Our world has become increasingly complex. In the past, the most likely cause of system downtime was either equipment failure or a power outage. Today, there are new threats to your business operations, including data breaches, ransomware and other malicious activities.
However, in addition to delivering significant business benefits, cloud-based services offer great opportunities to streamline and improve your disaster recovery and business continuity plans. The cloud not only allows companies to avoid massive capital expenditures, but also provides faster service delivery through automation and orchestration as well as flexibility and agility with pay-as-you-go models. By making the cloud an extension of your on-premises infrastructure, you can minimize the risk of business interruption.
Traditional disaster recovery is expensive and complex. In addition to the need for physical servers, there is the cost of tape libraries, media and ongoing maintenance. Then there is data center space, which is scarce and costly.
Cloud services do away with many of these expenses.
Data center capacity and operations are outsourced and paid for only when they are actually used. Cloud servers can be provisioned with minimal configurations that support the replication of data and storage. This capacity can be ramped up quickly in the case of an incident.
When you look at the total cost of IT operations, you’ll likely find staffing is a significant portion of that. Cloud services can help you either reduce those costs or move your staff onto higher value activities, directly related to the business, rather than focusing their attention on keeping the lights on.
Cloud service providers are able to achieve lower operational costs by automating and orchestrating many activities. For example, provisioning a server using Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or a similar service is usually a matter of simply selecting items from a series of drop-down options and pressing a button.
With traditional disaster recovery, it’s likely your staff has to tinker with management consoles and configuration screens unless you’ve invested heavily in orchestration and automation. That means service providers can offer better service levels than what you could manage in-house.
Not all business workloads are equal, and the importance of different workloads can vary cyclically. For example, payroll systems may be able to sustain hours or days of downtime depending on where in the payroll cycle your company is. But logistics or general ledger systems need to be available 24/7.
Understanding these different needs allows you to design a disaster recovery solution that treats each function distinctly.
Cloud-based services are ideal for delivering this kind of service flexibility, enabling you to expand and contract your systems in sync with business cycles. And the high levels of automation and orchestration offered by service providers result in repeatable success when deploying systems. Rather than having staff follow a long list of steps in a procedure, cloud providers reduce the opportunity for mistakes by making service provision a select-and-click process.
When you think about something as important as disaster recovery testing, this is crucial. During a system incident, you want the recovery process to occur as quickly as possible, with no errors. With the level of automation cloud service providers offer, the opportunity for mistakes is greatly mitigated.
What to look for in a service provider
When considering cloud services, it would be easy to simply survey the marketplace and choose a provider like Amazon or Microsoft. But the infrastructure these companies deliver is only part of the puzzle.
Designing and implementing a cloud-based disaster recovery system requires a partner that understands your business, knows what options are available and can provide the technological glue that binds all of those factors into an effective solution.
In the past, disaster recovery and business continuity plans relied on complex procedures executed by people often operating under pressure. In contrast, the right partner can minimize the risk of exacerbating a difficult situation by ensuring the solution you choose for cloud-based disaster recovery works easily.
Know the deal
In a 24/7 business, the ability to quickly move from your main production systems to your disaster recovery is critical.
That means the contractual obligations of your cloud partner need to be carefully negotiated, checked meticulously and clearly understood. In particular, focus on service-level agreements to ensure you know what level of response you can expect from your service provider in the event of an incident or outage.
In addition, many companies fail to understand the costs that can be incurred when using a cloud service. While a pay-as-you-go arrangement can offer significant benefits, such as the ability to invest capital in your core business rather than technology, it’s easy to increase your monthly charges by adding processor, memory, storage or network capacity. Make sure to put controls in place to manage these potential costs.
The cloud offers businesses many advantages. There are financial and operational benefits, as well as greatly improved business continuity and disaster recovery outcomes. In addition, it offers opportunities to streamline your technology stack, as your disaster recovery site can mimic your production environment closely.