What Is Cloud Disaster Recovery? How Does It Work?

Cloud disaster recovery

Cloud disaster recovery (cloud-DR) is a set of services and strategies that can be used to back up data, applications, and other resources to public cloud and dedicated service providers. When a disaster occurs, the affected data, applications, and other resources can either be restored to the local center or to a cloud provider — to resume the normal operation of the enterprise.

Cloud DR has a similar goal to traditional DR. It is to protect business resources and allow for the recovery of protected resources to continue business operations. DR is a key element in any business continuity strategy. Traditional DR options had limited capabilities prior to the advent of self-service and cloud connectivity. Local DR did not always provide protection against natural disasters like floods, fires, and earthquakes. Although it offered better protection against physical disasters, an off-site DR site incurred significant business costs to set up and maintain.

Cloud technologies have made it possible for managed service providers and public cloud providers to create a dedicated facility that offers a variety of backup and DR capabilities. Businesses have continuous access to high-tech, scalable off-site DR services that are highly automated and self-driven without the need for a second data center and without the need to choose, install, and maintain DR tools.

How to choose the best cloud DR provider

Choosing a cloud DR provider usually involves six distinct considerations: location reliability, scalability security compliance.

First, a business should consider the physical distance and latency of the cloud DR provider. Too close to DR increases the risk of shared physical disaster. However, being too far away from DR increases latency, and network congestion, and makes it more difficult to access DR content. DR content that must be accessible from multiple locations around the world can make it difficult to locate. Next, think about the reliability of your cloud DR provider. Even if a cloud experiences downtime, service downtime during recovery could be equally devastating for a business.

Consider the scalability and reliability of cloud DR offerings. It should be capable of protecting selected data, applications, and other resources. However, it must also be able to accommodate additional resources as required and be able to provide adequate performance for other global customers who use the cloud DR offering.

Be aware of the security requirements for DR content. Make sure the provider offers authentication, virtual private networks (VPNs), encryption, and other tools necessary to protect the business’ valuable resources. Assess the compliance requirements to ensure that the provider meets compliance standards for the business such as ISO 27001 and SOC 2 and SOC 3. The payment Card Industry Data Security Standard is (PCI DSS).

Consider how the DR platform should be designed. There are three basic approaches to DR: hot, cold and warm. These terms refer loosely to the ease at which a system can recover.

Also read: Top 10 Server Backup Software

Cold DR

Cold DR usually involves the storage of data and virtual machine images. These resources are generally not used without extra work, such as downloading the data or loading it into a VM. Although cold DR is the most straightforward approach (often just storage) and the least expensive, it can take the longest time to recover and leave the business with the longest downtime after a disaster.

Warm DR

Warm DR can be used as a standby method where duplicate data or applications are stored with a cloud DR provider. This is then kept in sync with the primary data center. The duplicate resources don’t do any processing. The warm DR can be brought back online from the DR provider in case of disaster. It is often as simple as starting a VM, redirecting IP address traffic to the DR resources, and creating a VM. Although recovery can be quick, it still requires some downtime for protected workloads.

HotDR

HotDR is a live parallel deployment of data or workloads that are running in tandem. This means that both the primary and DR sites use the same workloads and data in synchronization, sharing a portion of the overall application traffic. The work of the other site is not affected if one site is damaged by a disaster. The disruption is usually not noticed by users. Hot DR is the fastest and most complicated way to go, but it has very little downtime.

You can mix approaches. This allows higher-priority workloads to use a hot approach while lower-priority workloads and data sets may use a warmer or colder approach. It is important that organizations determine which approach works best for each resource or workload and find a cloud provider that can support them.

Benefits of cloud DR

Cloud DR offers many important advantages over traditional DR strategies.

Pay as-you-go options.

Organizations that used do-it-yourself (DIY), and DR facilities had to pay significant capital costs while engaging managed colocation suppliers for off-site disaster recovery services, and organizations often entered into long-term service contracts. One of the major advantages of cloud services is their pay-as-you-go model. This allows organizations to only pay for the services and resources they use. The payments are affected by the addition or removal of resources.

The cloud model of service delivery transforms upfront capital costs into recurring operating expenses. Cloud providers often offer discounts on long-term commitments of resources, which can make it more appealing to larger organizations that have static DR requirements.

Flexibility and scalability

Traditional DR methods, which were often implemented in remote or local data centers, often imposed restrictions on flexibility and scalability. The business needed to purchase the servers, storage, network gear, and software tools required for DR. It also had to design, test, and maintain the infrastructure necessary to support DR operations. This was significantly more if the DR was directed toward a second data center. This was a significant capital expense and a recurring expense for the company.

Cloud DR options such as public cloud services or disaster relief as a service (DRaaS) providers can provide huge amounts of resources on demand. This allows businesses to engage as many resources as they need, usually through a self–service portal, and then adjust those resources when their business needs change such as when new workloads are created or when old data is retired.

High reliability and geo-redundancy

A global footprint is an essential characteristic of a cloud provider, which ensures multiple data centers that can support users in major geopolitical areas. This is how cloud providers can improve service reliability and assure redundancy. Geo-redundancy is a way for businesses to easily place DR resources in another area — or multiple regions — to increase availability. The cloud is the best option for off-site DR.

Quick testing and recovery

Cloud workloads are able to operate with VMs. It is easy to copy VM images to in-house test servers to validate workload availability without affecting production workloads. In addition, Businesses can also choose a high bandwidth or fast disk I/O options to maximize data transfer speeds in order to meet recovery time objective (RTO) requirements. Data transfers to cloud providers can be costly so it is important to test the data movement. Cloud data egress — keep costs in mind

Also read: Top 10 Free Data Recovery Software

Cloud DR vs. traditional DR

Cloud-based DR services and DRaaS offers can offer cost savings, flexibility, scalability, and geo-redundancy, as well as fast recovery. Cloud DR may not be suitable for every organization or situation. Here are some situations where traditional DR methods might prove beneficial or even necessary for a business.

Compliance requirements

Cloud services are becoming more acceptable for enterprise use where there is well-established regulatory oversight such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and PCI DSS. Some organizations may still be prohibited from storing sensitive data beyond an immediate data center. Any resource or infrastructure not under the direct control of the organization, such as a public cloud or third-party infrastructure. These cases could lead to the business being required to use local or off-site DR in order to comply with security and compliance requirements.

Limited connectivity

Cloud resources, services, and other resources depend on WAN connectivity like the internet. DDR use cases place a premium on connectivity because a reliable, high-bandwidth connection is critical for quick upload/sync and fast recovery. While reliable high-bandwidth connectivity is common across most urban areas and suburban areas, it is not universal.

Because remote installations like edge computing sites are often possible, at least in part, because of limited connectivity, it may make sense to implement data backups and workload snapshots at local sites with poor connectivity. The business runs the risk of data loss and potentially problematic RTOs.

Maximum recovery

Although cloud computing offers powerful benefits, users have limited access to the infrastructure, architecture, and tools offered by the cloud provider. Cloud DR is limited by the provider and the service level agreement (SLA). Sometimes, the recovery objective (RPO), and RTO offered by the cloud DR provider may not be sufficient for an organization’s DR requirements. — Or the service level may not be guaranteed. By having the DR platform in-house, A business can create and manage a customized DR infrastructure to meet its guaranteed DR performance.

Make use of existing investments

DR services have been around longer than cloud services. Legacy DR installations, especially in larger companies or where costs are still being amortized, might not be as easily replaced by cloud DR offerings. A business might not be afraid to sell the investment if it already has the space, servers, storage, and other resources. These cases allow the business to adopt cloud DR slowly and carefully, adding workloads to the cloud DR provider in order for routine technology refresh.

It is important to note that traditional DR and cloud DR are not mutually exclusive. Traditional DR may be the best option for certain workloads. Cloud DR is a good option for some workloads, however. You can mix and match both options to create a unique experience The best DR protection is available for every organization’s workload.

Cloud disaster recovery and business continuity

Part of a larger BC umbrella is disaster recovery. This includes cloud-based DR. BC refers to the technologies and plans that are put in place to ensure that business operations resume without any delay or difficulty after an incident could occur.

By this definition, BC is a broad subject area that includes many topics including security, business governance, and compliance, risk assessment and management, change management, and disaster preparedness/recovery. BC might plan and consider a wide range of disasters, such as epidemics loss of skilled personnel earthquakes, floods, and fires; service outages; cyberattacks or physical attacks; theft or sabotage, and other possible incidents.

BC planning usually begins with risk assessment and recognition. What are the risks that your business is planning for? How likely are they to occur? Business leaders are able to create a plan that addresses and mitigates the risk once they have identified it. Once the plan has been developed, it is implemented, budgeted, and procured. The plan can then be tested, maintained, and adjusted as needed after it is implemented.

In many areas of BC planning, disaster recovery plays an important role, including floods, earthquakes, and cyberattacks. If the business is located on an earthquake fault, it would be possible for the earthquake to cause damage. This would need to be assessed in order to develop a mitigation plan. One part of the mitigation plan could be to use cloud DR as a second hot spot in an area that is not at risk from earthquakes.

The BC plan would rely upon the redundancy of cloud DR to seamlessly continue operations in case the primary data center becomes unavailable. This will allow for continued business operations. DR would be a part of the BC plan. Additional planning details the changes in workflows and job responsibilities necessary to continue normal operations, such as taking orders and shipping products, and restoring the affected resources.

Given the importance of DR for many aspects of BC’s life, these terms are often interchangeable. However, this is technically incorrect and BC needs a separate discussion.

Create a cloud-based disaster recovery plan

A cloud DR plan can be built in a similar way to traditional disaster recovery plans. Cloud DR is different from traditional DR methods. It uses cloud technologies and DRaaS for the appropriate implementation. Cloud-based DR, for example, would not back up important data sets to a disk on another server. Instead, it would back up the data set to a cloud resource like an Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service).

Another example is that instead of backing up an important server in a local colocation facility as a warm VM, the warm VM can be run in Microsoft Azure or any other DRaaS provider. Cloud DR does not change the fundamental steps or requirements for implementing DR. However, it provides a set of new tools and platforms that can be used to help you achieve your DR goals. There are three components to DR: testing, analysis, and implementation.

Analysis

Every DR plan begins with a thorough risk assessment and impacts analysis. This basically looks at the IT infrastructure and workflows and then considers any potential disasters that a company might face. This is where you identify possible disasters and vulnerabilities, including theft and intrusion vulnerabilities, and evaluate the IT infrastructure’s ability to withstand them.

An analysis can be used to help companies identify critical business functions and IT elements and forecast the financial consequences of a disaster. Analyses can help determine RPOs, RTOs, and workload requirements. These determinations allow businesses to make better decisions about which workloads they want to protect, how to do it, and where additional investment is required to reach their goals.

Implementation

Typically, the analysis is followed by a detailed implementation that details steps for a response, prevention, and recovery. Preventing potential threats and removing vulnerabilities is what you do. This could include regular OS (operating systems) updates and employee training in social engineering to ensure security and stability. Preparation involves defining the response needed to a disaster. It is fundamentally about documentation.

Response describes the strategies and technologies that should be implemented in case of a disaster. This is preparation matched with the implementation of corresponding technologies, such as the recovery of a data set or server VM backed up to the cloud. The Recovery section outlines the success conditions and steps to mitigate any damage to the business.

This is where the goal is to identify how to respond to a disaster should it happen. The plan is then matched with the implementation of technology and services that are tailored to the particular circumstances. This plan also includes cloud-based services and technologies.

Testing

Last, any DR Plan must be regularly tested and updated to ensure that IT staff are competent in implementing the correct response and recovery quickly and efficiently and that recovery happens within a reasonable timeframe for the company. Organizations can test the DR plan to identify any inconsistencies or gaps. This allows them to fix and update it before a disaster happens.

Also read: Top 5 Cloud Servers You Should Know

Cloud disaster recovery providers and vendors

Cloud DR is, at its core, a form of off-site DR. Organizations can use an off-site strategy to protect against incidents in the local infrastructure, such as fire, flood, Theft, and so forth. then restore the resources to local infrastructure or continue to run the resources from the DR provider. Consequently, there are many vendors that offer off-site DR capabilities.

Cloud DR can be done through the most reliable public cloud providers.AWS offers, for example, the CloudEndure Disaster Recovery Service, Azure offers Azure Site Recovery, and Google Cloud Platform provides Cloud Storage and Persistent Disk options to protect valuable data. All three major cloud providers can create enterprise-class DR infrastructures.

A vast array of dedicated DR vendors offer DRaaS products beyond public clouds. This essentially gives access to dedicated clouds for DR tasks.

These are the top DRaaS providers:

  • Bluelock
  • Expedient
  • IBM DRaaS
  • Iland
  • Recovery Point Systems
  • Sungard AS
  • TierPoint

Additionally, traditional backup vendors also now offer DRaaS services, such as:

  • Acronis
  • Arcserve UDP
  • Carbonite
  • Databarracks
  • Datto
  • Unitrends
  • Zerto

It is vital that organizations evaluate all potential DRaaS offerings for reliability, recurring cost, ease of use, and support. To ensure that DR platforms are available and work as they should, it is essential to regularly update and test them.

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