Getting back up

ACN takes a closer look at disaster recovery, examining its importance and the cornerstones of an effective strategy

Tags: Acronis (www.acronis.com)Disaster recoveryUnited Arab EmiratesVMware Incorporatedveeam (www.veeam.com/)
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Getting back up As bad as a service disruptions are however, the lack of a proper disaster recovery plan could prove even more devastating still.
By  Alexander Sophoclis Pieri Published  March 7, 2017

Disruption of services, whether planned or part of a nefarious plot, could prove to be quite costly for many organisations. Not only is there a substantial financial loss for each passing minute that the service remains unavailable, but there is also the reputational damages to consider, which may leave many enterprises losing face with both their end-users and investors.

As bad as a service disruptions are however, the lack of a proper disaster recovery plan could prove even more devastating still. Service downtime could end up lasting two to three times longer than it needed to be, or in even worse cases, data may be permanently lost.

Having a plan or strategy in place that is ready to go at a moment’s notice, could spell the difference between losing thousands of dollars in damages or losing it all completely.

Business contunuity planning

With the number of reported cases and cyber threats across the globe on the rise, it is unsurprising that the discipline of disaster recovery has become quite a popular one, but is sometimes misunderstood.

“While disaster management or emergency management is the creation of plans through which communities reduce vulnerability to hazards and cope with disasters, business continuity planning (BCP) is the process by which organisations plan to protect their business assets in the event of a variety of different types of disasters,” explains John Zanni, chief marketing officer and SVP Channel and Cloud Strategy at Acronis.

“Disaster Recovery is just one aspect of a BCP program and is focused on how to protect an organisation’s data and ensure that the applications needed to run the organisation are available when needed.”

Boasting over two decades of experience working in the data protection business, Acronis develops on-premises and cloud software for backup and disaster recovery. In that time, the company was beeen witness to the overall growth and maturity of the market.

“As more and more organisations are impacted by government regulations and recognise the needs for the protection of data and business continuance through the entire supply chain, we are seeing more organisations adopt backup and disaster recovery solutions to protect their business,” comments Zanni.

The CMO went on to add that recent adoptions appear to have been fuelled by the availability of more cost-effective solutions, such as Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), which can deliver the same robust capabilities that were previously only viable for large enterprises.

Furthermore, with the wider acceptance of cloud computing as a secure alternative for protecting critical IT data, he sees more companies opting to leverage DRaaS to protect their business.

The adoption of disaster recovery services, in particular the adoption of DRaaS delivery models, has also been dependant on a variety of factors.

These range from cultural acceptance of the internet to deliver services, the impact of natural disasters, regulatory mandates for disaster recover solutions, as well as the ability to move data, both in an out of the region.

Additionally, availability of infrastructure within the region is also a critical factor.

The CMO also believes the influences of current IT trends could have an impact on how the disaster management market could evolve.

“Disaster recovery will include enhanced capabilities to support protection of hybrid production environments (on-premise, cloud, colo, etc.), enhanced automation capabilities around change management, increased pro-active security and auditability, and increased focus on recoverability of the applications required to support organisations,” Zanni concludes

DRaaS and the virtualised environment

Though primarily known for its range of offerings within the cloud and virutaliation software market, VMware, a subsidiary of Dell Technologies, has developed its own own portfolio of business continuity and disaster recovery solutions.

Within the Middle East region, the company has seen a sharp increase in demand for DRaaS solutions, particularly with its own vCloud Air Disaster Recovery platform. Despite this however, the team at VMware still blieve the pace of adoption needs to hasten dramatically.

“To foster the adoption of disaster recovery and business continuity solutions, Middle East governments need to further put in place regulations that guide and enforce the establishment and adoption of business continuity solutions,” comments Ahmed Auda, managing director – MENA, VMware.

“By providing guidelines and timeframes on compliance for businesses and government agencies, these regulations can help to secure national interests and business continuity.

“One recent global study showed that over 40% of organisations that experience a disaster never reopen, and the vast majority of SMEs have no offsite backup, a major issue in the Middle East where the majority of organisations are SMEs,” he adds.

Switching gears to discuss how disaster recovery is approached from the virtualised environment, Auda explains that organisations face a different set of challenges, which include deliberation over cost of purchasing solutions and legal considerations, in addition to ensuring the right vendor is selected.

The managing director also highlighted the increasing adoption of DRaaS, a segment whose popularity stems from the fact that it allows users to avoid purchasing infrastructure and software for secondary or tertiary disaster recovery sites.

Pointing to a report on the global DRaaS, the findings project the market is poised to triple in value, reaching $3bn by 2019.

“In choosing DRaaS solutions, Middle East organisations should weigh different factors – including potential downtime and data loss, the number of machines that are protected, how robust the failover testing has been, the length of recovery point objectives, and the solution’s flexibility and scalability,” explains Auda.

“Legal considerations also include looking at data sovereignty laws, ensuring the contracts with service providers have SLAs defined. We highly recommend that organisations look for solution and service providers that allow them to run ‘fire drills’ on demand to ensure that the organisation is ready for a real disaster event.”

The right kind of strategy

So how complex is an effective disaster management strategy? According to Rick Vanover, director of Technical Product Marketing & Evangelism at Veeam Software, there’s a wide-range of factors to consider.

“The first technology service needed in a disaster is communication. Whether it is email or phone systems; communication lines have to be established,” asserts Vanover.

“But the big indicator is that it’s not just a mail server or phone system online; users and client software may need to be in place and pre-requisite systems may need to be online as well (such as DNS).

“Additionally, a disaster recovery management strategy should be built in terms of applications and their associated requirements. This way, the business can decide and be made available in terms that they understand,” he adds.

For the last decade, Veeam has built a solid reputation for itself within the global backup market. The IT company’s disaster recovery platform, Availability, which was launched in 2016, has reportedly been adopted by over 230,000 organisations across the world.

Continuing to expand on the capabilities of the platform, recent additions to Availability include the Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365, the company’s first backup for a SaaS offering.

The company also released Veeam Agent for Linux, designed to back up Linux workloads, both in the public cloud and physical servers, as well as alternative hypervisors. Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows is due out later this year.

“The key drivers and innovation areas that have enabled more advanced disaster recovery are advances in virtualisation technologies, cloud & service provider technologies and advanced storage systems. These infrastructure technologies pave the way for software vendors like Veeam to deliver a rich availability experience to organisations of all types,” comments Vanover.

When pressed on what he saw as the chief challenges around disaster management, the director pointed out the dangers of inferior applications, which more often than not can prove to be a significant “bottleneck”.

From his standpoint however, he believes that organisations will often “justify the internal pain of changing a critical application knowing that there is a much improved availability experience on the other side of that conversion.”

“Organisations are leveraging cloud and service provider technologies to introduce capabilities that would not be an option before,” he concludes.

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