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Efficient Disaster Recovery with Cloud Computing

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Introduction

Data is one of the most valuable assets that any company can hold. One of the best ways to store these assets is within the cloud. However, what can you do if a disaster affects your cloud data? It’s almost impossible to predict when you will need disaster recovery in cloud computing, so if you can’t control when a disaster strikes, the next best thing is to be able to control the recovery process.

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What is disaster recovery in cloud computing?

Cloud Disaster Recovery (CDR), or cloud DR, is a thorough strategy involving services and methods to protect data, applications, and assets. This protection is achieved by replicating these elements in public cloud environments or dedicated service providers. In a disaster, the replicated data can be utilized to restore affected systems to a local data center or a cloud provider. This allows the enterprise to resume its standard operations swiftly.

Cloud DR’s primary goal aligns with traditional disaster recovery strategies to safeguard critical business resources and ensure their accessibility and recoverability. This, in turn, guarantees business continuity.

 

Why is disaster recovery significant?

Creating protocols and contingencies for disaster recovery is vital for the smooth operation of business. In the event of a disaster, a company with disaster recovery protocols and options can minimize the disruption to their services and reduce the overall impact on business performance. Minimal service interruption means a reduced loss of revenue, which, in turn, means user dissatisfaction is minimized.

Having plans for disaster in place also means your company can define its Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and its Recovery Point Objective (RPO). The RTO is the maximum acceptable delay between the interruption and continuation of the service, and the RPO is the maximum amount of time between data recovery points.

Quantifying these areas can help your company identify its optimal protection level for disaster recovery and choose the proper protocols to implement, such as backups and multiple servers.

 

Role of Cloud Providers in Disaster Recovery

Cloud providers are disaster recovery lifesavers. They offer:

 

  • Rock-solid data centers: Spread out geographically to avoid single points of failure.

 

  • Backup & Replication: Secure your data off-site and keep real-time copies ready.

 

  • DRaaS (Disaster Recovery as a Service): Let the cloud provider handle your entire DR setup for faster recovery.

 

  • Security & Compliance: Keep your data safe and meet regulations with their expertise.

 

Developing a Cloud Disaster Recovery (DR) Strategy

This strategy involves aligning it with traditional contingency plans, with cloud services and Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) distinguishing it. Unlike conventional methods where data backup involves local variations, cloud-based disaster recovery utilizes cloud networks, such as an Amazon S3 container. Despite this shift, the core stages of executing DR remain unchanged, offering a new set of efficient tools and technologies.

 

Analysis: Initiating a disaster recovery plan necessitates a thorough risk evaluation and performance measurement. This involves analyzing existing IT facilities and business processes to recognize potential disasters, including security flaws, fraud, and natural disasters. The analysis assesses the organization’s preparedness to address these obstacles and predict a disaster’s economic repercussions. Furthermore, it determines Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs) and Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) for various facilities and tasks.

 

Implementations: The implementation phase involves a structured approach encompassing preparedness, prevention, recovery, and response. Preventive measures include initiatives to reduce potential threats and eliminate weaknesses, such as social manipulation training and regular OS updates. Readiness focuses on documenting appropriate responses during a catastrophe. The response outlines techniques and tools, including innovations like restoring data sets or Virtual server machines backed up to the cloud. Recovery involves achieving conditions for reaction and mitigating potential investment destruction.

 

Testing: Regular screening and reviewing of the disaster recovery plan are crucial. This ensures that IT personnel can accurately implement recovery efforts and that recovery occurs in a suitable format for the organization. Testing identifies discrepancies or inaccuracies in execution, allowing organizations to refine and update their disaster recovery plan well before disasters.

cloud-disaster-recovery-strategy

 

Advantages of Cloud Disaster Recovery

Cloud Disaster Recovery (DR) offers critical advantages over traditional approaches:

 

  • Pay-As-You-Model: Cloud services operate on a pay-as-you-go model, eliminating upfront capital costs. Organizations pay a monthly fee based on resource usage, converting expenses into operational costs. Discounts for extended commitments make larger enterprises with consistent DR needs attractive.

 

  • Scalability & Flexibility: Cloud DR provides on-demand access to extensive resources, allowing organizations to scale rapidly via self-service portals. This agility accommodates changes in workload and data needs without hefty capital investments, a limitation of conventional DR methods.

 

  • High Reliability & Geo-Redundancy: Cloud providers offer high reliability and geo-redundancy with multiple data centers globally. This enhances service reliability, and businesses can leverage geo-redundancy by locating DR resources in alternative regions, aligning seamlessly with off-site DR capabilities.

 

  • Easy Testing & Quick Recovery: Cloud workloads often use VMs, enabling effortless testing and rapid recovery. VM image duplication to on-premises test servers allows validation without disrupting production. High-bandwidth and fast disk options enhance data transfer speed, ensuring meeting Recovery Time Objectives (RTO).

 

  • No Physical Location Constraints: Cloud DR allows organizations to position backup facilities globally, independent of physical premises. This adds an extra layer of security, especially in the face of disasters threatening on-site servers and equipment.

 

What are some examples of cloud computing disasters?

Although uncommon, disasters in cloud computing have occurred in the past and even to some of the largest cloud providers, such as AWS.

 

  1. OVHCloud

A data center run by OVHCloud was destroyed in early 2021 by a fire. All four data centers had been too close, and firefighters took over six hours to put out the blaze. This severely affected the cloud services run by OVHCloud and spelled disaster for companies whose entire assets were hosted on those servers.

 

  1. AWS

  • In June 2016, storms in Sydney battered the electrical infrastructure and caused an extensive power outage. This led to the failure of some Elastic Compute Cloud instances and Elastic Block Store volumes, which hosted critical workloads for several large companies.

 

This meant that some heavily trafficked websites and the online presence of some of the biggest brands were decimated for over ten hours on a weekend, severely affecting business.

 

  • In February 2017, an Amazon employee attempted to debug an issue with the billing system when they accidentally took more servers offline than needed.

 

This started a domino effect that removed two other server subsystems, which then snowballed to other subsystems. This meant thousands could not access Amazon servers for a few hours.

 

Disaster Recovery Techniques in Cloud Computing

Disaster recovery in cloud computing is a delicate process. The methodologies behind them must be understood carefully for successful recovery.

 

Backup and restore

Backing up data and restoring it is one of the easiest, cheapest, and fastest ways to recover from a cloud computing disaster. This can be mainly used to mitigate regional disasters, such as natural disasters, by replicating the data and storing it in a geographically different location.

 

Pilot Light

The ‘Pilot Light’ disaster recovery approach is where your company replicates only the minimal and core services it needs to function. This means that only a tiny part of your IT structure needs to be replicated and provides a minimally functional replacement in case of disaster.

 

Warm Standby

The warm standby approach is when a scaled-down version of your fully functional environment is available and always running in a separate location from your primary server. In a disaster, your company can still run a version of the site based in a different region.

 

Multi-site deployment

Although the most expensive solution of the three, multi-site deployment provides the most comprehensive solution to regional disasters. Multi-site deployment involves running your full workload simultaneously in multiple regions. These regions can be actively used or on standby in case of disaster in a different region.

 

How should you prepare your recovery plans, step by step?

Here are 5 steps that can help you prepare a recovery plan:

 

  1. Your disaster recovery plan should be part of your business continuity plan.

This should involve definitions of RTO and RPO to help you decide which cloud services you’ll need and improve cost efficiency.

 

  1. If you haven’t done so, define the RTO and RPO for your disaster recovery.

This forms the basis of your disaster recovery plan and, in turn, the kinds of disaster recovery services you’ll need.

 

  1. Design your plan with your recovery goals in mind.

This involves looking at your RTO and RPO points to decide which disaster recovery pattern you’ll need to meet those criteria. Your recovery goals should outline the maximum and minimum effects of your services.

 

  1. Design for end-to-end recovery.

Your plan should include recovery for every aspect of your business that needs to be operational.

 

  1. Create specific tasks to ensure a smooth-running process.

The more specific your tasks are, the easier the recovery process will be and the fewer chances of deviating from the plan. Developing and implementing best practices for cloud disaster recovery are critical to a successful operation. These include following points 1-5 and taking no shortcuts. Developing a sound business continuity plan is critical, thoroughly testing your backups and regularly testing your overall recovery plans, whatever methods they may use.

 

Conclusion

In general, cloud disaster recovery should be extensively and continuously planned for. Using the cloud in your disaster recovery makes your process flexible and, most importantly, efficient in cost and process. By designing a recovery plan that meets your exact specifications with your RTO and RPO in mind, you can create a foolproof plan for disaster recovery in cloud computing.

 

FAQs

 

  1. What is cloud disaster recovery (CDR)?

Cloud Disaster Recovery (CDR) refers to utilizing cloud computing resources and services to protect and recover data and IT infrastructure in a disaster or disruptive incident. This can include natural disasters, cyber-attacks, hardware failures, or any other event resulting in data loss or system downtime. CDR aims to ensure business continuity by providing a reliable and scalable solution for backing up and restoring critical data and applications.

 

  1. How to recover from a cloud-based disaster?

Recovering from a cloud-based disaster involves systematically restoring data and services quickly and efficiently. Here are the critical steps in the recovery process:

 

  • Assessment: Evaluate the extent of the disaster and identify affected systems, data, and applications.

 

  • Activate Disaster Recovery Plan: Implement the predefined disaster recovery plan, including data restoration, system recovery, and resource allocation steps.

 

  • Data Restoration: Restore critical data from backups stored in the cloud, ensuring the data is intact and accessible.

 

  1. How can organizations create a reliable plan for cloud disaster recovery?

Creating a foolproof plan for cloud disaster recovery involves carefully considering various factors. Here are the essential steps:

 

  • Risk Assessment: Identify potential risks and their impact on business operations.

 

  • Data Classification: Prioritize critical data and applications for recovery based on their importance to the business.

 

  • Backup Strategy: Implement a robust backup strategy that includes regular, automated backups of data and system configurations. Ensure backups are stored securely in multiple locations.

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