Disaster recovery (DR) is an evolving concept, especially as the DevOps revolution continues in the cloud and more companies begin to explore cloud DevOps and its unique challenges. Over time, an increasing number of disaster recovery as service (DRaaS) solutions have become available to assist organizations with their DR needs.
Picking the right DRaaS solution for your tech stack and development environments requires careful thought and consideration, as this could be the determining factor for your business’ success when recovering from a downtime incident. DRaaS tooling also has some major pain points, particularly if you lack experience with the solutions, which could affect how you implement your disaster recovery plan. Let’s explore these challenges and what to keep in mind when looking for a DRaaS tool.
Disaster recovery is the ability of a team or organization to recover from disruptions affecting business operations. There are two metrics to consider when evaluating the success of your DR strategy: recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). RTO refers to the amount of downtime your business can afford, while RPO relates to how much data your company can afford to lose. These two metrics have always been important for recovery, but are increasingly becoming critical measures of success, especially in the era of cloud, the surge of SaaS resource utilization, and remote work becoming cornerstones for many businesses.
Traditionally, disaster recovery has meant the creation of backup data, which is then utilized in the case of disasters. This, however, can be costly and hard to maintain, depending on your RTO and RPO set, and doesn’t adequately address urgent recovery needs for many modern businesses. For example, depending on the backup data and its location, it could be difficult to maintain the required RTO when attempting to access and load it. Similarly, the frequency of your data backups can determine just how complicated aiming for the right RPO will be.
This is where DRaaS can help. DR considers the entire strategy of an organization’s response to ensure that access to applications and their data is re-established as per the RPO and RTO objectives set. DRaaS fills the needs for more urgent recovery needs, which not uncommonly aligns with much of the DR around cloud DevOps work.
Pain Points of DRaaS
Performing disaster recovery is not a simple task, especially because it involves replicating critical resources and managing sensitive data, especially interdependencies of applications across multiple VMs. Outsourcing your disaster recovery management to third-party DRaaS vendors can create additional complexity, if not done correctly. There are a number of challenges teams should be aware of when looking at DRaaS tooling, as discussed below.
The whole point of a DR strategy is to ensure the highest availability of your services to your customers, both internal and external and maximize business continuity. DRaaS helps achieve this goal. However, relying on these resources means you are dependent on their resilience to incidents and disruptions. Your availability and disaster recovery protocols can only be as good as the availability of the DRaaS solution you use.
It’s worthwhile to remember that DRaaS solutions may experience some incidents or disruptions. As AWS CTO and VP Werner Vogels once said, “Everything fails all the time.” That does not necessarily mean that relying on DRaaS tooling is worthless. What it boils down to is what failsafe and incident response practices the solutions offer to ensure maximum reliability. It’s also why testing your DR strategy is critical to ensure the success of your plan when a downtime event occurs, and if you choose a managed cloud partner to assist you in your DR, to ensure you know their level of expertise and SLAs for delivery of recovery.
A disaster recovery strategy involves achieving the required RPO and RTO to meet your recovery needs. With RPO, the goal is to ensure that the data available at the point of recovery is appropriate for the various use cases within your IT landscape. This requires constant points of replication. It also means that sensitive business data is involved and could be affected by the DRaaS solution if the platform doesn’t adequately secure your critical data, or the location for the replicated data isn’t.
The matter of concern here is not whether you can achieve the desired RPO, but rather whether the data that needs to be recovered may have been compromised. That’s why it’s critical that your information is encrypted in transit and at rest, especially in your targeted cloud platform, so that none of it may fall prey to nefarious threat actors.
Any security breaches could represent a risk of legal action if customer data is in any way compromised – at the very least, the key protected elements of your business could be held hostage, which can damage profitability, business functionality, and your reputation.
How sensitive your data and security lapses are will depend on your environment and the industry you operate in. The DRaaS platform you consider should follow the compliance regulations that apply to your business, such as governmental regulations including FedRAMP, ITAR, DoD Security Requirements Guide, and HIPAA. It’s also worth factoring that insurance entities may require strict handling protocols for the protected landscape and insurance for C-level tech executives and the decisions they make.
Learning Curve and Adoption
DRaaS involves utilizing a third-party tool for the majority of your DR strategy. This means the management of your DR protocols is mostly handled by your DRaaS solution.
When adopting DRaaS solutions, the success of your business applications becomes intertwined with how effectively your team can migrate processes over to the new resources. The maturity of your development and site reliability engineering (SRE) teams in their current disaster recovery strategies is another contributing factor. For example, crucial time-consuming migrations may be required for editing processes, while in some cases, teams may have the luxury to build fresh processes.
Regardless of the work involved in setting up the disaster recovery protocols, your team’s success will depend on the support and usability of the DRaaS platform. The longer the team’s training period until the adoption of the tool, the greater the risk that your services will not meet the RPO and RTO goals you seek to achieve.
Benefits of DRaaS Resources
Despite the pain points, DRaaS solutions offer major benefits that make it a great option for your business applications.
Reduced Costs and Improved Reliability
Reliability can be one of the biggest challenges of some DRaaS solutions, as discussed previously, reinforcing the need to choose well-vetted resources and how an MCSP can assist in building the right plan to protect your IT landscape. Considering that the business value of these solutions is solely to help customers achieve disaster recovery objectives, you can expect these solutions to champion best practices. Adopting dedicated solutions will allow you to benefit from effective, out-of-the-box solutions. The alternative is to invest in specialized teams, which could result in higher costs to achieve the same level of expertise and services already available on the market via DRaaS solutions, as well as leaving your organization a gap if those staff members leave.
Speed and Efficiency
Many DRaaS solutions offer automation of disaster recovery processes, from the creation of replicated resources to reverting traffic to backup resources and data. By abstracting away manual processes, mean time to recovery (MTTR) is reduced. The layered resources an experienced MCSP can bring to your DR landscape only increase the value of your organization and its business processes.
Abstraction of Responsibilities
A DRaaS solution removes the burden of maintaining and building in-house solutions from your SRE, developer, and IT teams. This allows them to focus on building business applications with better direct value. It also reinforces the benefit of adopting any SaaS solution versus building in-house solutions.
This list is in no way exhaustive, and there are many more benefits of adopting DRaaS solutions. The question now is what factors to consider in choosing a DRaaS solution, in order to overcome the pain points and reap the benefits.
What to Consider in a DRaaS Platform
As noted, DRaaS solutions provide a major advantage to organizations looking to achieve their disaster recovery objectives. Next, we’ll explore the main considerations in choosing a solution that fits your needs.
Depending on the tools you are using to build your business applications, the main consideration should be how compatible the solution is with your current tech stack. Depending on how easy it is to directly integrate your application development tools and service-hosting tools, migration to the solution may be far simpler. This will help to overcome the challenges of adoption discussed earlier.
The ability to automate repetitive and error-prone processes common with disaster recovery protocols greatly increases team efficiency. Domain experts can configure automation, while normal responders can safely execute the automated processes knowing they will indeed be executed. The automation capabilities will also depend on the tool integrations the DRaaS solution provides. The best DRaaS solutions are essentially set-and-forget with their automation functions.
Access Control and Permissions
While there will be many people requiring access to the DRaaS solution, not all should have the same permissions. Instead, access should be role-based, commonly known as role-based access control (RBAC). For example, not everyone should be able to perform write operations, as well as the replicated data sets. This is critical since the tool is used during incidents to ensure the availability of services to customers.
Both coarse RBAC permissions should be available, as well as granular-resource RBAC where specific resources being managed by the DRaaS solution have their own restrictions. Therefore, it’s essential to ensure the security of the information being managed and to increase the tool’s reliability by only allowing the right people to perform specific operations.
When it comes to service management functionalities like reporting, assisted migrations, and license key management, the pain point of adoption can be greatly mitigated. The purpose of this functionality is to make it easier to get started with the solution and to provide additional benefits that would not be considered with in-house solutions.
Reliability and Availability
Expectations regarding the reliability of the solution of choice are usually based on the level of support available and what is dictated in the SLAs and SLOs. As discussed, your disaster recovery is only as good as the availability of your DRaaS resource and your target platform. Having the right level of support and understanding of what to expect when the DRaaS solution itself is experiencing disruptions are important.
This is an area where a good MCSP, as well as a reliable target cloud platform, add considerable value to the effectiveness of your DR strategy, especially when it’s critically needed. An MCSP will help provide a solid, reliable complement to your IT team, particularly if you have any DR knowledge and/or staffing deficits.
In the fast-paced world of application development, where developers are pushing to improve metrics related to velocity and availability, your application systems are more sensitive to disruptions and at greater risk of attacks.
The same is true of more general business-line applications that modern companies rely upon for general operational needs, as well as critical frontline applications serving and/or supporting their customers. This has created a growing need for disaster recovery by itself, as well as the risks associated with cybersecurity threats – all of which, in turn, have led to rapid growth and utilization of DRaaS solutions. These tools, however, aren’t infallible.
Understanding exactly what the DRaaS solution offers and how it plays into your business objectives will help to overcome any shortcomings and allow you to get the most value from it, as well as developing a cohesive DR strategy to protect your critical business resources in the event of a downtime event.
RapidScale has extensive experience helping clients survey their IT landscape, as part of building, documenting, implementing, and testing a DR strategy, along with offering target cloud platforms for the replication of those applications, data, and virtualized infrastructure needing protection to be stored on. You’ll also see why we consistently have one of the highest customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores in the business, averaging 4.8 out of 5.0.
Contact us today to learn how we can help you protect your valuable resources.