Historically, disaster recovery (DR) preparedness required substantial time and financial investment; for many, DR was out of reach. Today, cloud-based DR is poised to shake up legacy approaches and offer frustrated infrastructure and operations professionals a compelling alternative.
Instead of enterprises buying resources in case of a disaster, cloud computing and its pay-per-use pricing model allows them to pay for long-term data storage while only paying for servers during testing or in the event of a disaster. This provides significant cost reduction and removes several barriers to entry for many firms looking for faster recovery than what they can receive from tape.
While many different offerings today wear the badge of "DR in the cloud," Forrester Research has found that many of these do not offer the basic feature of the ability to recover resources at the provider's site.
To help cut through the hype, we define the offerings as falling into one of three main categories of cloud-based DR solutions:
-- Do It Yourself (DIY) DR in the cloud involves using a third-party provider's cloud to architect a custom solution leveraging the agility and speed of the cloud. For infrastructure and operations professionals who are very confident in their expertise in both cloud and DR, DIY approach is a flexible and cost-effective option.
-- DR-as-a-service (DRaaS) solutions are prepackaged services that provide a standard DR failover to a cloud environment that you can buy on a pay-per-use basis with varying rates based upon your recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO).
-- Cloud-to-cloud disaster recovery (C2C DR) is the ability to failover infrastructure from one cloud data center to another, either within a single vendor's environment or across multiple vendors.
Unique Risks And Rewards
Like any emerging solution or service, there are special considerations that early adopters must understand upfront. For both infrastructure and operations managers and business professionals who have complained that DR feels a lot like very expensive insurance, cloud-based DR could make a lot of sense given the prospect of easier, more frequent, and less expensive testing, as well as pay-as-you-go-pricing. However, it's still early in the game, and DR in the cloud is by no means a proven use case at 11% overall adoption. Despite the strong economic and flexibility benefits of cloud-based DR, it also comes with difficult security compliances, murky security SLAs, and few proven vendors in the market.
Build An IT Continuity And Data Center Road Map
More than two-thirds of your peers are either actively adopting or at least interested in implementing cloud-based DR. If this isn't on your infrastructure road map, now is the time to begin investigating it. If you're already on the path to adopting cloud-based DR, Forrester recommends the following best practices:
Start with the low-hanging fruit. Not every application in your portfolio will be an ideal fit for DR in the cloud. Start with applications that have a strong track record of performance in your virtual environment but aren't supporting your most critical systems, giving you the leeway to try different approaches and vendors and get your feet wet.
Understand SLAs and be realistic. Understand the service-level agreements of your solution so you don't receive any unwelcome surprises. Many DRaaS providers will not guarantee RTOs and RPOs but promise to make best efforts to meet them. Across all providers, you'll find few who are willing to take financial responsibility if you are unable to recover or who can guarantee availability of resources when needed (due to oversubscription).
Rightsize the recovery resources. To really take advantage of the cloud economic model, infrastructure and operations professionals must scrutinize the amount of resources needed during recovery and try to keep this minimal; take advantage of elastic scaling only if needed. During a disaster, most business units can afford to--and are prepared to--operate at reduced speed or capacity.
Prioritize testing. One significant benefit of running your DR infrastructure in the cloud is that it makes testing those components less expensive and disruptive. However, since the majority of enterprises will not host their entire recovery infrastructure in the cloud, just certain applications and services, end-to-end testing becomes more complex. Understanding interdependencies between applications as they span traditional and cloud-based recovery will be critical to ensure smooth operations after failover.
Rachel Dines is a senior analyst at Forrester Research, serving enterprise IT infrastructure and operations professionals. She will be speaking at Forrester's Infrastructure & Operations Forum, May 24-25, in Las Vegas.
The pay-as-you go nature of the cloud makes ROI calculation seem easy. It’s not. Also in the new, all-digital Cloud Calculations InformationWeek supplement: Why infrastructure-as-a-service is a bad deal. (Free registration required.)