Head to the cloud to avoid total disaster

Read time 4min 50sec

‘Always on’ is one way of synopsising 2020 business, life and the impact of digital transformation on how we interact for work or play. Expectations are of constant availability and no excuses – downtime equals loss of revenue and customer loyalty, and depending on how often it happens, the end of business.

Disaster recovery (DR) is a term frequently used today, especially with the growing threat of ransomware. The successful implementation of a cloud backup and DR solution can ensure that none of the foregoing becomes a business reality.

There is, of course, always the question of whether cloud is suitable for your company and to answer this, it is necessary to drill down into the organisation’s environment, and map the availability requirements of servers, applications and data.

Firms should have a clear picture of what is needed to keep the lights on – a good metaphor, but all too often businesses view issues in a silo fashion – what needs to happen here is a holistic approach to the entire organisation’s ability to continue operating and servicing market needs.

It is a fatal error to suffer from a lack of understanding of specific system requirements and not be clear on what systems the organisation actually has in place, plus the question of what system versions are running must also be answered and noted.

This may sound like common sense, but time and again I have seen businesses in search of an answer to their concerns around whether to go to the cloud but having no detail on what is already in place and what is required.

Questions that need to be carefully considered include:

  • How will the company backup systems and data?
  • Does it have enough bandwidth to ensure it can successfully complete backups to the cloud?
  • Where will it store backups?

DR specialists recommend that organisations should maintain backups both on-premises and offsite – whether at a secondary data centre or in the cloud. This redundancy helps to ensure the company is able to recover should it fall victim to a local disaster or hardware failure.

Cloud – to be or not to be?

Let’s get back to the question around whether cloud is right for your organisation. If looking to move data offsite without the added expense of staff, offsite location and infrastructure required by a secondary data centre – cloud is the perfect choice.

Choosing the cloud backup and DR solution that is best suited to the organisation is the next important step. Before this is the decision as to whether to deploy a direct-to-cloud or cloud hybrid solution – to make that call, some research is needed.

DR specialists recommend that organisations should maintain backups both on-premises and offsite – whether at a secondary data centre or in the cloud.

Caution must be exercised to ensure the organisation does not end up in a situation of hidden, surprise costs that were not factored into the solution.

Again, careful consideration of some crucial issues is required. These include a decision on the platform the company wishes to support – is it virtual, physical or both? What operating systems must be protected; eg, Windows only, Linux, Mac, or all of them?

Moreover, decide on the level of backup granularity required. Do individual files and folders require backup or does the entire system need it? How data is secured in flight and in the cloud must also be considered, as well as what level of support is necessary – can it be delivered via chat, phone, or e-mail?

The answers to the foregoing will assist organisations to better assess prospective solutions to determine which one is right for the business.

Hopefully, at this stage the firm will have found a cloud backup and DR solution that delivers against business requirements and is within budget. The next step is implementation.

The business would do well at this stage to provision sufficient time to thoroughly test and validate the chosen DR process.

This is where many companies make the mistake of focusing purely on backup and not on the recoverability of data based on their assumption that their data will be easily recovered when disaster strikes.

It is important to understand this is not necessarily the case – disaster recovery testing is also critical.

Backing up data is one thing but to be able to recover it is another. There are a few principles that can be followed to ensure the environment is recoverable; for example, implementing the three, two, one rule.

Let me break that down: three copies of data, in two locations, with one copy offsite. Having backups replicated to the cloud could be a simple and cost-effective way to achieve the offsite copy required.

Cloud backups, or replication, ensure uptime and availability, even when primary backups are unreachable. DR testing is an important step to ensuring data is recoverable, and is recommended at least biannually.

Obviously, what constitutes adequate DR testing varies from business to business, but there are issues to be considered at this point, including partially testing DR every six months. This should be followed up with a full DR test every year. This may seem excessive, but it is the only way to ensure peace of mind.

A cloud-based backup and DR solution can deliver affordable, easy-to-implement set-up. Moreover, it can be a mission-critical tool for business continuity and the mitigation of data loss.

James Kloppers

Pre-sales technical consultant at Arcserve Southern Africa.

James Kloppers is pre-sales technical consultant at Arcserve Southern Africa. He has been involved in the technology sector since 2009. Throughout his career, he worked with highly-experienced engineers, which has provided him with knowledge and insight into the technology industry and the challenges faced by the sector. He started his career as a helpdesk technician and quickly moved to a backup engineer post.

Kloppers went on to become a field technician support consultant. This expanded his experience through the installation and configuration of wireless networks, establishing company networks, desktop support, upgrading and maintaining high sites, as well as the backbone network. He went on to become a backup engineer at a major ICT corporation in 2015, where he was involved in daily backup admin, creating standard operating procedure documentation, training and upskilling other backup engineers, plus creating and upgrading backup environments, including that within cloud platforms. In 2020, he was appointed pre-sales technical consultant at Arcserve Southern Africa.

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