It’s a big decision for any leadership team to take. Building your own DR site and managing it in-house is often initially thought of as the desired option – easier for compliance and security and with 100% control. Outsourcing on the other hand, alleviates the time and stress of managing the problem in-house, yet involves handing control of your data over to a third party. Your DR strategy can cost or save you thousands depending on what happens when you experience IT downtime, so the following factors should be taken into consideration and discussed with the leadership team before the final choice is made.
Building a Disaster Recovery Site
In order to build your own DR site, which will give you a live platform and a secondary backup platform, all the hardware and networking in the DR site need to be identical to the first. This means identical servers and operating systems which are all the same versions and patch levels as the primary site. Backup systems should be powered, VLAN’s in place and the software updated so it is exactly the same as the live system. Every configuration needs to be replicated to the DR site, no accounts missed, and it all needs to be regularly tested to work as flawlessly as your live system.
The benefits? Should you have an IT Disaster, you can simply flick a switch and all traffic is instantaneously re-routed to the recovery site. No loss of data, no IT downtime, no loss of productivity. A seamless recovery. You maintain your reputation and financial status, and your data is always held securely on your systems with no third party access so compliance and security departments are appeased. It’s the ideal solution, but although the benefits sound very appealing you’ll want to consider the reality.
The reality is that this duplicate site is very rarely (if ever) achieved as optimally as outlined above. For a start it’s a very expensive option to set up and then it’s highly challenging to maintain. The investment required is often underestimated – it means near doubling capital IT expenditure, as every change and upgrade needs to be duplicated – which, considering the fact that the DR site is used for such a short time period relatively, is rarely viable. Then there’s the operational expenditure. Maintenance and testing utilises man-hours, which again costs significant investment.
What typically happens is because the customers rarely see the benefits of a DR site, it’s often shunted down the priority list when it comes to maintenance; tests get postponed, often to a point where they don’t happen. The fantasy of an up to date, tested replica of your live systems becomes in reality a slightly old and unreliable, untested standby system built from decommissioned kit. The software is out of date and unpatched, and errors start to appear.
The end result?
If you manage to successfully build and maintain a disaster recovery site then there’s no doubt you’ll have the best solution. This is highly recommended. However unless 100% performance of your DR site is maintained, then when you do encounter an unexpected issue – a hardware failure, natural disaster or internal or external threat on your IT systems, your DR site will fail to offer you the protection you had planned. The cost of repairing and reconfiguring your DR site to regain smooth business operations, and the cost of prolonged business downtime all need to be considered. Weighed up against the high capital and operational expenditure and this option can becomes increasingly difficult to justify.
When considering outsourcing disaster recovery, the cloud offers one of the best options to companies today.
The benefits? Significantly lowering cost and releasing your business to focus on areas that can offer a competitive advantage–if you can stand to lose control. The cloud offers the ability to syndicate hardware – sharing the cost with others and therefore reducing costs on capital outlay. Maintenance costs will also be reduced as a specialist provider will be able to share resources amongst clients. In some cases automation helps to further lower the cost of maintenance thanks to automated daily recovery and testing. Overall costs should therefore be much reduced.
When it comes to performance, advancements in technology enable customers to have RTO’s and RPO’s that range depending on the criticality of the server – a strategy of spreading budget so that more critical servers are instantly accessible, whereas less critical services have longer RTO’s and RPO’s means that businesses no longer need to have to have a ‘one size fits all’ DR approach. Broadly speaking, anything is possible if you find the right suppliers. Recoveries can be guaranteed within certain timeframes so you have 100% assurance that IT downtime won’t affect your business.
The reality can still be very different from the ‘sales pitch’ however, so it is wise to do your research. The meaning of ‘recovery time/RTO’ needs clarifying (what level of recovery do they deem to be acceptable within SLA’s?) and still, some solutions never get off the ground. In a recovery situation, companies are still feeling let down by their suppliers and business interruption following IT downtime is causing them to look elsewhere which in turn, wastes time and money. Your data will be handled by a third party which leads to compliance and security questions, all of which takes time to work through with the supplier and feel comfortable with.
The end result? Find the right disaster recovery supplier and you can save significant amounts of money and have a tailored solution to fit your business which leaves you free to focus on the real needs of your business. Choose the wrong supplier though, and you’ll be left with another option that doesn’t cut the mustard.
By:Beth Baxter – Marketing Manager Plan B Disaster Recovery