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A disaster can strike at any time, disrupting the delivery of software applications to your customers and your business’ continuity. Whether it’s due to an outage in your network, a natural disaster, or a bug in your code, downtime can bring your business to a halt, leading to lost time, customers and revenue. That’s why having a disaster recovery (DR) plan is so important.

Disaster Recovery: Traditional Way

Traditional disaster recovery involved off-site duplication of data and infrastructure. So, if something catastrophic were to happen to your primary data centre, you could quickly switch to the backup data centre to get critical applications up and running again.

This, of course, comes with duplicate work & may include at minimum:

  • Facilities to house the IT infrastructure, with management & security personnel
  • Enough server capacity to store all data and meet the scaling requirements
  • Support staff for maintaining the infrastructure
  • Internet connectivity with enough bandwidth to power your applications
  • Network infrastructure such as firewalls, routers, switches and load balancers

Disaster Recovery: Using Cloud

More and more companies are leveraging the cloud for disaster recovery. As per a recent study, more than 50% of companies are using cloud-based DR solutions and backup is the 2nd most widely-used application of cloud computing, with disaster recovery coming in 7th. Let’s revisit benefits of cloud-based DR: –


DESIGNING A DISASTER RECOVERY PLAN IN CLOUD

1.   Audit your infrastructure and assess your risks

  • Take inventory of your IT assets and assess the risks that might threaten them
  • Know all the IT infrastructure that your company owns, its count, it’s worth and where it’s located
  • Understand what applications access what data and how frequently, how much data you have, and where it’s all stored. Then assess the potential risk to all your assets
  • Risks can come in different forms such as on-site risks including fires, power outages & cyber attacks. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and other calamities can impact entire geographical areas. Less likely but even worse are regional or global events such as disease outbreaks, economic meltdowns, and terrorist attacks that can impact entire regions or nations.
  • Once you know what assets might be at risk and what events might negatively impact your business, you can better design a DR plan to mitigate those risks

2.   Perform a Business Impact Analysis

This will help you better understand the thresholds under which your business can operate after a disaster occurs. There are two key parameters that your DR team must determine:-

  • Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is the maximum acceptable length of time that your application can be offline before seriously impacting your business operations. Understanding your RTO is very important because that length of time directly correlates to the amount of resources you need to invest into your disaster recovery plan
  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO) is defined as the maximum acceptable length of time during which data might be lost from your application due to a major incident. To help determine your RPO, ask these two questions:
    • How much data can I afford to lose if disaster strikes?
    • How much time can elapse before all that data is lost? – This is your RPO. It helps inform how often you should back up your data.

3.   Design your DR plan according to your RTO and RPO

Now that you know what assets to protect and what your RTO and RPO are, you can design a system to accommodate your DR goals.

4.   Select Your Cloud Provider

After you’ve mapped out the approach you need to take to meet your DR goals, the next step is to select a cloud provider that can help you get there. If you have a long RTO and you’re using the Backup and Restore option, your decision might mostly come down to cost of storage and data transfer. If you need some level of environment replication, you should consider a few other factors when assessing cloud providers, such as:

  • Reliability
  • Speed of recovery
  • Usability
  • Simplicity in setup and recovery
  • Scalability
  • Security and compliance

5.   Set Up Your Cloud DR Infrastructure

Now that you have a cloud DR partner, you can work together to implement your design and set up your disaster recovery infrastructure. There are several logistical issues to consider, the complexity of which will depend on the DR approach that you select. They are: –

  • How much of each infrastructure component will you need?
  • How will you copy your data to the cloud?
  • What’s the best way to implement user authentication and access management?
  • What security and compliance systems will you need to set up?
  • What control measures can you incorporate to minimize the likelihood of disaster events?

6.   Document Your Recovery Plan

When an emergency occurs, you don’t want to leave any important tasks up to judgment. That’s why it’s imperative to document your recovery plan in the most detailed way possible. Each member of your staff should know their exact role in deploying the cloud disaster recovery infrastructure.

  • Who is responsible for reaching out to the cloud provider contact?
  • Who is in-charge of running the deployment script?
  • Who will route the web traffic to the cloud servers? 

Deployment instructions should be as specific and concrete as possible. A comprehensive document of your disaster recovery plan ensures that it is executed properly when disaster strikes.

7.   Test your plan regularly

Once your plan is created and documented, it’s important to test it regularly to ensure that there are no weak points. While your plan might look great on paper, you need to execute it in the real world to find out how robust it really is. Your first test will likely go terribly. Much of your staff won’t know what to do, processes won’t work, and communication will break down. It’ll be a mess. That’s a good thing because you’ll be able to plug the leaks and be better prepared for when disaster really strikes. Full DR tests should be run at least quarterly, and you can take weekly or daily snapshots of your backup infrastructure to ensure that it’s all running properly.

There will always be changes in your organization that will make testing more important. Employees may come and go, roles may shift, and processes may be modified. Testing your disaster recovery plan often will ensure you’re fully prepared for any emergency.

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