Since we wrote this blog, we've put together a longer guide to answer more common questions about DRaaS. Find out more here: What is DRaaS?
Disaster recovery (DR) has long had a reputation for being costly and resource-intensive. It’s associated with high-overhead tasks like having to transport your taped backups off-site once a week, or investing in a secondary data centre for failover in the event of a catastrophe.
As such, it’s been interesting to see the proliferation of increasingly cost-effective, cloud-based options described as DR-as-a-service (DRaaS) over the past few years. But what exactly is DRaaS?
A quick definition
Put simply, DRaaS involves creating an on-demand, cloud-based replica of your operational IT environment that can be evoked quickly and easily should it be required. In a non-DR state, it is activated, synchronised and tested periodically depending on your recovery point objective (RPO).
This is regardless of where your live environment normally resides – it could be in another cloud, in a UK colocation data centre, or even in an on-premises server room.
Why use DRaaS?
While this sounds like a basic IaaS solution with an automated backup component, it differs in that it’s only switched on when you need it – a few hours a week, for example, based on how often you need to create a backup of your live environment. You’ll either call your provider to ask them to turn it on, or control it yourself via an online portal.
This makes it incredibly cost-effective, especially for smaller companies who can’t afford to create a replicated physical environment, let alone maintain, refresh and keep a DR environment live 24 hours a day. With DRaaS being in the cloud, you get the benefit of flexibility with capacity and less pressure on your finances. So, if you only need eight hours of usage per month, you’ll only pay for those eight hours.
Drawbacks of DRaaS
That said, it’s important to note that DRaaS isn’t a silver bullet for all your DR pains. DRaaS shouldn’t be seen as a complete DR strategy in itself, and many of the same considerations apply as with the use of any other cloud (or physical infrastructure) service.
For one thing, you need to consider whether your DRaaS provider is resilient enough for your business’ needs. Would their data centre be knocked offline by the same kind of events that put your own premises at risk? If so, how easy would it be to get access to your mission-critical data? You should ensure that your IT DR environment is geographically separate and operationally diverse from your primary site.
Security may also be a concern, as there’s a lot of residual scepticism around storing high-value data in the cloud. For many, DRaaS is still a new and untried concept, and some companies (especially those in regulated industries like law and finance) will only make the move to cloud after it has “demonstrated rock-solid reliability and security”, according to the BCI’s Mohan Menon.
Finally, keeping your IT environment live is only one aspect of great DR planning – another is ensuring your workforce can still connect and do their jobs. Even if we no longer need to consider physical infrastructure in disaster recovery planning, we still need physical space for people to work.