By Timico

In recent years there has been a significant shift in the ways businesses depend on technology. From data management and system developments to customer communications and troubleshooting, IT managers play a key role in ensuring that a business runs smoothly and efficiently. This also includes putting a bullet proof plan in place for when things go wrong. Worryingly, this is often overlooked, meaning that many Disaster Recovery (DR) plans are often not addressed until disaster strikes - leaving businesses vulnerable and exposed when systems fail.

DR in the news
Take Blackberry’s infamous network meltdown for example. Back in October 2011, BlackBerry experienced a huge service outage that resulted in millions of customers across the globe being unable to send or receive emails and BBM messages. An untimely back-up switch fail resulted in a backlog of data and, inevitably, incensed customers. Whilst normal service was resumed two days later, the sheer scale of disruption caused significant damage to the company’s services and its reputation.

Be aware of disasters
Blackberry’s ‘disaster’ perfectly highlights the consequences when DR goes wrong. Expecting the unexpected is rule 101 when constructing a DR plan - no matter how remote the circumstance may be. From unpredictable natural disasters to intricate technical miscalculations and simple human error, it is important that as an IT manager you are aware of how such disasters can affect your business. In a survey of IT managers carried out by Zerto, 11% of IT managers had experienced an outage in the last month, 26% in the last six months and a huge 34% in the last year. Like it or not, a disaster is more likely than you may think.

Know the common vulnerabilities
Many IT managers are guilty of taking a ‘holiday insurance’ mentality when it comes to DR, often selecting a cheaper backup solution that takes a significant amount of time to recover. In fact, 57% of IT managers cited cost as the biggest challenge of DR. And it’s easy to see why. Simply put, some businesses cannot justify the installation, maintenance and testing costs of a second primary environment that will only be used on the odd occasion. But the bigger picture is much more unnerving. Ask yourself, can your business really afford to be offline for hours or days? The answer is usually a resounding ‘no’.

Take advantage of the cloud
Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) takes away much of the additional expense associated with traditional DR, thanks to its automated, non-disruptive and cloud-based testing solutions. With testing plans that are simpler and quicker, IT managers can carry out effective DR testing more regularly ensuring their data estate is safe and protected.

DRaaS combines all the benefits of the cloud with the traditional and secure make-up of DR to provide a tailored cloud-based solution. Its main benefit is the ability for users to replicate their primary IT environment virtually, providing a faster, cheaper and more manageable DR plan. Historically, it is the sheer cost and time involved that makes DR plans seem an inconvenience. But, thanks to DRaaS, the need for expensive kit is eliminated and most importantly, recovery times are significantly reduced to a matter of minutes. This is not to mention the freeing up of some valuable office space, as all that’s required is virtual space on the server.

Carry out regular testing
Customers understand that technical faults occur on occasion and whilst this is an inconvenience, what really gets their blood boiling is lengthy downtimes or, even worse, having questions left unanswered. This is worrying when you consider that 18% of IT managers surveyed by Zerto have never even tested their DR plan. It begs the million-dollar question: how do they even know if it works? DR plans are designed not only to help businesses effectively solve a network problem, but also gain a clear understanding of what to expect during a failure. For instance, knowing how long your systems will take to restart will allow you to provide an educated estimate as to when normal service will resume.

This can only be experienced through thorough and regular testing. Whilst it may seem expensive and time-consuming, an untested plan is no plan at all. Not knowing how well your DR plan works, how long it takes to execute, or further issues which could arise down the line simply isn’t worth the risk.

Keep the plan regularly updated
Some Disaster Recovery plans are well thought out and rehearsed, covering all bases. Whilst this is all well and good, it’s no use if in a few months’ time the plan is out of date. The rate at which technology develops means that equipment and systems are constantly changing. It is this constant evolution that is often overlooked by IT managers, but it is essential that it isn’t simply shrugged off. If your DR plan does not reflect your complete, up-to-date IT environment, it will quickly become void - leading to much greater vulnerabilities. This can be avoided if you choose the right partner.

How to choose the right DRaaS partner
The IT manager plays a pivotal role in deciding which DR plan is right for their business. So with a number of offerings on the market, what should you factor in when making your decision?

1. SLAs
Can your partner commit to your RPO and RTO objectives and provide you with the responsive support you need?

2. Transparency in pricing
DRaaS offers a more cost-effective pricing structure than the high up-front and monthly investment for dual site replication, for example. Many providers offer Pay-As-You Go tariffs, so you are only charged for the servers and data you choose to replicate. Get the specifics from your provider and be sure you know exactly what you are paying for.

3. Testing
Regularly testing a DRaaS solution is a lot simpler than a traditional DR solution, but it can sometimes come at a cost. Find out whether a DRaaS partner includes any FOC testing as part of their package.

4. Project management
It is always reassuring to know that help is never far away. A quality provider will ensure that your DRaaS plan is tailored to suit your needs and isn’t at risk of becoming outdated. The key to this is consistent communication between you and your provider to ensure that your plan evolves with your business and your changing IT needs.

5. Resilience
The cloud still has its security doubters - and you can never be too careful. Investigate how secure your provider’s data centre is, ask questions about their own security procedures and also the DR measures they have in place themselves.