A survey released by VMWare highlights that 56% of companies state the ‘need for improved disaster recovery capabilities’ as a key factor driving their move to hybrid cloud. But how exactly does hybrid cloud improve disaster recovery capabilities?

Let’s start by explaining hybrid cloud; the combination of a public cloud provider (e.g. amazon web services, google cloud) with a private cloud platform that is designed for use by a single organisation. The two infrastructures operate independently of each other but can communicate over an encrypted connection. This enables a company to store their protected data on a private cloud, whilst running applications from the public cloud, benefiting from the scalability and cost effectiveness offered by the cloud, whilst retaining control of mission critical data and applications to assist with compliance and security.

With 24% of these companies confirming their disaster recovery solutions as the first workload to move to the hybrid cloud, this includes extending the data centre for backup, hosting seasonal workloads or accessing geographical locations. The need for building secondary data centres is seen as negated, and the cost of capital and operational expenses are seen as significantly reduced.

With hybrid cloud, companies can therefore use the public cloud as a place to replicate their data to, whilst keeping their live data in the private cloud. Using hybrid cloud to improve your disaster recovery capabilities really therefore means that you are using cloud disaster recovery, but your live system is in a private cloud. Cloud disaster recovery can be harnessed whether your live systems are in the cloud or on-premise; so you can still reap the benefits of:

  1. Reduced cost. By syndicating hardware and software, virtualisation can reduce your costs significantly.
  2. Scalability. As your live system grows, your disaster recovery solution will be able to grow with it. Unlike in-house disaster recovery where you need to invest heavily on hardware once you outgrow a server, with the cloud then you can upscale with your live system. Enterprises can also have multiple sites, each acting as a primary during its region’s business hours and as a backup out of hours.
  3. Time Savings. Utilising the cloud for your disaster recovery means you don’t have to monitor and manage a second set of systems, which is very time consuming if done properly. This time is therefore freed up and can be used to focus on bringing a competitive advantage to your business through the use of technology. Testing is much easier and can be done without impacting your live system.
  4. Access from anywhere. When your recovery platform is in the cloud you can access it from any device with an internet connection.

With hybrid cloud, data can be moved easily from the private to the public cloud, with leading providers offering solutions to enable you to manage this in-house – moving data at the click of a button; with a private cloud, it’s likely that you’ll need an appliance on site to securely encrypt and transfer data or images to the cloud. The data transfer process is less flexible as it is normally set up by your cloud provider to run the same process repeatedly. Arguably though this is less likely to lead to errors as less human interaction will take place (human interaction being the main cause of IT disasters).

Enterprises that opt for muti-site hybrid cloud solutions will need to consider how they may use their sites as both primary and backup sites during open and closed hours. Complexity can therefore increase.

Perhaps one of the key considerations for using hybrid cloud as a disaster recovery solution is that the recovery process is complex at the best of times, and failover planning from your live site to a public cloud requires a lot of planning. Architectural complexity must be factored in for the disaster recovery solution to work properly, and every time the live system is updated the disaster recovery process should be updated and tested. Lower recovery times can be achieved but a lot more of the recovery work must be done in advance, and testing must be a regular regime to avoid unforeseen errors which can draw out recovery time.

It is also important to distinguish the difference between a backup and a disaster recovery solution. Simply copying or replicating your data to the cloud may sound like a disaster recovery solution to some, but in actual fact it’s a backup solution. The disaster recovery part is the process of recovering your entire IT systems, not just accessing your data backup, following an IT outage. You may need to plan the recovery process if you only have a data replication service. It is wise to check whether your replication solution is replication of your entire IT systems, or just data replication. These are very different solutions.

So, in answer to the question, how does hybrid cloud improve disaster recovery capabilities? It enables you to have more control and flexibility at your fingertips. It also enables you to adapt quickly to changes within your business e.g. seasonal ones. If you like to manage your disaster recovery in-house, then this is an attractive option. However, if you would rather leave your IT disaster recovery to the specialists, which has the benefits of less human intervention, and less risk of error, then cloud disaster recovery solutions are available for both cloud and on-premise systems. It’s just then a case of choosing one from the vast array that meets your reliability, recovery time and recovery point objectives.

Tim Dunger, Plan B Disaster Recovery

By Tim Dunger

Director,Plan B Disaster Recovery