If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that businesses need to plan for the unexpected. This includes the flexibility to be able to work from home at the drop of a hat. Disaster recovery (DR) involves strategising for an event where a business cannot complete its day-to-day functions. The longer the IT outage, the worse it is, and it will most certainly lead to a loss in revenue and customer dissatisfaction. Research from Uptime Institute estimates that 44% of organisations have suffered a recent major outage that tangibly impacted their business.

Customers may choose not to return at all if they lose trust in a business, which may happen if, for example, a business were to fall victim to a cyber-attack and customer credentials were compromised. Implementing a disaster recovery strategy, at the end of the day, is about protecting business brand and ensuring business continuity.

What are the kinds of disasters businesses need to plan for?

Disasters can come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. They can be grouped into three main categories:

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Technology disasters:

These are the most likely disasters to disrupt business operations and include incidents. They consist of cyber-attacks, hardware failure, network or cloud failure, Internet Service Provider (ISP) outage, data loss, or human errors like misconfiguration of a network, or some other software development error in a mission-critical system.

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Physical disasters:

Theft of equipment, a burst pipe, or a power outage. In Australia, power outages are becoming more common due to extreme weather events that have resulted in regions being without power for days. With global warming, these kinds of storms are becoming more prevalent.

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Natural disasters:

Floods, storms, fires, or pandemics, which can interrupt access to office space and damage physical hardware. The damage to hardware might not only extend to physical servers and databases and computers, but may include phone systems, which can impact a business’ ability to communicate with its staff and customers.

What do businesses need to consider when it comes to disaster recovery planning?

Not all businesses are made equal. A bank, for example, will have a much more stringent disaster recovery plan, catering for all sorts of situations, as opposed to a small business. This is because of the sensitive nature of the data they hold. If they are offline even for five minutes, it can be damaging to their reputation. People need access to their money.

Banks will also have a tighter Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO). RTO and RPO are respectively defined as the time a business can afford to be offline, and the point in time in which a system is recovered to. A small business may choose daily backups and have a wider RPO, as opposed to a bank that might back-up every transaction, every minute, as they cannot afford to have any data loss. RTO and PRO are critical to any disaster recovery plan as they underpin the entire disaster recovery strategy for a business.

What is cloud technology?

Cloud technology is on-demand technology run by cloud providers like Microsoft, Google, or Amazon. They offer a range of IT cloud services – anything from virtual machines like servers and databases, to software, and cloud storage. A business can choose to have as much or as little of their IT on the cloud.

Public clouds are powered by servers sometimes referred to as a data centre, and these are located all over the world. This set-up means businesses can do away with having to purchase on-premises hardware and instead they pay for the resources they consume on a monthly basis. Cloud technology is scalable, so you can add and remove resources with ease. There are private and hybrid cloud options for those businesses that want to maintain control over sensitive data and keep some data stored on-premises or with a Managed Service Provider (MSP).

How can cloud technology help with disaster recovery?

What’s great about cloud technology is that it allows small and medium-sized businesses to access disaster recovery options that were traditionally out of reach to them. It offers a simplified, cost-effective approach to disaster recovery, and provides peace of mind to businesses. It allows businesses to do away with replicating environments with physical on-premises hardware or using physical disk and tape and storing it on-premises.

A business does not need to have all their IT infrastructure and data storage operating on the cloud to benefit from cloud-based disaster recovery options. In fact, they don’t need to have any of it on the cloud. They can just use it for data back-up, for example. Cloud providers like Amazon provide a spate of tools under their Disaster-Recovery-as a-Service offering (DaaS) which businesses can utilise. There are three main approaches to cloud-based DR to be considered just in case disaster strikes:

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Disaster recovery from the cloud:

Use the cloud as back-up to store data, and if there is a DR event, the data is used to restore systems. However, this option is only part of the DR puzzle, because if something happens to your physical on-premises hardware, you won’t have any infrastructure to run your systems.

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Disaster recovery to the cloud:

Back-up data on-premises, and if there is a system failure, use the cloud to run a virtual environment until your hardware is running again. However, if your on-site backups are destroyed, you will run into problems.   

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Cloud-to-cloud disaster recovery:

Store back-up data in the cloud and recover in a cloud environment using a virtual environment. This is by far the best approach, as it is fast and caters for many of the disasters outlined above.

When making the decision on how to use the cloud for disaster recovery, a business must consider their RTO and RPO and the associated costs. Disaster recovery back-up environments can be configured by using one of the following approaches:

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Pilot light:

Setting up a back-up environment and keeping it off until disaster strikes, which keeps monthly cloud costs to a minimum.

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Warm standby:

Set-up a back-up environment in the cloud and keep it running at all times.

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Multi-site:

Keep live copies of your infrastructure in multiple geographic locations. These instances are kept running at all times, so if one zone becomes unavailable, you can switch to the other. While this is the most expensive option, it allows for seamless recovery and the ability to bounce workloads back and forth from site to site. However, because the data is replicating so quickly, backing up to another system too is ideal, in case data on the cloud becomes infected or lost.

Cloud technology is allowing businesses to achieve goals they would have otherwise traditionally not been able to achieve. Disaster recovery cloud services is an industry growing by the minute. Talk to the experts at Bespoke Technology to find how they can help you establish a disaster recovery strategy that suits your business and your budget.