If it’s not your expertise, leave disaster recovery to the experts
May 16th, 2017

Johan Scheepers, SE Director MESAT for CommVault in South Africa

By Johan Scheepers, Commvault Systems Engineering Director for MESAT

With technological innovations on the rise and hardware and software becoming more complex as a result, the tasks associated with the upkeep of IT operations have become more time-consuming as well. Rather than giving their IT department more resources to address these challenges, IT teams are finding themselves having to do more with less. In such a situation, the IT department becomes focused on keeping the lights on and the printers running and has less time to proactively contribute to the business as a result. A recent CIO.com survey revealed that 72% of IT departments that were polled admitted that balancing business innovation and operational excellence is a constant struggle because they are overburdened and under resourced. This affects the IT team’s ability to provide visible value to their company –  but how can such a situation be resolved without throwing money and resources at the problem? A smart approach would be to reduce the workload for the IT department, as it relates to operational tasks to enable IT to become a contributing business unit rather than simply fulfilling orders based on everyday maintenance needs. One way to do this is to make use of Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS).

The upside: makes business continuity sense

DRaaS is the replication and hosting of physical or virtual servers by a third-party service provider in order to provide failover facility in the event of a disaster. Businesses are starting to replace their traditional disaster recovery methods with DRaaS because of the multitude of benefits offered. Firstly, it assists the organisation to reduce costs and relinquish the responsibility of their disaster recovery data centre and infrastructure to a service provider, which means they no longer need to ‘double’ their infrastructure costs in order to replicate a DR site for that data centre.  Furthermore, there is no outlay for hardware or software, which means also that there are indirect cost benefits to be enjoyed – such as no longer having the cooling requirements, floor space and power costs associated with such a site. More importantly, DRaaS provides organisations with the flexibility of IT as a utility and as such, factors like Recovery Time Objective (the time required to restore data or a service after a disaster or disruption) and Recovery Point Objective (how much data the organisation is willing to lose) can now be defined and determined by the SLA with the service provider, making the process far simpler for the business. Not only does relinquishing responsibility for DR to a service provider make financial sense, it also makes business continuity sense.

Third-party DRaaS providers stake their reputation and their livelihoods on their ability to fulfil their promises, which is why SLAs are signed. While DRaaS is beneficial for companies large and small, it must still be noted that support staff is still required, however, by having disaster recovery as a service, most of the complexity in disaster recovery is removed by having a specialist take care of the business’ DR infrastructure and SLA requirements. Because DRaaS features a utility model of cloud computing, it can have a significant positive effect on a business, given that it enables companies to scale their store/compute with ease and speed. While on the other hand, with the in-house data centre scenario, it’s simply much harder increase or decrease store/compute with any kind of urgency as servers should be commissioned, routed through procurement procedures and so forth. In short, DRaaS is essentially a ‘pay-as-you-use’ model which, in addition to being more economical, is far simpler to design, build and run.

The only downside: location can be problematic

Physical accessibility is the most apparent snag to DRaaS, given that an organisation’s data resides in a remote data centre, the company concerned will not have physical access to it. As such, if a component needs to be physically accessed, it ought to be routed through the service provider. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that this is not a challenge unique to DRaaS, and the same will be experienced with any other type of cloud service with data centres located elsewhere in the world.

In addition, this merely highlights the importance of conducting due diligence checks when selecting a service provider, as not all disaster recovery service providers are created equal. It is necessary to ensure that the provider chosen is compliant with data legislative requirements and that they have security built into the platform. Before engaging any services, it is prudent for the business to establish the classification of the service provider’s data centre and to read the fine print in their SLAs. Over the next year or so, it’s likely that there will be a rapid adoption of DRaaS with smaller and mid-sized businesses, simply because these organisations are ‘ready’ to move to a DRaaS model.  By virtue of the fact that their IT budgets are tighter than those of their larger counterparts, the benefits of moving to DRaaS will be realised quickly, nevertheless with so many DRaaS providers out there, it is critical to choose the one with services that best suit the company’s goals and objectives.

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