The risk of cyberattacks, hardware failure, and other disasters is real, and these risks can catastrophically disable a system or application; they can even render an entire cloud environment inaccessible in some cases. When disasters are not managed as risks, disruptions to business processes are to be expected.
A disaster recovery plan is basically a plan—or a set of plans—to mitigate disasters. As the name suggests, a disaster recovery plan details how to recover from disasters, listing several scenarios and solutions in the process. With a disaster recovery plan in place, the entire IT team can work according to plan rather than scrambling to get the issues fixed.
Of course, having a disaster recovery plan isn’t just important for the sustainability of business processes. If you take a closer look, planning for disaster recovery has other, more fundamental benefits.
Let’s start with a simple fact: no business, cloud environment or system is too small to have a disaster recovery plan. When there are risks of business disruptions to manage, planning for disaster recovery is the immediate and obvious solution.
One of the benefits of having a disaster recovery plan in place is fewer mistakes. When scrambling to get systems back online, it is easy for tech specialists or server admins to make mistakes. These additional mistakes, combined with the effects of the disaster, could lead to catastrophic results.
A disaster recovery plan also allows for faster recovery from severe situations. You know exactly how to get the system back online and everyone can immediately focus on the tasks assigned to them. Disaster recovery time can be cut by a whopping 90% with a plan in place.
Cost savings are additional benefits to be gained from planning for disaster recovery. An efficient set of steps and countermeasures can be immediately put in place in the event of a disaster, so no resources are wasted in the process.
Last but certainly not least, there is the fact that good disaster recovery planning leads to fewer long-term effects. If you want to limit the impact of disasters on your systems or business processes, planning to deal with them is how you do it.
These fundamental benefits lead to bigger impacts, which makes planning for disaster recovery even more important. If you are an e-commerce business, for instance, being able to recover quickly leads to a lower loss of sales.
The big question to ask is: can your systems survive a disaster? This is how you get started with mitigating the risks you actually face and crafting a suitable disaster recovery plan for your cloud ecosystem.
As an added note, disaster recovery needs to be tailored to your environment and situation. A disaster recovery plan for business solutions running in the cloud will be different than plans designed for on-premise solutions.
RTO vs. RPO
Before we get to the approaches that can be implemented when planning for disaster recovery, we need to take a look at two important metrics: Recovery Time Objective and Recovery Point Objective. Recovery Time Objective or RTO is the timeframe during which services, systems, or entire environments need to be recovered.
RTO is usually based on the timeframe in which problems can be solved before they start disrupting business processes. For an e-commerce site, RTO can be as short as an hour; users will notice immediately when your e-commerce site is down, so you need to recover the site faster before you start losing sales.
Recovery Point Objective or RPO, on the other hand, is the timeframe during which data can be recovered safely as part of the disaster recovery process. The metric is tied to business continuity rather than business process disruption.
RPO is often linked to disaster mitigation measures such as regular backups as well as other components like data integrity. Smaller RPO also translates to higher complexity, since more resources need to be allocated to ensure smooth and successful recovery of both the system and the data it stores.
RTO and RPO are linked to service level. RTO focuses more on getting the system back up in the event of a disaster, while RPO is more tied to making sure that data integrity remains maintained in the event of a disaster. Now that we have the two metrics in place, it is time to continue with the next part of disaster recovery planning.
Time vs. Money
Smaller RTO and RPO equals higher resource allocation, so requiring small RTO and RPO means spending more money to make sure that the required resources are available. For larger businesses, the higher cost is justifiable; the potential loss of income is usually higher than the cost of getting systems recovered quickly and correctly.
Bigger RTO and RPO, on the other hand, means allocating more time to the process. You don’t have to make a large number of resources available for disaster recovery purposes. For example, there is no need to spool up extra S3 buckets or assign more server admins, so the cost of recovery from a disaster becomes lower.
Based on these approaches, you can organize components of disaster recovery and find an equilibrium. Disaster recovery planning is always about balancing the cost of recovery and the time needed to complete the process. The available components to add to your disaster recovery plan are:
- Data and database backups, including backup routines designed to protect your data from disasters. Backup routines lead to the allocation of cloud storage for backup purposes.
- Batch processing workloads and the computing part of the system, which results in allocation of compute engine.
- Network recovery, including services like DNS and environment management.
As for the approaches, you have three to choose from.
- Cold approach: Which means you only allocate resources to keep the system alive, with little to no spare for disaster recovery components like backups. This is the most cost-efficient approach, but it is also the riskiest to adopt.
- Warm approach: Which balances cost and time by adding spares to the equation. You have extra storage blocks and compute engines to work with, so you can deal with system failures and disasters to a certain degree; the environment becomes easier to recover too.
- Hot approach: Which is the most comprehensive, with redundancies and additional resources protecting your system entirely. Recovery from a disaster is a matter of switching from the main resources to the backup ones. However, the approach is the costliest.
Regardless of the approach you take, one thing is clear: disaster recovery is important. There is no better time to plan for disaster recovery than right now.
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