RTOs and RPOs in mind.

Many small and mid-sized companies gravitate towards DRaaS for cost savings and efficiency. At the same time, larger corporations prefer cloud DR with hybrid cloud and sometimes on-premises data centers for all-rounded disaster recovery and business continuity plans.

Organizations continue to embrace and explore the cloud as the preferred alternate means for delivering IT services. Thanks to cloud-based disaster recovery strategies, organizations can now protect their data and applications with controlled, predictable investments while enjoying lower price points, scalability, flexible contract terms, and improved business resiliency.

 

Veritas customers include 98% of the Fortune 100, and NetBackup™ is the #1 choice for enterprises looking to back up large amounts of data.

Learn how Veritas keeps your data fully protected across virtual, physical, cloud and legacy workloads with Data Protection Services for Enterprise Businesses.