Choosing the right disaster recovery solution for a business can sometimes be confusing. Because there are so many different options, CIOs are increasingly uncertain about the right disaster recovery solution. Add in disaster recovery myths and you have a recipe for even more confusion. Dale Levesque, TierPoint’s director of product management, has fielded hundreds of customer questions about disaster recovery and DRaaS. We recently sat down with Dale for a video podcast interview to talk about the most common misconceptions that customers have about disaster recovery solutions, like Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS). Here are the myths addressed in that discussion.
Myth #1: DRaaS isn’t different from in-house Disaster Recovery
One of the biggest misunderstandings, he said, is what a DR solution provides and how Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) differs from in-house DR.
“At its core, Disaster recovery is the process of recovering an organization’s data and getting its IT systems back online as quickly as possible,” he explained. “DRaaS involves taking your server, replicating it to the cloud, and using automation to bring that virtual server online and in the correct network.”
In-house disaster recovery solutions require substantial time and money to build, maintain, and manage the hardware and software. DRaaS is a cloud service, so the DRaaS provider takes over the responsibilities of purchasing and maintaining hardware and software. A DRaaS customer may manage its own DR processes through the DRaaS management application or have a managed DRaaS services provider handle most of the replication, testing, and recovery processes.
Myth #2: Having a Disaster Recovery solution means instant recovery
Another misconception that Levesque hears is that a good disaster recovery or DRaaS solution can bring an organization’s entire IT environment back up and running nearly instantaneously.
“There are executives who assume their entire organization will be back online within minutes,” he said, noting that while it is possible to get a few systems back online within minutes, it’s rarely possible to do that for a company’s entire IT environment. There are just too many moving parts.
“Applications have all sorts of dependencies. Before you can bring up a typical application, for instance, you need the network components and Active Directory to be online, then you might need to get the SQL server and the domain name server online. Only then can the application come back up,” he explained. “These steps have to happen in a specific order, for all of the applications, which is why it can take more than a couple minutes to recover an entire IT environment.”
He recommends that IT departments divide their IT systems into categories or tiers based on which applications need to be restored first, second, third, and so on, and assign them recovery time and recovery point objectives (RTO and RPO). An RTO specifies how quickly the application needs to be up and running, while the RPO measures the maximum amount of data you can afford to lose—an hour’s worth, a day’s, or none.
The top tier, with the best RTO and RPO, includes critical components like the network and VPNs, and business-critical systems. Lower tiers are for applications and data that can wait a few hours, or even days. Tiering provides a structure for prioritizing the recovery process and for controlling costs.
Myth #3: DRaaS is a “set it and forget it” disaster recovery solution
Customers also sometimes believe that DRaaS should be plug-and-play—or buy it and forget it. DRaaS does alleviate the need for in-house disaster recovery expertise, and a managed DRaaS provider will handle much of the day-to-day management. But the customer’s IT staff must still collaborate with the DR provider and be prepared to engage in testing the recovery processes.
“DR service providers won’t know everything about your environment–the application and networking dependencies, which servers talk to other servers, etc. You have to work with your provider, so they have all of the information they need to set up the DRaaS environment and test it,” he said. “And every time something changes in your environment, you need to share that information with the provider.”
Levesque notes that most customers fail the initial DR test, which can serve as the wake-up call to collaborate more actively.
Another issue that can be overlooked is the end-user environment. Disaster recovery isn’t only about restoring central IT systems. It’s also about ensuring that end users can access the data and applications they need, from wherever they are. That’s a lesson many businesses learned the hard way in the early days of Covid-19.
Levesque recalled that when businesses began shutting down and sending employees home during the first wave of Covid-19, in March 2020, everyone suddenly needed VPN connections. TierPoint had to hustle to increase customers’ VPN capacity as well as provide VPNs for their own employees.
“We went from barely anyone using a VPN to everybody needing one. The same for our customers,” said Levesque “Our number one request for two weeks was for bigger VPNs, more user connections.”
Myth #4: 5G won’t impact Disaster Recovery
New technologies such as 5G networks, currently being rolled out in many North American markets, may improve end-user connectivity. A 5G network can achieve up to 100 gigabytes per second, compared to 1 gigabyte for 4G. While actual speeds may be slower, 5G nevertheless provides much faster performance than 4G. It also offers the ability to prioritize bandwidth for different types of traffic–a key advantage for ensuring videoconferencing and other latency-sensitive data is given priority. In a sudden disaster, like a Covid-19 shutdown, 5G can ensure that workers have sufficient bandwidth to do their jobs.
“I don’t think I’d be able to work over 4G, with WebEx conferences and running many of the applications I use,” he said. “With 5G, you don’t have to worry about each individual worker getting clogged up on their cable connection.”
Levesque advised CIOs to consider how to optimize their IT infrastructure and applications to take advantage of new technologies such as 5G, edge computing, application containers, and DRaaS in their planning. A detailed disaster recovery plan will consider all of the potential problems that could occur, as well as ways to optimize IT infrastructure and application design to be flexible in an emergency. A managed DRaaS provider, such as TierPoint, can help with DR planning, and walk you through a variety of DR services, data storage, connectivity, and recovery options.
“You have to ask yourself, ‘Can our firewall or VPN scale on a dime? Do I have to buy more licenses to add users? What if I suddenly need two or three gigs of Internet bandwidth?’ Can your provider do that for you?” he said.
Learn more about Disaster Recovery
Want to learn more about DR and DRaaS? Read TierPoint’s Strategic Guide to Disaster Recovery and DRaaS.