Experts Talk About the Future of Cloud Computing Trends in Disaster Recovery

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Find out what leading cloud computing experts have to say about the future of cloud computing, including the pros and cons of cloud-based disaster recovery, in our latest expert roundup.

Organizations of all sizes struggle with making their disaster recovery strategy a top priority, whether because of the time, effort, cost, or skills involved. But that is exactly what they should be doing to protect their business. All the experts on our recent disaster recovery panel agree that too many companies fail to appreciate the importance of disaster recovery until they experience an outage, by which time it is often too little too late.

As 2018 approaches, these cloud computing experts predict that many businesses will make disaster recovery one of their top priorities, particularly in the C-Suite. One data scientist believes we will even see the emergence of a new role, in the likes of a “Chief Disaster Recovery Officer.”

What else is to come in the future of cloud computing? Read on to get their top disaster recovery case studies, best practices, and predictions for 2018.

Related: Get best practices and essential tips for your Disaster Recovery evaluation process, directly from companies who have recently changed their DR strategy in this recently published white paper.

Rus Healy Annese
Rus Healy Chief Technology Architect at Annese, a ConvergeOne Company

1. What are your disaster recovery predictions for 2018?

DR has shown consistently higher demand over the past several years, and I think that trend will continue. Based on the rate of growth we’ve seen, I expect that we will double the number of cloud DR customers in 2018. More of our larger customers will protect a larger percentage of their workloads in the public cloud, and those customers will also seek a multi-cloud approach to DR and production. DR will continue to pull through production workloads as well as dev and QA workloads by demonstrating the value of the public cloud.

2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the cloud for disaster recovery?

Cloud disaster recovery has several key advantages. Probably the most important one is much lower cost than on-premises DR. You eliminate a whole set of infrastructure that is expensive to procure, the recurring hardware and software maintenance costs, the physical space, power, cooling, and the hours of maintenance and support for all of that infrastructure. You also gain compliance and elasticity. You can test DR at will, paying only for the run time of the machines you bring up. And you can use those DR instances for more than just DR and DR testing — you can test in-place upgrades, provide isolated access to a vendor with production data (but not in a production-impacting way), and perform many other valuable business operations.

Disadvantages, for most end users, include the effort and time needed to get started with the public cloud, to learn the security, configuration, and management methods that are unique to the cloud environment, and to make the business case for using the public cloud. Many companies still have not taken these steps. That’s where good partners come in — to help customers along in that journey. Understanding how the cloud is different than on-premises infrastructure, and to design for those differences, is another challenge that many companies face. Finally, understanding cloud networking and connectivity to on-premises data centers is a new challenge for many customers — even those who have been working in the public cloud for various workloads for a period of time.

3. Is the public cloud “tough enough” (to be used as a target) for disaster recovery?

Absolutely, yes — but you must choose cloud providers carefully. We feel that AWS has a clear and substantial advantage over other cloud providers in that regard. Their scale, architecture, and durability offer strong advantages over other cloud providers, especially in the US. You have to be diligent in evaluating cloud providers to understand where their weaknesses are in performance, downtime, cost, and other factors, before making a decision.

4. What are the biggest disaster recovery challenges for enterprises and large organizations?

The complexity of on-premises workloads is significant even in mid-size organizations. Enterprises face many challenges, including prioritizing protection for workloads and understanding all of the dependencies between their workloads. DR involves many teams, and an evaluation and design process that they are probably not familiar with. The good news is that you can start small, get protection in place, and work through the challenging areas while still being able to recover to the public cloud in a DR event.

5. What would you include in a disaster recovery plan checklist?

  • A good evaluation of on-premises workloads and their dependencies, as well as an understanding of what cannot be protected easily (or at all) to the cloud.
  • A successful pilot project, run in cooperation with a good services partner.
  • Replication software that allows for very low RPO, low RTO, and supports failback to on-premises or to another cloud provider.
  • A solid set of partners with great support and performance history.
  • Frequent testing.
  • Good documentation — a real DR run book for your DR environment, which also captures the configuration of your environment so that it can serve you best in a DR event.
  • A team of people who can support you, internally and through managed services, when you need them (DR events and DR testing).

6. What is your best (or worst) IT disaster recovery story?

I was working just outside a data center once when a component in one of the UPS units exploded. The fire suppression system was triggered and would have destroyed millions of dollars’ worth of equipment if we had not been there to disable it before it went off. We were fortunate, but we also realized how crippling a complete outage of a data center can be, and how important it is to get your machines and data protected off-premises.

Ofer Gadish CEO CloudEndure

Ofer Gadish CEO at CloudEndure

1. What are your disaster recovery predictions for 2018?

In 2018, more companies with on-premises workloads will start looking to the cloud for disaster recovery solutions. This is part of the overall trend of increased cloud adoption by enterprises that once shunned the cloud. That is where the future of cloud computing is headed.

Moreover, the standards for disaster recovery – including Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs) – will continue to rise. To achieve top-of-the-line disaster recovery without using the cloud can be prohibitively expensive. Therefore, more companies will choose cloud-based disaster recovery. Leveraging the cloud’s elasticity and pay-as-you-go pricing model will enable them to achieve near-zero RTO and RPO at a fraction of the cost.

In the coming year, more enterprises that have migrated to the cloud, or are planning to migrate to the cloud, will realize that the cloud does not remove the need for disaster recovery. Many people mistakenly assume that the cloud means you don’t need disaster recovery because the cloud is a very stable infrastructure with fewer disasters than on-premises IT environments. There is also a false assumption that the public cloud has built-in disaster recovery solutions, which is not the case. In reality, although the cloud is indeed very stable, outages still happen. They normally don’t have any real built-in disaster recovery because most disasters are a result of human errors and the cloud cannot provide protection from the human errors of their users. If someone deletes a database, the cloud won’t help with that. That is why more companies that have already moved to the cloud will ensure they have a strong disaster recovery strategy in place in 2018.

2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the cloud for disaster recovery?

There are a lot of advantages to using the cloud for DR. First, much lower total cost of ownership, because you don’t need a second DR site, which is expensive; and in three years, you replace the hardware anyway. So, cost savings is number one.

Number two is ease of use, it’s all point and click. You don’t have to procure hardware or install, configure, and test it, because it’s all virtual and in the cloud.

Third is scalability. A lot of times I hear about someone who purchased a DR site, and they have grown, but their DR site didn’t catch up. As a result, they can’t protect everything and they run out of storage and capacity. In contrast, the cloud scales with you.

In addition, you can get generally better results for RPO and RTO when using the cloud. Getting good results for RPO and RTO on-premises is theoretically possible but it’s expensive and complicated. Most companies will settle for lower RPOs and RTOs because it’s cheaper and easier. But with the cloud, you can get the best results at a fraction of the cost. For those who are scared by the idea of conversion to the cloud, I think that its many advantages make it very worthwhile to check out.

10 essential steps to developing a disaster recovery plan that actually works. Get your copy here.

In terms of disadvantages, if you are in a highly regulated business, like banking or health care, you probably will require compliance certification. In addition, if you just purchased new hardware for your DR site, why throw it away? Such companies should wait a couple of years before looking at something different.

3. Is the public cloud “tough enough” (to be used as a target) for disaster recovery?

In the past, there were security concerns. But today, the cloud is more secure than an on-premises system because nobody can invest as much in security as the big public cloud companies.

However, to get the full benefit of the cloud, your technology needs to meet certain requirements. The challenges are in three areas. For data replication, especially if you want near zero RPO, you need continuous replication and to ensure data consistency. Next, recovery times — you need to orchestrate the construction of your DR site for this purpose or keep a live DR site, which is expensive. If the idea of the cloud is to reduce expenses, you don’t want a whole live infrastructure that needs to be provisioned on demand, which is difficult. Last is machine compatibility. If you want to move your machine to the cloud, or from one infrastructure to another, it won’t work unless you convert it to something that the cloud can run.

4. What are the biggest DR challenges for enterprises and large organizations?

Enterprises should keep their eyes on their target and focus on their business, not on DR. If DR is a big deal at the enterprise, you’re spending too much time and money on something that isn’t your core business. Too many companies spend too many resources on recovery by monitoring, testing, and renewing it. DR should be easy to use, maintain, and test, and require as little human management as possible. Sure, there are some companies that see DR as a formality, but if they want to have a really good RPO/RTO, they should look at something that gets the best results with as little management and overhead as possible. In addition, enterprises need to monitor their DR costs, which can get out of control due to scale.

5. What would you include in a disaster recovery checklist?

I would definitely include responsibilities and roles, a map of the infrastructure, and what needs to be protected. This should include a configuration where the DR site is part of an infrastructure that is different from the source application, regardless of it being cloud based or on-premises.

The checklist should also contain procedures for monitoring uptime and a definition of which events trigger a failover. For example, if my website is down for five minutes, do I switch over or wait another five minutes?

6. What is your best (or worst) IT disaster recovery story?

Our best DR story is about a customer that purchased licenses and finished deployment but hadn’t even conducted a DR test yet. Three months later, their primary site went down. All they needed to do was hit the failover button, and a few minutes later, everything was working. They called us and said that they were super happy.

By coincidence, our worst DR story occurred just a few days afterwards. The manager who had bought CloudEndure Disaster Recovery licenses for his company left and his replacement decided that the existing backup was good enough, so he decided not to install our solution. A year or so later, their database got corrupted, and I recall that one critical server was involved. They then realized that restoring from their AWS S3 backup would be very complicated and lengthy, and they would get outdated data. They had so much data that just copying it from S3 to their production environment would take a few days, and because they never tried this method, they didn’t even know if it would work.

Instead, they fixed the production system, and in the end it took a full team of ten, working around the clock, including a weekend, to complete the process. In all, it took them a full week, and their customers were affected. Their system was down the whole time. The manager who decided not to use our solution is no longer with company.

Dez Blanchfield

Dez Blanchfield Seed Investor & Resident Data Scientist at Starboard IT

1. What are your disaster recovery predictions for 2018?

Global data protection and privacy regulations are already driving significant change in how organizations manage and protect their data and supporting systems and infrastructure. In my opinion, this will cause organizations and businesses of every type, shape and size, be it enterprise, government or not-for-profit, small, medium or large, to bring an entirely more formal focus to disaster recovery.

I truly believe the future of cloud computing will see a dedicated resource and role be defined, in the same way we have seen Cyber Security bring about the need for Chief Risk Officers, Data Protection Officers, and Chief Information Security Officers. The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will, in my opinion, bring about a need for the creation of a role such as Chief Disaster Recovery Officer and an entirely new business practice built around the protection of organization resilience, supported by disaster recovery capabilities beyond anything we have seen to date.

2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the cloud for disaster recovery?

One of the greatest advantages of using cloud platforms for disaster recovery is the flexibility which comes with “pay as you go” as a Service (-aaS) offerings. You can scale up as you grow, and your environments can be built as required by using modern Design Patterns and DevOps manual or automated orchestration.

Another key advantage of using cloud platforms for disaster recovery is the ability to quickly replicate an environment in the cloud for testing, training, or any number of requirements where a full or partial copy of your production environment might be used. Examples include upgrades and testing, version validation, new feature updates, and stress testing/load testing. The copy of the environment built can be “burned down” instantly and you only pay for what you used while the copy of the environment was running.

One of the biggest disadvantages of using cloud platforms for disaster recovery is often the interconnection between on-premises environments and cloud platforms, and the latency between them, which can often impact an organization where there are high volumes of data, or simply a large dataset which may take a long time to copy or move into a cloud platform. Moving a large multi-terabyte backup of a database to a disaster recovery environment hosted on a cloud platform could take hours or even days to copy “up” into the cloud.

3. Is the public cloud “tough enough” (to be used as a target) for disaster recovery?

Yes, the majority of cloud platforms are indeed “tough enough” to be used to implement and host disaster recovery environments and supporting infrastructure. Cloud providers by design build their data centers and core hosting infrastructure to the highest levels of availability. In most cases, cloud providers operate to a five-nines availability for their own protection in the provision of hosting infrastructure services such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS).

It is entirely likely that for the most part, cloud providers have more durable data center, network, storage, server compute, monitoring, support, maintenance, update, upgrade, and support capabilities than most organizations have themselves in any combination of in-house or third-party data centers. Cloud hosting providers are designed to support millions of customers on their platforms, at scale, in high performance architectures.

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4. What are the biggest disaster recovery challenges for enterprises and large organizations?

Choosing the most appropriate design pattern is probably the biggest challenge in disaster recovery for large organizations. Should they design to an Active Active model? An Active Passive model? Should they do batch data updates, or live database syncing?

Other key challenges surrounding disaster recovery capabilities include:

  • Sizing and scaling to meet or match ongoing growth and workloads of an organization. This happens when the organization needs to scale up or down depending on commercial or market forces, i.e. scaling up for holiday periods if you are in retail, or scaling down during off-peak market or seasonal periods.
  • Protection and controls around core Information Technology Security Management (ITSM) measures around the disaster recovery environment. This involves ensuring the disaster recovery environment’s security is equal to the production environment’s ITSM requirements.
  • Maintaining consistency between production environments, which experience ongoing updates in new features, developments, updates, maintenance or patching. Keeping a disaster recovery environment in-sync with production as production changes is a significant challenge.
  • Continued support and sponsorship from the Board down through C-Suite and Lines of Business is often a real challenge. Many organizations find it difficult to understand the need for continued investment in disaster recovery if they do not experience issues or outages in production environments. It is only when a major outage in a production environment comes about that a failure to invest in and maintain bona fide disaster recovery capabilities are realized, by which time it can often be a case of too little too late.

5. What would you include in a disaster recovery plan checklist?

In any disaster recovery plan checklist, I always ensure the following three key components:

  • A clear understanding of the uptime and availability required to ensure the business can continue operations, usually measured in the form of a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between the IT department and the business or client.
  • Regular monitoring, measures, and review tools and processes by which the disaster recovery solution is maintained and managed. A disaster recovery solution which is not managed is likely to quickly fall out of sync with the business requirements and fail to meet the SLA.
  • Scheduled ongoing failover from production to disaster recovery to prove that the disaster recovery solution works. Ideally at least once a year, if not two or three times a year, the production environments should be failed over in a managed process to the disaster recovery environment. It should be left to run for a period of time after which it is clear that all systems are still functioning as required, should the business need to remain on the disaster recovery environment for any period of time. Any business which cannot regularly execute a full failover from production to disaster recovery and run for a sustained period of time, and then restore back to production, cannot truly say it has a fully functional and effective disaster recovery solution.

6. What is your best (or worst) IT disaster recovery story?

The worst disaster I have witnessed over the last three decades involved a boutique printing business. Due to a mechanical failure in a high-speed, large-format printing press, a fire broke out and burned the entire business to the ground. The fire destroyed all physical components of the business, all of their card and paper stock, inks, office environment, and technology, including a self-hosted production and disaster recovery environment.

Hosting their disaster recovery environment in the same building that they operated out of, in the same computer room where the production business system’s infrastructure and environments were hosted in, was a fatal mistake.

Once the fire destroyed the production business system’s environment, it also in turn destroyed the mirrored disaster recovery environment, which was in the same racks in the same computer room on-premises. This was unfortunately the worst possible outcome and the single worst disaster recovery story I’ve witnessed in three decades of working in the technology industry.

The best disaster recovery success story I had the privilege of seeing was one where a client asked me to design and implement an updated disaster recovery strategy for a family business in the food industry. Just two weeks after completing the implementation and deployment of the newly designed, built and activated disaster recovery solution, the customer allowed a software vendor to deploy an upgrade of a mission-critical Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform, which in turn failed partway through the software update. It crashed the entire ERP system, and corrupted the production copy of data and databases, taking the business offline with a need to failover to the newly implemented disaster recovery solution.

The new failover process, a manual process to “switch” from the production ERP platform to the new disaster recovery ERP environment, ran seamlessly within mere minutes, avoiding what could have been a lengthy outage of a mission-critical business system. In fact, the failover was so quick that the staff was not aware that there had been a failover to the disaster recovery environment. The business was able to continue to function with zero downtime and zero impact on operations or customers.

 

Mike McGuire

Mike McGuire Cloud Specialist at Annese, A ConvergeOne Company

1. What are your disaster recovery predictions for 2018?

My DR predictions for 2018 and the future of cloud computing are that DR plans and strategies will become an even more important focus in the C-Suite. As incidents occur that gain major media attention and the impact is seen, the attention on DR will continue to increase. No one wants to spend time and money on insurance, but we all do it because we understand the impact of not having it — and DR is the same.

2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the cloud for disaster recovery?

There are many advantages to using the public cloud for disaster recovery. Certainly, near the top of the list would be lower total cost. Rather than pay for duplicate servers, software licensing, maintenance, floor space and administrative costs, organizations can establish a “pilot light” in the cloud. This target site in the cloud can be kept in sync with a small amount of compute and storage and be scaled up for testing or a DR event. This follows the “pay-as-you-go” model that the cloud offers.

Another advantage of the cloud is non-disruptive testing. Now you can verify that your DR environment and staff are ready for an actual DR event without impacting production.

The only disadvantage is fear of the unknown. For some organizations that are not familiar with the cloud, they may feel that their staff may not have the skills necessary to implement a DR solution in this environment. This is where a partner that has assisted many other organizations can serve an important role.

3. Is the public cloud “tough enough” (to be used as a target) for disaster recovery?

Yes, I would suggest the public cloud provides greater protection than can be achieved on-site. One reason for this is the ability to easily have the target site in the public cloud completely isolated thousands of miles away from your on-premise data center by utilizing a global infrastructure. The public cloud also offers a wealth of services to monitor your infrastructure and address issues before they impact your environment.

4. What are the biggest disaster recovery challenges for enterprises and large organizations?

The biggest DR challenge is making it a priority. Organizations have many projects and new initiatives. It is easy to put a comprehensive DR plan on the “back burner,” or not keep it updated and tested. DR needs to be a priority. Hopefully an organization will never face a catastrophic disaster that takes the full data center off line, and thankfully these events are rare. However, ransomware attacks, a disgruntled employee, or even human error can cause major damage to IT systems that will greatly impact people’s lives. A comprehensive, fully tested DR plan is essential for organizations of all sizes.

5. What would you include in a disaster recovery plan checklist?

Recently I read “The Definitive Disaster Recovery Plan Checklist” by our Business Partner for DR, CloudEndure. I thought this was an excellent starting point and would encourage you to read it. I would summarize it as: document the policies, people, processes, and products that are required for DR in your organization, and practice it on a regular basis.

6. What is your best (or worst) IT disaster recovery story?

I once asked a customer how often they test their DR site, which they were paying a monthly fee for, and they said they “did not want to test it because it would likely fail.” Needless to say, that’s not good.

To learn more about how your organization can achieve affordable, enterprise-grade disaster recovery using the cloud, contact us today.

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