Avoiding an IT systems outage with significant downtime is at the top of the priority list of most enterprise IT departments. In my last blog post I outlined three reasons why managed services empower IT operations, and made the case for a move to a more strategic approach to IT management. Moving disaster recovery to the Cloud is one of the key scenarios for the creation of a dynamic and proactive IT environment.
Why move Disaster Recovery into the Cloud?
Traditionally, protecting critical business applications and workloads required building and maintaining a second on-premises data center, a massive and costly commitment. Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) solutions such as Microsoft’s Azure Site Recovery services extend data centers into the Cloud. This eliminates the costly business need for a second on-premises data center and enables a dynamic approach to disaster recovery that includes hybrid and heterogeneous IT environments.
Moving disaster recovery to the Cloud creates a lot of flexibility for management. Increasing or decreasing capacity based on business needs is easier and cheaper than with traditional on-premises or outsourced solutions. Instead of having to commit to specific service levels and amount of storage, it can be scaled as needed. Cloud infrastructure is sold as a variable cost, utility pricing model.
Compare this to second on-premises data centers, where you pay costly ongoing fees simply to make sure your servers and other hardware are configured the same way they are in your primary data center. A properly configured DRaaS solution is way more cost-effective. The DRaaS pricing model and total cost is attractive, but the real value is the agility and flexibility it provides to an IT organization.
For example, replicated virtual machines can be pushed to any location in the world. This makes it efficient to spin them up in the event of a disaster and reduce downtime to minutes. Simply put, DRaaS creates greater protection and redundancy.
Why use Microsoft Azure as your DRaaS platform?
There are several different DRaaS solutions in the market, many of them limited best-of-breed approaches that aren’t able to scale across geographies and platforms. One of the advantages of using Microsoft Azure for disaster recovery is the sheer size of Microsoft’s global cloud platform for business. It is astonishing how quickly Microsoft is expanding its cloud business both in terms of international reach and in terms of feature innovation. Hardly a week goes by without some kind of new feature being introduced or a new region being added.
Another advantage is the flexible integration with other cloud services Microsoft and third-party vendors offer. With Azure, Microsoft provides the cloud service itself, and includes a cloud migration and disaster recovery utility. Azure Site Recovery is a core component of Operations Management Suite (OMS), Microsoft’s multi-cloud management service.
With Azure Site Recovery, it is possible to protect most workloads running on a supported virtual machine or physical server. Due to application-aware replication, they can be brought up in an orchestrated fashion and recovered to an intelligent state. This includes complex, multi-tier workloads. Networks can be customized by mapping virtual networks between the primary and recovery sites.
Azure Site Recovery provides test failovers to support disaster recovery drills without affecting production environments. IT organizations can run planned failovers with a zero-data loss for expected outages, or unplanned failovers with minimal data loss for unexpected disasters. Microsoft provides recovery plans that can include scripts and Azure automation workbooks so failover and recovery of multi-tier applications can be customized.
Microsoft has enabled Azure Site Recovery integration with SharePoint, Exchange, Dynamics, SQL Server and Active Directory, and third party applications from vendors, including Oracle, SAP, IBM and Red Hat. Azure even allows Cloud to Cloud recovery with multiple providers, for example machine replication between Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS).
One of the broader issues with disaster recovery in the Cloud, and with cloud computing in general, was data governance and the perceived lack of control where a company’s data resides. Using a business cloud platform such as Azure takes care of this issue. If you need data centers in several countries and are planning to add new ones as your business grows internationally, Azure is currently generally available in 28 regions around the world, and has announced plans for six additional regions. At the same time, if compliance reasons require your business to keep data centers within one geographic region, that is possible, too, including the metadata Microsoft needs to enable and orchestrate replication and failover.
Why use Disaster Recovery as a Service with Managed Services?
If well planned, moving to the Cloud is more cost effective and opens up new strategic IT scenarios. However, setting up and managing cloud-based DRaaS isn’t necessarily less complex than traditional on-premises solutions, even with a flexible solution like Azure.
Disaster scenarios to consider include application failure, data corruption, network outage, failure of an application dependent service, region-wide service disruption, and others. It’s important to plan for each of these. Each of these scenarios requires a thorough planning approach and prioritization. For example, do all your applications really need immediate backup and recovery in a disaster? Some applications are likely more critical than others.
Planning and putting an effective disaster recovery plan into action requires specialized skill sets that most IT teams lack and, if not managed properly 24/7/365, can make things worse. In a real disaster scenario, if a replication didn’t work and as a result the IT environment is inconsistent, your problems may actually be worse than the already daunting prospect of losing weeks of data. Most organizations don’t want to take on the costs for dedicated resources just to see if constant replication is working properly or to conduct annual tests.
By adding on Managed Services, your IT organization will gain on-demand resources and skills for strategic disaster recovery planning and management, and peace of mind that the health and performance of critical business applications and workloads are always monitored and protected.