Depending on varying DR needs, there are two flavors of cloud-based disaster recovery services that have emerged for IT teams to choose from –Cloud DR and Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS). While some incorrectly refer to these two forms interchangeably, most enterprises are striving hard to develop a clear understanding of both the offerings and more importantly when does one make more sense over the other.
What usually worries a CIO the most? Ensuring that his or her business critical data and IT infrastructure are guarded against downtime and service outages, while the business keeps running without a hiccup. But in the face of a disaster, even the most robust and resilient IT infrastructure can go kaput bringing business operations to a grinding halt.
Compounding the complexity of this situation is the business directive to ensure 24x7 business availability, as most of the businesses in today’s digital world can’t really afford to be inaccessible anymore. For companies operating in a business environment where downtime means out of business, the key question pertaining to Business Continuity boils down to how fast your Disaster Recovery (DR) plan enables you to recover from a catastrophe.
Undoubtedly, CIOs see a clear need to do have a failproof DR strategy with stringent Recovery Time and Point Objectives. Simply put, CIOs are under pressure to ensure quickest Disaster Recovery as enterprises’ tolerance for the extent of loss of data and time before the business resumes, has shriveled phenomenally in today's day and age.
Here, cloud computing makes one more significant inroads into an enterprise IT strategy as Disaster Recovery moves from a datacenter idling away at some back of the beyond location to now on the cloud to add efficiency, speed, and scale to Disaster Recovery. The cloud platform is successfully shielding enterprises to a large extent from the aftershocks of a disaster and the headache of maintaining and managing disaster recovery.
Devil Lies in Definition
By definition, both the DR services allude to one focal point: to ensure recoverability and availability of enterprise data, and to augment organizational Business Continuity Plan. However, it isn’t quite hard to understand the subtle difference between the two service offerings of the Cloud DR and DRaaS.
Let’s simplify their definitions: Cloud DR is a conventional form of regularly backing up or storing and maintaining copies of workload data and systems/applications snapshots in generally a multi-tenant cloud computing environment that can be recovered onto physical or virtual servers in case of a disaster. To be clear, this service doesn’t mean replicating or spinning up a live IT production environment. The objective of Cloud DR is simply to help an organization maintain backup of data securely without having to worry about the infrastructure, its location, and test procedures. In an event of a catastrophe, the enterprise can recover the data seamlessly.
On the other hand, DRaaS by definition takes the availability further by adding customizable failover to the cloud-based backup and recovery setup. DRaaS basically allows an organization to spin up a warm or hot DR site on either public cloud or virtual private cloud, mimicking its production environment, whether on-cloud or on-premises or hybrid. Such DR site is easily accessible via the Internet and managed through a web portal, allowing the business-critical applications to be up and running almost instantaneously. All, without costly hardware procurement and complex installations.
Similar, Yet Different
Cloud DR augments an organization’s ability to flexibly configure its disaster recovery parameters for backing up and archiving data, and enable its faster recovery. It obviously allows an organization to break away from the cumbersome, complex, and expensive tape-based DR practices and makes the enterprise nimbler in regularly testing and recovering data, when needed.
However, before adopting DR on cloud CIOs should ensure that the data will be securely transferred and users will be authenticated properly. Should a disaster actually occur, they need to ensure that the enterprise will have the bandwidth and network capacity necessary to redirect users to the cloud? They also need to make sure their DR plan includes details of how they will restore data.
Meanwhile, DRaaS offers businesses complete enterprise-grade disaster recovery minus the spiraling TCO that comes along with in-house solutions. Recurring costs such as maintenance, IT support, and energy bills are also now managed by the cloud provider. Moreover, DRaaS requires fewer operational resources. It helps companies realize significant savings in software licenses and hardware.
Organizations using DRaaS do not have to worry about backup servers because their service provider will be supported by a state-of-the-art datacenter, along with enterprise-grade bandwidth and computing power to offer the cloud-based DRaaS. Furthering the data backup and recovery services of cloud DR, DRaaS makes the cloud itself ‘the DR site’, where enterprise only pays for the facilities, running on the cloud’s usage-based pricing model. Evidently, while DRaaS may appear a tad expensive than cloud DR services, it is definitely more cost-effective, scalable, and resilient than in-house, indigenous DR site setups.
Ultimately, an honest answer to one question helps sum up the direction CIOs need to take between cloud DR and DRaaS: what’s your RPO & RTO, or what’s the tolerance levels of your organization for the extent of loss of data and time during a disaster? If an enterprise has a rather flexible tolerance level, then cloud DR may be the choice to make. However, if the tolerance levels run thin and the organization has stringent RPO/RTO needs, then DRaaS is a better bet.