Although it’s been talked about for years, and adoption rates are growing fast, Plan B, a leading UK DRaaS provider feels that the Disaster Recovery market place could do with a little more clarification. So, we thought we’d try to make it a bit easier for you by offering a definitive guide to DRaaS (Disaster Recovery as a Service). Discover what the pitfalls are when buying DRaaS and learn what questions to ask to ensure you get it right for your business.
- What is DRaaS? Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) is, as the name suggests, a fully managed IT Disaster Recovery Service. It applies to servers, rather than desktops, so should any failure occur that means that your servers aren’t working correctly (whether this be a hardware failure, software update that doesn’t work properly or power cut) then your DRaaS provider will get you back running on working systems again. In theory your IT department shouldn’t therefore have to become involved in recovering IT systems following a failure, but merely oversee the recovery process, leaving them to work on the production system to achieve long term failback as soon as possible. The service should also include testing of your Disaster Recovery solution to ensure that it is all working properly and certify it for compliance and regulatory purposes where required.At the other end of the DR spectrum, not to be confused with DRaaS, there are many good replication and backup products out there. For instance Zerto and Veeam offer replication tools but they require someone to run and manage them. As a general rule of thumb, if it comes with a user forum or guides then it’s not Disaster Recovery as a Service. If you’re happy to take accountability for IT recoveries in-house then these backup and replication products will service you just fine, as long as you can turn them into working systems for your staff.
- The Benefits of DRaaS.If you opt for a DRaaS solution then there are many benefits. Firstly, from a board level viewpoint, the majority of IT downtime stems from human error. It’s very easy for IT departments to make mistakes, we’re all human after all. But sometimes there are internal threats to businesses – we experienced exactly this when a company announced redundancies and suddenly found their data was going missing. Relying on your internal IT team when they could actually be doing more damage than good is a risky strategy. An independent provider who has no emotional ties to the business is often best to ensure failures don’t end up as total data loss.In addition to the internal threat, recoveries are very stressful and difficult scenarios unless you are well rehearsed. It is quite common for the pressure to get too much, or things to get quite tricky and the recovery process suddenly becomes a long drawn out affair, all the while the business revenue suffers. Much better to have someone who has experience of IT recoveries (and isn’t getting distracted by internal pressures) to take charge of yours? Recoveries will be faster, and cause less damage to your business.Finally, DRaaS providers will ensure that they are meeting service levels. We see testing getting waylaid as other business priorities become more important, and as it’s the only way to ensure your DR plan will work when you need it, we’re pretty adamant that is should happen. It’s all about increasing your changes of fast recovery, and mitigating your risk.
- The DRaaS landscape.If you’re considering DRaaS for your business then you may need to do some homework as not all providers are equal (although it’s hard to cut through the marketing hype).Recovery Time Objective (RTO). Firstly, does your DRaaS provider offer a RTO? This is quite standard and typically in the region of 4 hours, however an objective doesn’t carry much contractual weight, so try and opt for a DRaaS provider that offers contractual recovery time guarantees. They do exist as Plan B offers this – we guarantee to have you back to business as usual within 2 x boot time of your production system, or we refund a year’s worth of fees. It’s also worth noting that RTO’s often don’t mean you’re back to business as usual – check out this article for find more about recovery times and their hidden meanings.Recovery Point Objective (RPO). This is how much data loss you can expect. Be realistic – is a fast recovery more important to you than not losing an email? Losing a few hours data is often acceptable for a business, but if not there are options for continuous replication DRaaS services which means you can have data loss as low as 6 seconds. Again, find out if the RPO is contractual, or just that- an objective.
Testing. Testing regimes range. What you really want is a provider that tests your DR solution works to application level, not just tests that your data has been copied. There are a lot of difficulties that can be encountered when bringing the entire system back up, and you don;t want these happening in a real recover scenario. So, ask your DRaaS provider for regular testing to application level. We do it every 24 hours for customers so aim high!When does the recovery happen? I wouldn’t be surprised if 95% of DRaaS providers say the recovery starts when you log your IT failure with them. This is why recovery times can be predicted but never known for sure. What level of resource will you get? and when do they measure the recovery time from and to? Plan B actually carries out the full recovery and testing in advance of a failure- purely to enable us to offer a guaranteed recovery time.
Recovery time? Most companies will stop the clock when your first server has booted correctly, but before it has been fully tested and configured. But in reality it can be hours before employees are back to full productivity. It may sound negative, but it’s the reality and worth clarifying in advance before it’s too late! You can explore this whitepaper on “what is really meant by recovery time?” to understand how recovery times are perceived differently.
No doubt you may have other business considerations but with such huge variations in service levels make sure you do your homework before you buy. If you need any assistance please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Plan B Disaster Recovery