An IT disaster recovery (DR) plan is vital for just about any modern business. It’ll ensure your mission-critical data is unaffected and readily available whatever might happen to your primary site.
But how would your experience differ if you were to implement your IT DR strategy in the cloud as opposed to adopting a more traditional colocation approach? And which is better for your organisation?
One of the key differences between the two strategies is your level of control. If you’re using a colocation facility to create a mirror version of your primary environment, everything – from decisions on hardware brand and specification, to software and hands-on maintenance schedules – is defined by you.
This level of control can be desirable – perhaps you have a specific way of working and well-established systems with which you and your team are familiar and comfortable. Indeed, you may have a highly tuned environment that depends on an exact setup to function correctly, or specialist equipment that is needed to meet certain accreditations or satisfy compliance requirements.
This level of control extends to deciding on where your data resides, which may again be important for data sovereignty and compliance requirements. Further, when choosing colocation for your IT DR strategy, you can be certain that your secondary environment is sufficiently geographically separate from your primary setup. Of course, you would need to ensure that the location is within convenient travelling distances to allow your IT teams to attend to maintenance and trouble shooting responsibilities: in a disaster scenario, one of the last things you want to do is send your engineers to the other side of the country to carry out such work.
But on the subject of responsibility, it is important to acknowledge that with the highest degree of control, comes the highest degree of operational overhead. With a colocation setup, the hardware and support of your DR environment sits largely with you. Financial overheads are also likely to be higher with a physical duplicate of your primary IT operation: all of your hardware needs to be purchased, and over time, replaced as it reaches end of life.
Thanks to the rise of solutions like DRaaS (Disaster Recovery as a Service), using the cloud for DR can be a more cost-effective option than colocation. A large degree of this efficiency is due to the fact that a secondary environment located within the cloud does not require capital outlay on replicated and largely redundant hardware (which would also need to be maintained and replaced in due course).
Instead, a DRaaS strategy allows you to consume secondary resources on an economical “as needed” basis. Your DR environment (and consumption of the associated compute resources) needs only be activated as often as is required to synchronise data, perform remote maintenance or configuration, and – should an incident occur – when you need to evoke your DR plan.
As nice as it is that with cloud the hardware investment and management is somebody else’s headache, you won’t have the same level of control over the underlying infrastructure, and you may have less freedom to choose where your data lives. So, if data sovereignty is important and cloud is the route you want to adopt, you’ll need to ensure you choose a provider that can offer guarantees on this front. Similarly, it will be important to ensure that your virtual environment is hosted separately (geographically and in terms of network) from your primary IT infrastructure so that your resources will be available in a disaster scenario.
Choosing between cloud and colocation for disaster recovery will depend largely on your budget, location, and required degree of autonomy. In some cases the decision will be clear-cut, in others less so. Whichever camp you find yourself in, take your time to consider the case for each strategy - find (and ideally visit) a provider that can offer both routes for an objective conversation that will help you to identify your best approach.
P.S. Don’t forget about your staff!
There’s no doubt about it – almost any modern business needs access to data and IT to function. However, a live IT environment isn’t much use without a connected and well-equipped workforce, which is why your DR strategy shouldn’t just focus on where and how you’ll back up your data and IT resources. Ensuring that your staff will have somewhere to work should also be one of your top priorities.