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Disaster Recovery 2.0
November 2018, This Week's Editor's Pick, IT infrastructure

Whether it is caused by cataclysmic weather, technological malfunctions or human actions, an IT outage can be devastating. Unfortunately, the perceived cost and complexity of disaster recovery put many decision-makers off having extensive plans in place with some foregoing them completely. Yet, any business is likely to face some form of downtime and service outage at one stage or another.

Kate Mollett, regional manager for Africa South at Veeam.
Kate Mollett, regional manager for Africa South at Veeam.

Companies can suffer from a range of issues when an outage occurs. At the lower end of the scale, there is the loss of employee productivity. This cost in itself can soon mount up, with Gartner estimating that firms lose on average R75 000 for each minute of downtime.

But with the rise of digital, businesses are under more pressure than ever to deliver an ‘always on’ service, as downtime can have serious consequences for their customers. Just consider the financial and reputational implications that a bank can suffer if its systems should go down during the weekend shopping rush. More recent local examples include three of the big four banks all suffering from varying degrees of downtime on their mobile apps and online services the past several months. This resulted in customers unable to access services and even pay at retail outlets using their cards.

An unplanned outage can happen to any business, at any time. IT teams must ensure that they have a redundancy plan in place so that, as and when a company is affected, data remains available and the impact of the incident is mitigated as much as possible. Far from being a ‘nice to have’ or a sign of excessive caution, disaster recovery is a business imperative.

Fortunately, today businesses can take advantage of the cloud and Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) to ensure that they are properly protected and always online.

Safety in the cloud(s)

Cloud computing offers an excellent alternative to traditional disaster recovery methods, be it using DRaaS from a service provider or simply putting backups in the cloud. Moreover, when an outage takes place, businesses do not need to wait for on-premise servers to be recovered or incur the delays – and occasionally the risks – of having IT teams travel in person to the recovery site.

DRaaS is a valuable cloud-based model. The approach delivers comprehensive disaster recovery by replicating a business’ physical or virtual servers to provide failover. With DRaaS, business-critical applications can be up and running almost instantaneously after an incident.

Like other ‘as a Service’ models, DRaaS offers significant advantages for businesses of a range of sizes. The lower costs make availability accessible for smaller businesses who could otherwise have struggled to implement such a service in-house. Equally, its scalability benefits the larger enterprises, whose needs might vary depending on the number of servers, applications and databases being used at any one time.

Implementing DRaaS

To develop the most appropriate strategy, and to evaluate the role of DRaaS, businesses must consider disaster recovery in the context of their overarching business strategy. The best place to start is with a business impact assessment.

It’s important to work out which apps and business processes are most critical to keeping the business available all day, every day. Estimate the maximum amount of downtime the business can stand for each of these business processes before it fails. From there, work out what your ideal recovery targets would be for these apps and processes.

In the South African market, compliance is an important consideration for scoping a disaster recovery strategy. With both the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA) and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) from the European Union top of mind, companies must ensure that they understand where specific data will go once shared. Any service provider worth its salt will be fully compliant with the legal requirements of the geographies they operate in. By finding the right platform, businesses can be confident that their strategy is both comprehensive and fully adherent to local laws.

Often overlooked, but incredibly important, businesses must regularly test the viability and quality of their backups. This enables them to be certain they are completely recoverable, that the plan will function as expected, and all data is where it needs to be.

When it comes to data and IT services, there is a significant risk a business may never recover if it is not adequately prepared. We live in a digitally transformed world and many businesses cannot operate without the availability of systems and data. Even though the full value of DRaaS might not be realised immediately, the right disaster recovery plan could prevent an outage from becoming a catastrophe for a business.

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Further reading:

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