Traditional or Cloud-based Disaster Recovery: Does It Matter?

October 28, 2020
Cloud, Disaster Recovery, Hybrid IT

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In the U.S., 70 percent of organizations experienced unplanned IT service disruptions. This can be anything from a storm knocking out the data center to ransomware taking over servers, underscoring the importance of having a strategy for disaster recovery.

Without a disaster recovery (DR) plan, companies could potentially lose everything: valuable data, revenue, customers, and more if they are unable to quickly recover from a business-disrupting event.  Developing a solid plan, however, isn’t always easy. There are a number of factors to consider, including whether traditional disaster recovery or a cloud-based DR makes sense for the organization. 

The Traditional DR Backup Option

Traditional DR can be as simple as backing up data to removable media like disks or tapes and manually taking them off-site for storage until they’re needed. At the other end of the complexity spectrum, companies can choose to maintain a complete remote data center where data and applications are replicated on dedicated backup servers and storage, and data, applications and systems configurations can all be restored.

At first glance, backing up data to disk or tape seems like a good option for keeping data safe until it’s needed in the event of a disaster. It doesn’t require a lot of specialized equipment or expertise, and anyone from the IT team to a line of business user can change out the removable media.

However, a lot can go wrong with removable media. The backup software and/or the backup media can fail. The cost of the disks or tape can add up quickly. The person responsible for backing up data can make mistakes.  The time between data backups can result in lost data.

In addition, tapes or disks stored on-site can be lost if a disaster strikes the facility. Storing backups at an off-site location solves that problem, but a safe disaster recovery site location costs money. It also takes time to physically transport media to an off-site location, as well as to retrieve it and pull the information off the media. Data backup also doesn’t do anything for applications and system configurations — both of which are integral to disaster recovery.

That’s not to say traditional media and backups don’t have their place in disaster recovery plans. Companies may want to keep copies of everything from the least important to most critical data for the purpose of compliance, and for pinpointing recovery of anything ranging from an employee’s emails for e-discovery to a deleted file from five years ago. But removable media on its own isn’t enough for a strong disaster recovery plan.

Off-site Data Centers for Traditional Disaster Recovery

Most companies choosing traditional disaster recovery opt for a hot, warm or cold disaster recovery facility. Each of these disaster recovery options have their advantages and disadvantages.

A hot site is a fully equipped data center with servers that can be brought online within hours of an adverse event. Choosing a hot site for disaster recovery is expensive, but it’s also a great way to minimize downtime and data loss and ensure business continuity.

Meanwhile, a cold site includes the basic, bare-bones infrastructure needed to run a data center, but little else. Companies need to supply their own equipment and configure it, which may take weeks to bring online. It’s the least expensive of the options, but the most work and may result in the most downtime.

Right in the middle is a warm site, which provides basic infrastructure but requires some lead time to prepare servers and go online. It costs less than a hot site, but the lead time required may negate the financial benefits.

Any of these DR solutions require that the facility be located so that any regional disaster doesn’t affect both the production and DR sites.  However, data takes more time to travel longer distances. If you need synchronous replication to meet your RPO or RTO, the DR site will need to be in closer proximity to your production site. You’ll also need staff on hand to help with the DR solution implementation. 

Cloud-based Disaster Recovery

With cloud-based DR, typically offered using the “as-a-service” model, the entire server, including the operating system (OS), applications, patches and data, is contained in a single virtual server, removing the need to invest in hardware on-site or off-site. The server can be copied or backed up to an off-site data center and spun up on a virtual host in minutes. Because the virtual server is hardware independent, the OS, applications, patches and data can be safely and accurately transferred from one data center to another without reloading each server component.  This makes backup between locations faster and more cost effective than other options.

Additionally, companies can lower their ongoing operating expenses because they don’t need to maintain remote equipment, including power and cooling costs. Capacity and performance can be allocated on demand, so you only pay for the resources consumed. Because the cloud is designed for remote management, it speeds up recovery. Compared to on- or off-site media-based DR, which can be cumbersome and expensive, such capabilities can make routine testing more practical too, helping to ensure the DR solution works when needed.

Finally, one of the biggest advantages of using cloud-based disaster recovery is redundancy. Cloud DR providers back up data to geographically diverse locations, which helps ensure business continuity even in the worst of circumstances. Companies that struggle with traditional disaster recovery may find most of their challenges solved by moving to the cloud.

Choosing the Right Disaster Recovery Solution

There’s no right or wrong DR solution. Both traditional and cloud-based DR solutions have advantages and disadvantages. It’s a matter of what works best for your organization’s needs. The only wrong solution is not to be ready, and that’s where US Signal can help.  

Our solution architects can assess your environment — including the entire IT stack — and right-fit data protection solutions that align with your business requirements for off-site location, media type, application, hardware, RPO/RTO, and cost. Our team can even take on the management and monitoring of your backup and data recovery services, freeing your staff to focus on more strategic endeavors. 

Go with US Signal’s Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) solution, and our team will also  work with you to create a regularly tested and updated DR playbook, helping to ensure things work the way they are supposed to work. Plus, US Signal data protection services are backed by SLAs for infrastructure availability and professional services response time.

For more information on DR solutions, download our free Guide to DR Planning, or check out our Disaster Recovery Plan Checklist to gauge your own readiness.  When you’re ready, call us at 866.2.SIGNAL or email: [email protected] to discuss your DR needs with a US Signal solution architect.