Disaster Recovery Across Hybrid Cloud Infrastructures

    Disaster recovery (DR) is a requirement of any business continuity plan, but a hybrid cloud infrastructure poses unique challenges and benefits. If you’re looking to migrate to the cloud or need to revamp your hybrid cloud disaster recovery plan, there are a few key considerations that are important to keep in mind.

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    Benefits of Hybrid Cloud Disaster Recovery

    In many ways, disaster recovery in hybrid IT environments combines the best parts of public and private cloud disaster recovery approaches. Instead of putting all your proverbial eggs in the same basket, hybrid IT allows you to spread them out. This comes with its own unique set of challenges and risks, but the benefits are also undeniable.

    First, hybrid cloud infrastructure allows for better data integrity. Backups can exist both on- and off-site, which means there is a fail-safe in the event one of the backups is compromised. This redundancy also improves the speed of the recovery process without sacrificing accuracy in the event of a disaster.

    Second, the hybrid cloud is much better for compliance than a public cloud-only approach. Sensitive data that’s hosted only in the public cloud — where third-party companies can access it — is often at higher risk of being breached. This makes it harder to comply with regulatory requirements. In a hybrid environment, businesses have more control over how and where the data is replicated and encrypted, thus making the job of ensuring compliance much easier.

    Last but not least, the hybrid cloud allows for better availability when implemented with a strong IT operations strategy. Aron Brand, CTO of Ctera, explains why this is important: “Ideally your organization manages high availability between two availability zones, plus background replication to a second cloud provider. This kind of multi-cloud strategy not only offers the most robust data availability option, but also enables organizations to maximize business value from the cloud.”

    Also Read: The Cloud Is the New Home of Disaster Recovery

    The Biggest Challenge of Disaster Recovery in Hybrid Environments

    With IT infrastructure that is totally on-premises or totally cloud-based, it’s much easier to have a single view of all applications — and by extension, all DR needs. However, the very nature of hybrid IT environments makes this singular perspective impossible.

    “The biggest challenge [of hybrid disaster recovery] is managing the distribution of application sets between on-premises and cloud environments,” says Chris Pereira, private cloud practice director at Burwood Group, a consultative IT systems integrator for enterprise businesses. “The distribution makes it difficult to replicate workloads, and meet Recovery Point and Time Objectives.”

    A business’s Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) speak directly to the heart of their DR capabilities. RPO defines the amount of data an organization can lose before it significantly impacts the business, and RTO defines the length of time it takes the business to get back up and running. A hybrid environment doubles the number of variables that can impact these goals, so it’s crucial that the business’s DR plan considers a wider range of scenarios across on-premises and cloud-based systems.

    Ian Thompson, UK Head of Data Services with Assured Data Protection, echoes these sentiments. “Running a hybrid environment is a bit like running two data centres. You need to run two different run books in case one of them fails. You should probably make a plan for both of them to fail also, given the proliferation of cyberattacks and ransomware and how interconnected hybrid environments tend to be.” Making a plan for each situation will help you be as prepared as possible.

    Additionally, Thompson emphasizes the importance of keeping codependent servers grouped together in one location rather than spinning up new servers for on-premise applications. “The risk of failure is multiplied by the number of locations involved in hosting a single application, so it’s important to keep disciplined in where servers are located,” he says. It may be tempting to scale an application using cloud resources in a pinch, but doing so may create bigger problems in a disaster recovery scenario.

    Also Read: Hybrid Cloud Computing Emerges as Next Big IT Management Challenge

    How to Make a Hybrid Cloud DR Plan More Cost Effective

    It’s easy for the budget to get out of hand when it comes to disaster recovery, so controlling costs needs to start in the planning phase. Because hybrid cloud environments are not monolithic, the DR plan should center around the applications themselves. Start by assigning each application to a different tier according to their level of impact on the business. The top-tier applications are the ones that have the biggest impact on your RPO and RTO, so they should take top priority when it comes to your DR plan.

    Leveraging the auto-scaling features of your organization’s cloud vendors can also help make your disaster recovery plan more cost-effective. “With an auto-scaling configuration,” says Vinay Sahni, co-founder and CEO of Enchant, “systems automatically scale up to meet demand as workloads switch over to the DR site. But when the DR site is mostly idle, unused capacity is automatically released to save costs.” This means you can rest assured that your DR plan is never costing more in cloud capacity costs than is absolutely necessary.

    Then, once you have your disaster recovery plan in place, the biggest cost-saving measure you can take is to test it to simulate how it would respond in a real crisis. Adrian Moir, senior consultant with Quest Software, advises businesses to make testing a regular priority. 

    “Once you think you have a solid plan,” he says, “test it. Testing can take the form of tabletop exercises all the way up to swapping your services from one location to another and back again — full disaster recovery testing. Testing will soon show you the things you have missed.” 

    As the business evolves, testing is essential to make sure you have the right recovery measures in place. When disaster inevitably strikes, the downtime repercussions can have major implications for your business productivity, reputation, and profitability. “If you plan and test, you can reduce the time to recovery and lessen the impact on the business. Knowing how to react to scenarios beforehand will pay dividends when the real thing does happen,” Moir says.

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    DRaaS Can Help

    To get the most out of your money, consider working with a Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) vendor. As a managed service, a DRaaS solution can take care of the disaster recovery needs for your hybrid cloud infrastructure without requiring dedicated in-house maintenance. To compare top solutions, review our list of top providers. 

    Read next: Top 7 DRaaS Providers

    Kaiti Norton
    Kaiti Norton
    Kaiti Norton is a Nashville-based Content Writer for TechnologyAdvice, a full-service B2B media company. She is passionate about helping brands build genuine connections with their customers through relatable, research-based content. When she's not writing about technology, she's sharing her musings about fashion, cats, books, and skincare on her blog.

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