The cloud is increasingly a part of business, and any failure in distributed infrastructures could result in a potentially costly downtime.
Cloud computing is a reality that most businesses today are facing. While there are still holdouts — especially businesses that have security and data sovereignty issues — the cloud will be prevalent to practically all businesses in the mid-term. In fact, if the early nineties and aughties were all about having an online presence as the minimum requirement for brands, then the next five years are all about businesses completing their cloud migration.
Gartner estimates that by 2022, businesses would have already shunned their corporate “no cloud” policies and thus embrace the benefits of cloud platforms, amid some potential risks.
Of course, the benefits outweigh the potential risks: shorter time-to-market, lower infrastructure and storage costs, greater agility in using IT resources, and the ability to optimize the use of infrastructure.
However, there is also a potential downside. Given that your business does not have 100 percent control over the infrastructure when you are deploying apps and services over a cloud provider, then you might be worried about leaving your business assets and reliability to the hands of a third party.
Significant infrastructure downtime is among a business’ worst nightmares, as it can mean losses in terms of sales, productivity, and customer trust. Other concerns include security breaches, software issues, or even human errors — all of these can lead to tangible costs with monetary value.
What’s important is for a business to ensure it has adequate redundancies and safeguards in place, which can help mitigate the potentially damaging effects of such risks and threats.
In this article, we will discuss the best practices that can help ensure the reliability of your cloud-based systems, and that can help ensuring the integrity of your service in the event of a downtime. These particularly involve Disaster Recovery (DR) solutions, as well as Business Continuity (BC). Together, BCDR means your system can bounce back from any eventuality, which can involve downtime, data loss, data breaches, and similar cloud catastrophes.
Disaster Recovery as a Service
With the emergence of the cloud as the preferred infrastructure for businesses, the need for services that give assurance of data integrity has also risen. This has brought Disaster Recovery as a service or DRaaS to light, and providers of all sizes are now offering their own DRaaS solutions.
Both AWS and Azure, for example, provide DRaaS services on their respective cloud infrastructures, which ensure that businesses running their systems on the cloud can have faster disaster recovery capabilities without the expense of deploying systems on second, third, or additional sites.
Independent providers also offer similar services, such as IBM, Idealstor, nScape, and the like. Some of these solutions specifically target cloud users, although these services can also provide an added layer of assurance for businesses that run their systems on on-premises deployments.
Not all DRaaS options are equal, however. As a business, you will need to take these following matters into consideration, in ensuring your DR capabilities are at par with today’s standards.
One disadvantage of the legacy approach to disaster management is that these are mostly manual. If you can remember the tape backups of olden times, or even making regular off-site backups, these are labor-intensive, and require some lead time before business continuity systems kick in.
The advantage of modern BCDR solutions is that these will make regular backups and redundancies of your system, without added human intervention. And when such a disaster or downtime strikes, the redundancies in place will automatically bring the system back up to speed, likewise without human intervention.
One area where most IT managers have concerns with is the ease by which they can manage their BCDR deployments. While this can be more easily done on pure-play cloud settings, it can be a different matter altogether when it comes to hybrid cloud deployments or even on-premises deployments that utilize cloud-based DRaaS.
For this purpose, a good solution will involve unified management across both cloud and on-prem deployments, to ensure that IT management can have better visibility over the backups, redundancies, and protocols in place. Solutions like Azure DRaaS promise just this kind of efficiency, given its legacy capabilities in Windows servers, as well as virtualization in hybrid cloud environments.
Another area that IT managers should watch out for is whether one’s DRaaS provider offers the ability to test the system on a regular basis. This means having the ability to simulate failures in a controlled environment, so that you know how well you can bounce back, how short the time-to-recovery is, and whether there is any manual intervention required when such an eventuality arises.
You can expect legacy solutions to require some manpower when doing such tests, but a modern DRaaS solution should provide some level of automation, so that you can keep poking and prodding your system for potential loopholes.
Actual post-failure capabilities
Now, this is the biggest test of your DRaaS deployment. Understandably, no business wants any infrastructure failure, but in the event that a disaster hits, it pays to be protected, or at least capable to bounce back. When such a disaster occurs, you will need to evaluate your BCDR provider, whether they are able to deliver as promised, whether your system can run fully on backups, and how quickly the actual time-to-recovery will be. Your BCDR provider should have the adequate agility and flexibility to address any extended downtimes and ensure fastest recovery times.
A final word
Businesses should not live in constant fear of system failures, but it is a reality of life that IT managers should be aware of. What’s important is that you should not live in fear wondering when an outage will occur. Instead, through BCDR solutions, you should be able to anticipate any potential system issues, which then lets you shift your time and resources to core business activities.
by Daan Pepijn