Guest Column | May 9, 2014

DRaaS Ushers In New Era Of Intelligence And Affordability

Virtual Communications Networks

By Subo Guha, vice president of product management and marketing at Unitrends

In today’s explosive, data-driven growth environment, small to mid-sized organizations are struggling to ensure adequate protection and preservation of their most important assets: their data, applications, and systems. Increasing data volumes and storage complexities are making it harder than ever to rely on physical and virtual backup and recovery systems alone. Yet there has never been a greater need to establish a safe working environment where data is not only protected, but also supported by an effective strategy that can be implemented in the event of disaster.

Enter Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) — a fast, reliable, and low-cost alternative to the ever-escalating costs of a second-site infrastructure. Leveraging the cloud in the same way that organizations around the world are circumventing the cumbersome management, maintenance, and upgrade requirements of managing data centers full of traditional physical and virtual technologies, DRaaS provides a new level of recovery capabilities at a fraction of the cost.

Sobering Survey Trendlines

Recent surveys reveal a number of sobering trendlines with regard to downtime and asset loss in a world that has long become accustomed to running on real-time IT access and interaction. Survey results include the following:

  • 93 percent of companies losing their data center for over 10 days file for bankruptcy within the year of its occurrence.
  • 43 percent of companies suffering catastrophic data loss never reopen at all. 
  • 50 percent of all tape backups fail to restore.
  • 25 percent of all PC users suffer data loss every year.

While on-premise and virtual systems provide a first line of defense designed to prevent these eventualities, one question remains. What happens if these environments are damaged or destroyed?  With cloud-based replication, an organization’s assets do not live solely in those environments, so it does not matter. Those assets are still there in the cloud, even when the physical or virtual environments are no longer available.

DRaaS enables organizations to recover their systems, bring them back online, gain access to their data and applications, and continue on a functional level until full recovery and restoration of the physical business on premise can take place.

Not intended as a long-term disability solution, but instead as a short-term assurance of business continuity due to immediate ramifications of a major IT failure, DRaaS lets organizations move operations to a live, remotely accessible environment while maintaining essential system functionality.  Even more important, it enables entire site spin-up into the cloud prior to the advent of any substantive event, and then allows for testing to ensure the organization can meet its recovery point objectives (RPOs), recovery time objectives (RTOs), and service level agreements (SLAs).

Dynamic Interplay Of Cost And Functionality

For many organizations, particularly in the small to mid-sized bracket, it’s a dynamic interplay of cost and flexibility. Tunable resiliency levels and broad platform meet the challenges of the former, while DRaaS contract terms represent a dramatic departure from the cost-heavy approach of standing up a proprietary data center solution.

Of course, part of the efficacy of any DRaaS system is its ability to fully integrate with the physical and virtual systems it is backing up. The key is to establish and maintain an overall solution mix throughout a multi-environment platform of physical, virtual, and cloud-configured technologies that enables an organization to play it safe by building an effective storage utilization strategy across the enterprise.

To achieve that objective, best industry practices dictate the development and deployment of a comprehensive disaster recovery plan to recover applications, networks, and business services, including primary and secondary sites. Within that plan, RTOs and RPOs for critical applications must be well-defined to set proper expectations and assumptions for management and staff, and critical applications need to be tested frequently to validate recovery capabilities. Having DR governance and SLA management in place and periodically tested to a functioning DR policy is imperative.

Unified Solution Portfolio

As data recovery technology evolves, its next phase of development will be focused on increased levels of automation and self-service. Today, the primary service component of DRaaS is replication to the cloud. In the days ahead, it will move to the recovery of an entire IT stack and instant automated failover. From there, self-service portals and public cloud storage gateways will emerge which enable organizations to reach beyond their own storage walls and give customers the freedom to choose their public cloud of choice.

Dramatically expanding the breadth of protection and public cloud options, DRaaS will offer unprecedented opportunities to facilitate storage between clouds, expand cloud gateways and optimize orchestration and compliance testing on a scale determined by each organization’s specific needs.

Ultimately, it is not just the solutions themselves, but the ability to structure the right mix of each across a multi-environment landscape of physical, virtual, and cloud-configured configurations.  No two organizations are the same. Thus, to be successful, data protection and disaster recovery vendors must have a unified portfolio of tools they can employ across all of them to ensure the unilateral level of operational safety their clients demand — at a price they can reasonably pay.

DRaaS is the key to that portfolio, giving small to midmarket organizations a faster, easier way to optimize their disaster recovery practices and enabling them to enter a new era of intelligence and affordability that ensure their business will continue to run in the event of any unforeseen disaster.