Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service: Why it Makes Sense

Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service:

Why it Makes Sense

Dave Kluger

CTO, Storcom

 

Storcom has focused on disaster recovery for many years now. DR/BC was one of the founding technology practices upon which we started the company. My background before working at Storcom, besides working for a few different hardware manufacturers, was focused on providing disaster recovery and business continuity solutions. I worked in the private sector for several large insurance companies and in the public sector for one of the largest defense contractors.

 

The COVID Curveball

So with that said, I can say this with certainty that in all of the scenarios we plan for that a global pandemic was not one of them. We covered about every other scenario you could think of, but not this. 2020 certainly threw us all a curveball! 

During the spring, when this pandemic was new, nobody understood what the impact to businesses was going to be. Storcom was faced with several requests to spin up client DR sites in our facility or Microsoft Azure. This was because IT executives did not know what impact potentially not having access to their IT environments would have on business operations. 

 

Accessing Physical IT Infrastructure During a Pandemic

Many of our clients have IT infrastructure running in office buildings in downtown Chicago. As a result of the pandemic, they were concerned that their office buildings would be shut down. They also feared that a lockdown could affect their ability to service their IT systems. We saw disruptions, although nothing to the extent where access to office buildings was severed. Thankfully, it never came to this point. However, technology projects became challenging to work on due to limited access. 

I am thankful that Storcom’s disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) solution was working as expected. Even though the pandemic was not a disaster in the traditional sense, some of our clients decided to execute their plans and failover to our data center or Microsoft Azure but with no intent to failback. 

With so many unknowns, some of Storcom’s clients decided it was finally time to get out of the business of hosting IT infrastructure. Infrastructure is susceptible to many risks before all of the COVID-19 challenges. Still, the events of 2020 were the final catalyst that cemented the decision not to continue down the path of owning and operating IT infrastructure. 

 

Disaster Recovery Planning is Crucial 

I want to highlight that during the time our clients had their DR/BC solution in place with Storcom, all of the planning and testing we did gave our clients the tools to rapidly transition to full production off-site. This was all performed without risk to their businesses. Having a solid DR/BC strategy in place, and thoroughly testing and executing that plan, is very important. 

Many times an organization starts building out a disaster recovery solution that will get their data off-site, but unfortunately leaves this most critical part and the most challenging part of the DR process alone. They then find out there is a problem when they really need the solution to work. Clients try to build out tasks like external connections to outside vendors on the fly, which can be timely and render a business inoperable without the proper communication channels in place. 

 

Can Your Business Truly Survive a Disaster?

IT leaders need to be asking: can your organization truly survive a catastrophic event? You may have the technology, but more importantly: do you have the plan in place or to execute on it? Furthermore, have you thoroughly tested your plan? Helping IT leaders answer this question was what I wanted to accomplish in this blog post by laying out what a service provider who manages a DR/BC solution should be providing. 

These points are similar to whether an MSP like Storcom uses the public cloud or uses our own data center. These questions are crucial when understanding the value of the solution you are considering. 

 

Real-World Example

Interestingly, I was on a call last week with a prospect, and the gentleman took the words out of my mouth when asked why he wanted to find someone to assist with a DR/BC solution. He listed off the reasons he needed a disaster recovery-as-a-service solution and his DR gaps one-by-one. 

At the end of selecting a new MSP to manage his company’s disaster recovery-as-a-service solution, this client no longer wanted to be in the business of running a disaster recovery solution. So let’s start there. Going back to what I said at the beginning of this blog, my background was working on a DR/BC planning team. 

In large companies, a department in these organizations was in charge almost exclusively on designing, deploying, planning, and executing BC/DR plans. For a company like Lockheed Martin, which has 150k employees, having a full-time staff that focused only on BC/DR makes perfect sense. Even with the high cost of the technologies Storcom uses for tasks like data replication like SRDF on an EMC Symmetrix, businesses just had to accept these kinds of costs for planning and testing. That is, if they wanted to do disaster recovery right… 

 

DRaaS for SMBs

What about the small to mid-sized companies where the downtime cost was not measured in seconds or minutes but hours or maybe a day? In the past, if your organization had a recovery time objective (RTO), let’s say a few hours, then the downtime cost was not as high as a bank or large insurance company. Thus, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a DR/BC solution did not make sense.

Instead, you backed up your data and had a plan that may take days to recover, but that was the best you could do because there was no cost justification to spend the amount of money it would take to build a true DR solution. Today, costs have come down on the underlying technologies, so much so that having a disaster recovery solution is affordable for almost any company. In fact, it’s advisable and commonplace for all businesses regardless of size to have a DR/BC solution.

With that said, this brings me back to what this gentleman told me on our call. He wants a disaster recovery service for all the right reasons. It is not the cost of one specific component of the disaster recovery solution, either. Instead, it is the total cost of ownership (TCO) and how it relates to the limited time his small staff has available to work on setting up a real BC/DR solution and its ongoing management. 

 

Common Disaster Recovery Challenges

Our prospective client noted that the following are his current disaster recovery gaps, and they align with the common challenges that many businesses face in BC/DR.

  1. He has the technology in place for disaster recovery, and his team partially tested it for a few years. However, he felt that so many changes had been made that it probably would not work properly anymore. 
  2. His networking needs evolved regarding connectivity to outside companies that access the data within his company’s IT infrastructure. Plus, his employees also need access. He understands that networking needs to be kept up-to-date. 
  3. His staff does not have the capacity to keep the disaster recovery plan up-to-date. Let alone the ability to make sure that everything that needs to be replicated daily is even being done 100% correctly. This is especially true when people are sick or on vacation, and he knows there are gaps. 
  4. The equipment at the disaster recovery site is older than what is in his production environment. He does not believe it is sufficient to function if there is a real long-term outage.
  5. He feels that his limited staff can be better-utilized on projects that are specific to his company in order to make it more profitable.  

 

Ways a DRaaS Solution Fixes DR Gaps

Now let’s compare the list this client’s gaps with what Storcom’s disaster recovery-as-a-service solution provides, whether we use our own data center or Microsoft Azure:

  • Storcom provides the management of the failover process in the event of a natural catastrophe, power outage, or another type of business disruption.  
  • Storcom manages all day-to-day responsibilities of the target location infrastructure and, in most cases, the software product providing the replication technology. We partner with leading disaster recovery technologies like Veeam, Quest, and Zerto to make sure all of this runs smoothly.
  • Typically, DRaaS requirements and expectations are documented in a service level agreement (SLA) and Storcom. The third-party vendor provides failover to the cloud computing environment used in the event of a disaster declaration.
  • Storcom will also provide services for the most critical component of our DRaaS solution: the Storcom DR Runbook. A “DR runbook” is a document or set of documents that list all processes and procedures necessary to bring the failover site online and replace the primary server location. The DR runbook also lists all of the failback procedures that need to be executed. 
  • Storcom, or a cloud vendor, will also have a pay-per-usage model for resources used during a DR test or an actual disaster recovery event. 

Very simply put, I can put a check next to each one of the gaps that this gentleman brought up during our conversation. This is what a managed service provider should be providing with an end-to-end DRaaS solution. I am happy to say that this company selected Storcom as their new DRaaS provider. This was primarily because we take the headache out of making sure businesses stay running in the event of a disaster. As a result, this organization can now focus on what’s truly important to growing their business. 

 

Choose an MSP Who Specializes in Planning and Testing a Disaster Recovery Plan 

In the end, the ultimate goal of any disaster recovery plan is to help organizations maintain their business continuity, minimize damage, and prevent loss. As stated above, choosing a solution provider who specializes in DR/BC planning and execution is the best way to ensure reliability of your organization’s disaster recovery plan. 

It is important that the MSP executes and tests your plan regularly. The appropriate personnel needs to simulate what they need to do to help recover business function should a disaster actually occur. Advanced planning helps an organization to minimize the amount of loss and downtime it will sustain. DR planning simultaneously creates the best and fastest chance to recover after a disaster.

 

Storcom’s DRaaS Solution

Storcom’s disaster recovery-as-a-service solution is based upon an SLA that provides a guaranteed level of services. Storcom regularly updates our infrastructure to make sure we are using the best of breed technologies from a hardware and software standpoint. All these update costs are part of an ongoing managed services fee. 

Most importantly, Storcom creates and maintains the disaster recovery runbook we use when regularly testing the DR/BC plan. We make sure to stay up to date on what is going on with your environment and how it will affect your business’ plan in the event of a disaster.  It’s our job as an MSP to make sure you can always answer the question: “can your organization truly survive a catastrophic event?” with a resounding YES!

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