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The Importance of Cloud-Based HA/DR Technology

For many organizations, budgeting discussions for disaster recovery (DR) and high availability (HA) have played out in a similar manner for decades: The IT department asks to spend a set amount for capital expenditures and a set amount for operating expenses. However, the infrastructure needed to back up the data center and networks in case of an outage or disaster sat dormant—and not updated—most of the time. Even though the equipment is rarely used, it still ages and eventually becomes too outdated to run the current technology.

With the increase in remote work and the likelihood of many organizations continuing to use a hybrid work model, using a cloud-based HA/DR has become more critical. John Blair, founder and CEO of Blair Technology Solutions, explains that organizations must now protect a much wider area and more endpoints, which offer increased opportunities for attacks. While cloud-based HA/DR provides backup when needed, Blair says organizations must also incorporate rigid networking and security policies to cover any vulnerabilities.

“Cyberattacks and ransomware attacks are happening too often,” says Blair. “Organizations of all kinds must be prepared to put their incident and breach response plans into action so they can respond in a timely fashion.”

Blair also points out that while the terms DR and HA are often used together or interchangeably, they’re not the same. He explains that HA is often used as a term for preventative maintenance, such as when you purposely switch to your DR environment for patches. DR refers to an environment you can use if you experience a cyberattack, such as ransomware. DR allows you to both get back online quickly and access the most current unaffected version of your data. While DR and HA are technically the same environment, they refer to using the infrastructure for different purposes.

Saving Money With Cloud-Based HA/DR

Blair says price has always been a typical barrier to HA/DR. However, he sees organizations are increasingly turning to cloud-based technology for HA/DR to avoid spending large portions of their budget on equipment that sits in a server room waiting for a disaster to occur. Instead, he says, organizations are saving money while always using the latest equipment by using cloud-based HA/DR.

“With cloud-based technologies, HA/DR is now becoming more of an offense mode,” says Blair. “IT departments are finding the monthly consumption-based investment a more palatable proposition to bring forward to CFOs.”

Blair says you can adjust the environment and consumption based on your needs. Organizations can reduce resources to a limited level instead of running the live production environment 24-7, which conserves consumption. This gives you a base level for synchronizations. Because you only pay for what you use, you save considerable money—especially compared to a physical server that you pay the full purchase price for, regardless of how much it’s used.

“We recently worked with several clients who moved to cloud-based HA/DR simply for the economic benefits. They were unable to sustain buying hardware for their second data center,” says Blair. “Now they have a monthly payment for a limited amount of resource consumption, which gives them flexibility and capabilities they previously did not have. The organizations are now more easily able to meet both directors’ and compliance requirements while staying within their budget.”

Testing Your DR/HA Plan

While using the right technology for your organization’s HA/DR needs is the first step, Blair says he sees many businesses that aren’t fully protected even though they have a DR plan in place. He says it’s important to fully think through your plan and understand what’s most critical and what’s not as important to help you prioritize during a recovery. He recommends conducting a full inventory of all assets, including email access, databases and applications, and then ranking them in terms of most to least critical.

Many organizations go through the motions of reviewing items on the testing checklist, such as verifying that data is visible in different locations, says Blair. However, this exercise does not ensure that your HA/DR systems can sufficiently recover your operations or, even more importantly, that your team knows the process to get your data and infrastructure back online as quickly as possible. Blair recommends actually rehearsing the process of disaster recovery from start to finish. Doing so allows you to ensure that everything is working properly in a real-life simulation. Additionally, you can refine your processes and create detailed documentation, which can be extremely helpful to your team when disaster strikes.

Ensuring Data Privacy

While considering the best HA/DR approach, organizations should also consider data privacy regulations. With attention often focused on GDPR, many organizations overlook Canadian data sovereignty laws, which applies to companies who do business in Canada even if they are located in another country. Blair says that the data residency laws state that for certain areas of the economy, such as financial and healthcare, that data is only available within Canada.
“Organizations are constantly scrutinizing their vendors and cloud providers to ensure data stays within the borders at all times,” says Blair. “I recommend that organizations seek a partner that is knowledgeable on Canadian data sovereignty laws and can ensure that they’re adhering to data residency and compliance.”

Moving Toward a Brighter Future

Blair says it’s very satisfying to take organizations away from limited functionality and capability and move them to a consumption-based holistic recovery model. His team sees firsthand the comfort these organizations have once they have the capability of recovering their data in the shortest time possible. As we move forward with cloud-based HA/DR, Blair predicts that the capabilities and benefits will significantly increase. He sees opportunities for significant growth in multiple clouds and data residency issues, especially in terms of resiliency for local areas.

“I see the future being brighter for organizations that capture that moment where technology starts to continually improve the uptime of most organizations,” Blair says. “There’s no one-size-fits-all answer or solution for HA/DR. By working with a partner who listens to their requirements and helps prioritize assets, organizations can make sure that their HA/DR plan meets their corporate goals instead of simply IT goals.”