Deep Dive Into Cloud Disaster Recovery for 2023
Cyber disasters affect thousands of businesses annually, and the impact is widespread. From physical servers and network infrastructure to operating systems and internet connectivity – a cyber attack, power outage, flood, or fire in a company’s physical location, production environment, or headquarters can freeze all business functions, resulting in significant business disruption.
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To avoid the potential costs, legal ramifications, compliance penalties, and reputational damage that often comes with a data loss incident, disaster recovery (DR) is mandatory for all businesses. And while traditional, on-premise DR approaches used to suffice – modern cloud-based models offer added security, reliability, and efficiency.
In this article, we’re walking you through the benefits of today’s cloud-based disaster recovery strategies. Keep reading to learn how cloud storage ensures backup safety and enables faster disaster recovery for uninterrupted business continuity.
What is cloud disaster recovery?
Cloud disaster recovery (cloud DR) refers to all the strategies and services a company uses to back up data, applications, and other resources in cloud environments managed privately or by a dedicated managed service provider (MSP).
The purpose of cloud DR is to help protect the business-critical data, solutions, and systems that companies rely on to do business. Unlike traditional DR, cloud disaster recovery is based on cloud connectivity for near-instant failover in a secure cloud. Businesses benefit from higher security and lower implementation and maintenance costs by storing data in the cloud rather than on a local device. Additionally, self-service technologies empower users and deliver more robust protections leveraging modern automation.
Cloud disaster recovery for businesses of all sizes is typically offered as a software-as-a-service solution known as DRaaS or disaster recovery-as-a-service.
Who needs cloud disaster recovery strategies?
Due to the time and labor-saving benefits, cloud disaster recovery strategies have become extremely valuable to companies in the last few years. According to a Global Forecast Report through 2027, the disaster recovery as a service market is expected to grow from $8.8 billion in 2022 to $23.5 billion by 2027, at a CAGR of 21.6%.
The steep spike is attributed to companies of all sizes needing disaster recovery, so cloud disaster recovery is a growing profitable offering. Small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) often adopt a pay-as-you-go model to scale storage and retention according to their needs. This model, or a worry-free, seemingly “limitless” or high-limit solution, frees SMBs from strict contracts. Larger organizations and enterprises may opt for a private cloud or adopt a hybrid approach, where data is stored both on-premise and in a public or private cloud for added security.
Many SMBs don’t have an internal IT team and choose to outsource IT infrastructure and security to a trusted MSP. MSPs take responsibility for data backups and cloud disaster recovery while also ensuring the operational execution of the disaster recovery plan. That includes providing complete and safe backups, proactively testing cloud disaster recovery readiness, supplying comprehensive solutions to deliver business continuity, enhancing security based on current threats, and guiding businesses through data restoration during a disaster.
Why is cloud disaster recovery important?
Cloud disaster recovery protects critical data and makes it available during natural or manufactured disasters like power failures, power outages, accidents, or cyberattacks – all possible threats that may prove particularly harmful in today’s business environment.
According to Uptime’s 2022 Data Center Resiliency Survey, 20% of organizations experienced a “serious” or “severe” outage in the past three years. Meanwhile, 80% of data center managers had to deal with some type of outage in the same interval. Over 60% of failures cost companies more than $100,000 in outages, and 15% of them we assessed upwards of $1 million. These numbers have increased since 2019, suggesting that the threats and consequences of a breach are becoming more severe.
To ensure business continuity, cloud disaster recovery helps reduce downtime after a data loss incident. Not only does that lower the potential cost to restore the business, but it provides confidence that no matter what happens – the business can keep running quickly.
Benefits of having a cloud disaster recovery plan
Compared to traditional DR, a cloud disaster recovery plan provides several key benefits, including the following:
On-premise DR forces organizations to rely on their own data servers, but cloud disaster recovery uses the cloud providers’ data centers. These companies have a global footprint and typically operate multiple data centers in different geopolitical regions. They regularly invest in fool-proofing their data center infrastructure and can provide evidence of safety through recognizable certifications.
Businesses may also choose to store data in both a primary data center and a secondary data center belonging to the same cloud provider. With data storage redundancy, businesses avoid having a single point of failure, which can threaten rapid and reliable disaster recovery and data availability.
Cloud disaster recovery is typically offered on a pay-as-you-go model or without limitations. Pay-as-you-go allows businesses to scale up or down depending on current needs and seasonality. As resources are added and removed, costs change accordingly, and businesses benefit from the flexibility. “Worry-free” models offer the same flexibility but without resource control. Instead, companies get storage and retention limits so long they can scale without worrying about surprise overages and fees.
Traditional DR is costly because of the required investment in owning and managing servers, storage, network, and software tools. These require high initial purchase costs and recurring infrastructure and human resources expenses.
On the other hand, cloud disaster recovery through public cloud services or disaster-recovery-as-a-service providers offers businesses seemingly limitless resources through a single predictable monthly cost. In this case, hardware and maintenance costs reduce to zero without compromising data security.
Restoring from the cloud is significantly easier and faster than traditional disaster recovery. Often enabled by automation, self-healing capabilities, and self-management opportunities, cloud disaster recovery is hands-off. Traditional disaster recovery, however, is labor-intensive and usually requires higher-skilled technicians.
The primary catalyst for modernization in the cloud is speed to recovery. The goal is to lessen the impact of a data loss incident, and preventing downtime and business disruptions is critical to achieving that goal.
The best cloud disaster recovery providers focus on maintaining a secure ecosystem. They should constantly assess their environments against security factors like Network Security, DNS Health, Patching Cadence, Endpoint Security, IP Reputation, Application Security, Cubit Score, Hacker Chatter, Information Leakage, and Social Engineering. As a rule, data centers should be SSAE 16 Type II certified, SOC certified, and at a minimum, comply with HIPAA regulations and the EU’s GDPR.
Planning an effective cloud disaster recovery strategy
Creating a cloud disaster recovery plan involves seven general steps:
Step 1: Assess infrastructure and potential risks.
Every successful disaster recovery plan starts with a full assessment of the current IT infrastructure – considering everything from assets and equipment to data and intelligence. After you know what you have, prioritize everything based on business continuity requirements. Then, complete an internal or external risk assessment based on available resources to identify potential threats to the business. With an all-inclusive view of the business from a security perspective, you have a guide for designing the disaster recovery strategy.
Step 2: Conduct a BIA and determine RTO and RPO.
A Business Impact Analysis (BIA) showcases how each disaster could affect the company and what types of operations would be restricted. The role of a BIA is to reveal threats and vulnerabilities while enabling the development of disaster recovery planning strategies to minimize risk.
Because a BIA assesses the impact of a potential disaster, it requires clear KPIs, like recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). RTO represents the maximum time your infrastructure may remain offline without affecting business operations. RPO is the total time your company can tolerate data loss.
For example, if your solution’s RTO is two hours and its RPO is one hour, admins must schedule back-ups every hour to ensure operations can resume in 2 hours. Businesses in sensitive industries like finance, banking, and healthcare often require an RTO of less than one hour and an RPO of 15 minutes.
Step 3: Create a step-by-step disaster recovery plan.
Once you have set the parameters of your RTO and RPO, design the system and procedures that deliver these results. A step-by-step disaster recovery plan encompasses immediate and long-term planning in a detailed guide that is regularly practiced, updated, tested, and revised.
Make sure you don’t miss out on any critical pieces of your disaster recovery plan using the article, Your Guide to Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan in 2023.
Step 4: Identify the right cloud DR vendor.
Deciding what cloud to use for your disaster recovery strategy is a crucial step. With an all-in-one data protection platform, you enjoy all the benefits of cloud disaster recovery while also having the option to deploy backup and disaster recovery on-premise. The advantage of a flexible deployment option is you can choose what’s best for your business without managing multiple vendors.
You also need to vet the security of your cloud provider. Ask for certifications and data center security protocols when doing your due diligence and vetting potential vendors. Any reputable cloud provider will have this information ready and be more than willing to highlight its data protection measures.
Step 5: Assess how to access the cloud computing environment.
You can determine the necessary resources to move forward once you align your disaster recovery plan with your RTO and RPO requirements. These include infrastructure components, tools that enable you to copy data to the cloud, user authentication and management solutions, and security.
Step 6: Document everything.
The best way to ensure that every team member knows what to do in case of a disaster is to put everything on paper and mention even the finest details. This way, you leave as little room as possible for human error. The place for documentation is in your disaster recovery plan.
Not only should your DR plan be the central location for all things related to disaster recovery, but it must always be accessible. What if your operating system goes down? How will you get the DR plan? What if phone and email systems go down? Do you have contact information for all of your disaster recovery team members? Practice drills help to answer questions like these and reinforce plan accuracy in different recovery scenarios.
Step 7: Test your cloud disaster recovery plan again and again.
Testing your cloud disaster recovery plan is not a one-time thing. To ensure it meets your business’s needs, you should retest it regularly and update it whenever necessary. Typically, your DR team should meet every quarter for regular updates and at least twice a year to perform table reads to identify holes and reevaluate current threats.
Things to consider when choosing a top cloud disaster recovery provider
Identifying the best cloud disaster recovery provider for your business is a complex process that requires you to weigh your company’s needs against a provider’s capabilities and expertise. An ideal partner maintains data centers in low-risk areas worldwide and provides connectivity options with the major public cloud providers – Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud. We also recommend that you discuss the following with any prospective provider.
Certifications and compliance:
Your partner must comply with any industry regulations you’re responsible for following. For example, if you’re in healthcare, you must be HIPAA compliant. You may need to adhere to FINRA standards if you’re in financial services. And regardless of industry, any company working within the EU needs to be GDPR compliant. Failure to comply with these regulations could result in steep fines and penalties, so it’s best to find a provider with experience in fulfilling these requirements efficiently.
Additionally, you want a DR provider that is SOC 2 certified. SOC 2 is a security framework that specifies how a business should protect customer data from unauthorized access, cybersecurity incidents, and other vulnerabilities. SOC 2 certification lets you know that your business is backed by a provider who values security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.
One of the best things about cloud disaster recovery is that it uses the cloud instead of appliances. That means you don’t have to worry about hardware failures and outages, maintenance, and all the stress of having a physical device.
Your cloud disaster recovery provider will invest in the hardware infrastructure of their data center, so you don’t have to. Regardless, you should always know their data centers’ technologies, protections, access, and locations. Your business is only as secure as the vendors you choose to protect it – so choose wisely!
Some more innovative DR providers are giving companies deployment flexibility with the opportunity for cloud-based and appliance-based disaster recovery in one solution. These options can be critical for fast recovery, cutting downtime, and keeping business running. An additional benefit is that these modernized providers can sometimes offer more robust protections and built-in automation to enable your business further.
References and industry expertise
Never trust a vendor on their word alone. Instead, check online reviews and testimonials from similar companies, read relevant case studies, ask for a list of partners and contact them directly, and get feedback or insights from your peers. You want to know that your DR provider can do what it says it can do, and they should have evidence of that to give you peace of mind.
Recovery speed and business continuity
Cloud disaster recovery is about keeping businesses running. The faster your company can recover from a data loss or breach incident, the less impact it will have on business. Recovery speed and the ability of your DR provider to ensure business continuity are critical to the longevity of your company. Beyond an SLA with a competitive one-hour RTO and 15-minute RPO, you want on-by-default, built-in, automatic features that accelerate rapid and reliable disaster recovery.
Compared to traditional DR approaches, cloud-based disaster recovery is a significantly safer and more cost-effective way to protect businesses when disaster strikes. Because cloud disaster recovery protects data in a reliable data center, companies can quickly virtualize in the cloud to keep running. This capability limits downtime during long device lag times, power outages, or physical disasters where on-site recovery is not an option. Without cloud disaster recovery, businesses risk waiting weeks without any way to resume operations.
Creating and deploying a successful cloud DR plan requires collaborating with a cloud disaster recovery service provider. Your provider will be integral in helping you develop a strategy that accounts for the business’s operations and desires, regulatory framework, and industry requirements.