Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS): Everything You Need to Know
Organizations are more prone to business downtime now than ever before. Disruptions from natural disasters, equipment failures, power outages, cyberattacks and other incidents have escalated in frequency and severity in recent years, and organizations continue to bear the brunt of it. The 2022 Outage Analysis Report by Uptime Institute underlines this growing menace. According to the report, in 2022, 60% of outages cost more than $100,000 (up from 39% in 2019) and 15% cost more than $1 million (up from 11% in 2019). While considering the productivity loss and reputational damage that businesses face in addition to these financial consequences, downtime can be a death knell for businesses, especially for small and midsize businesses (SMBs).
To mitigate potential damages and eliminate downtime in the event of an IT disaster, organizations need to have a proactive plan rather than a reactive one. However, most SMBs cannot afford to spend the money, time and resources required to research, implement and test disaster recovery plans. That is why Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) is swiftly gaining prominence in the midmarket segment. It allows an organization to back up its data (along with IT infrastructure configurations and disaster recovery (DR) runbook) in a third-party cloud computing environment. When a disaster strikes, the cloud service provider will provide the business with the DR orchestration necessary to regain access and functionality to the IT infrastructure.
What is Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service?
Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service empowers businesses to offload the maintenance and management of disaster recovery functions to a third-party provider. TechTarget defines DRaaS as “the replication and hosting of physical or virtual servers by a third party to provide failover in the event of a natural catastrophe, power outage or another type of business disruption.” DRaaS enables organizations that can’t afford secondary data centers to leverage disaster recovery capability.
What is the difference between BaaS and DRaaS?
Backup-as-a-Service (BaaS) allows an organization to create secure copies of its data in a hybrid cloud or off-site cloud repository to keep it safe from unauthorized access, corruption or theft. From files and images to the entire application workloads, BaaS protects any business-critical data by saving it in an encrypted and immutable form. However, in BaaS, the service provider is only responsible for ensuring the consistency of backed-up data and its restoration. For instance, if the infrastructure goes out of order, the onus falls on the client to restore it.
Meanwhile, DRaaS goes beyond backing up your data to secure your business in the event of a disaster. In DRaaS, the company servers are mirrored or replicated off-site as recovery instances in the cloud. Depending on the replication level — from a scaled-down running environment to a full-scale suspended copy of infrastructure — the DRaaS service provider will back up the systems at intervals specified by the service level agreement (SLA). When a disaster strikes, the provider will take care of the complete disaster recovery process so the client can continue business as usual.
What is the importance of DRaaS?
DRaaS ensures that business-critical data, systems and applications stay secure and readily available for businesses during a crisis. As DRaaS mirrors the complete infrastructure on virtual servers in fail-safe mode, organizations can be assured that their disaster recovery will be much faster or even instantaneous. Since the third-party facility provides the infrastructure, maintenance and management, organizations can also reduce CapEx costs and free up their workforce for more strategic initiatives.
DRaaS is a natural fit for SMBs that find investing in a secondary data center for disaster recovery a cost-prohibitive option. However, midmarket enterprises (MMEs) have also increasingly started adopting this disaster recovery method since making a two-time investment in IT infrastructure is expensive for businesses of any size.
How does DRaaS work?
A DRaaS service provider offers data replication, hosting and recovery services so the customer can switch to an off-site DR environment when a disaster is declared. Contrary to traditional disaster recovery methods, which require organizations to operate an off-site DR facility by themselves, DRaaS shifts that responsibility to service providers.
The provider may use a software application or hardware appliance to provide failover for on-premise or cloud computing environments. Anything can be backed up in the off-site environment, from virtual machines (VMs) to on-premises servers and mainframes. DRaaS requirements and expectations are typically recorded in an SLA to evaluate and determine the client’s unique needs.
How is DRaaS licensed?
Like any other as-a-Service model, DRaaS largely varies in scope and cost. Your replicated data storage capacity, software licensing, hosted computing infrastructure and bandwidth are some major components that can affect the licensing price. DRaaS may be billed on-demand, according to ongoing retainer agreements or based on actual usage.
What are the different DRaaS operating models?
There are three primary models that organizations can opt for while implementing DRaaS. Organizations can completely hand over the disaster recovery planning and operation to a provider or choose to get expert help only when needed. Then there is a third type of operating model that is self-serviced, enabling you to create your own DR strategy. Your DRaaS model should ultimately depend on the bandwidth, budget and time you can allocate for DR.
In a managed DRaaS model, the service provider takes over all the disaster recovery responsibilities, from the protection of on-premises and cloud infrastructure to DR testing, validation and operation in a failover event. Since it is provided entirely as a service, the SLA guarantees a successful recovery during a disaster. However, the clients still have to work with the service provider closely to keep all application, infrastructure and service changes up to date. A Managed DRaaS model is the best option if you do not have the internal expertise or time to manage a DR team.
The assisted DRaaS model only hands over some aspects of the disaster recovery to the service provider and requires the client to maintain a certain level of control over its DR functioning. While you can leverage the service provider’s expertise to streamline the disaster recovery processes, you will be partially or fully responsible for implementing the DR plans.
In this model, you still benefit from the service provider’s expertise. At the same time, the administrative burden of managing the solution is lower than a conventional DRaaS deployment. If you want to control some phases of your disaster recovery plan, assisted DRaaS is the best option.
If your organization has the in-house bandwidth and expertise to plan, implement, test and manage a DRaaS strategy, self-service DRaaS is ideal for you. It is the least expensive DRaaS model where the service provider will host your backups and VMs in a remote location, and the onus falls on you to failover to those virtual servers in the event of a disaster. While the model offers flexibility, it is essential to note that you bear complete responsibility for the execution of your disaster recovery plan.
What are the benefits of DRaaS?
For businesses with lean IT teams without the budget or capacity to research, implement and test DR plans, DRaaS is less costly and more effective than in-house solutions. In addition, DRaaS also offers many advantages for businesses, such as:
DRaaS frees your internal IT teams from the planning, implementation, maintenance, testing and support associated with disaster recovery planning so that they can focus on other critical IT functions. Hosting a disaster recovery infrastructure with an IT team standing by to carry out disaster recovery — if and when a disaster strikes — is not an efficient and viable option for most businesses. DRaaS lets disaster recovery experts do that for you while your workforce can focus on revenue-generating initiatives.
Establishing and running a secondary data center for DR purposes with recurring costs for maintenance and support is a costly option for most businesses. DRaaS empowers organizations with a cost-effective solution that can do away with IT downtime without spending upfront CapEx costs for infrastructure and applications.
For businesses that lack the in-house expertise to design and execute DR plans, DRaaS puts that burden into the hands of eligible experts with extensive experience in managing data security and disaster recovery planning. Ensure business continuity and eliminate downtime by leaning on the best resources available.
The significant advantage of any cloud service over its physical, on-premises counterparts is the scalability they offer. As you expand your business and scale up your IT environment — let’s say, from one virtualization platform to a complete data center environment with physical servers and thousands of VMs — you will want to extend your disaster recovery options as well. Unlike on-premises infrastructure, which is hard to scale up or down, DRaaS helps you review your needs and update and extend your DR strategy whenever needed.
Using multiple solutions becomes an administrative nightmare as your data footprint sprawls and workloads get dispersed between hybrid and multicloud environments. Wherever your data resides, at the cloud, core or edge, DRaaS enables you to leverage a single pane of glass to protect it with the same security and compliance standards implemented throughout. It will allow your business to show regulatory bodies and your customers where your data is located, who is managing and accessing it, and how it is backed up — all with a single interface.
Downtime bleeds your business dry — the longer you take to recover from a disaster, the more customers and revenue you risk losing. While traditional in-house solutions can lead to prolonged recovery times, DRaaS can help you achieve aggressive recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO) with its cutting-edge replication technologies and automated and orchestrated recovery processes. Your SLA with the vendor will guarantee the specified RTO and RPO for your different workloads.
What should be considered when evaluating a DRaaS provider?
With hundreds of vendors and diverse options, organizations must consider many aspects when choosing a DRaaS provider. Businesses must have a solid understanding of the business and technical goals driving their DR plan and pick a solution that fits their unique needs and budget.
Here are some critical features that will help you make the right decision.
Service level agreements (SLAs)
Verifying that your service provider offers an SLA that meets your RPO and RTO goals is critical. It all starts with a business impact study that priority-wise classifies the processes and systems vital to the business’s success. These classifications will be based on an agreement regarding the acceptable amount of RPO and RTO for different data, applications and systems. For instance, some applications can be offline for a period without affecting the business, whereas a few seconds of downtime with others can cause irreparable damage to a business.
You need to make sure that you create a performance SLA with your vendor to ensure pre-defined performance assurance for each application or system, according to their criticality. At the same time, it is also crucial to establish recovery objectives when both the client and vendor are affected by the same natural disaster.
Once you have established your DRaaS requirements, choosing the right service provider is equally important. Many things must be considered while doing it, and these are some of the questions you can ask your vendor. Can they host public-facing IPs? What are the different networking configurations they support? Can they spin up different OS versions, hypervisors and multitiered/N-tier applications? If yes, how quickly can they do it, and are those guarantees recorded contractually? After a disaster recovery is performed, how does the vendor reverse seed or failback to your primary site?
Make sure you choose a vendor that can help you recreate your extensive data infrastructure and deliver cloud-to-cloud replication even within a multicloud environment. Ensure it supports the leading virtualization platforms and on-premises server-based environments.
The capacity of your vendor is another thing to consider. Does their solution have enough bandwidth and resources to replicate a large data center environment with physical servers and thousands of VMs? And how scalable is their service? Does the cost vary when the data grows? Consider all these before choosing a solution.
What kind of operating model does your vendor have — fully managed, assisted or self-service? What responsibilities of disaster recovery will fall into your hands?
It is crucial to understand what happens if and when a disaster strikes and your vendor cannot provide services. Another similar scenario is when the provider cannot meet its SLAs. Understand your rights under the contract and how your business will react and recover in every kind of situation possible.
Ask your DRaaS vendor how users will access internal applications during a crisis and how the virtual private network (VPN) will work. How will the customer connect to the cloud? Learn how the domain name system (DNS) will work. These are all critical to ensuring accessibility to internal systems and data during a disaster.
Another thing to consider while replicating your IT infrastructure is the location where it is launched. Since disasters can be region-based, the cloud data center should be far enough away from your region to ensure efficient recovery. The cloud in which it is done (public or private) and the geographies/or areas where it is done are all critical aspects that determine swift disaster recovery.
Imagine discovering that your DR plan is ineffective amid a disaster. Testing is the only way to find flaws in your disaster recovery plan and ensure that you can rapidly restore operations following an outage. DRaaS testing must be conducted regularly without impacting your production servers or the daily business workflow. That’s why choosing a vendor that can offer non-disruptive automated testing regularly to verify your DR readiness at regular intervals is essential. Regular testing is a critical component of your DR strategy, and you should look for a vendor that can offer you automated testing on a regular basis.
As discussed earlier, DRaaS may vary in scope and cost depending on your DR requirements. DRaaS can be licensed on a per-machine, per-usage or per-volume basis. Opting for a licensing plan that best suits your budget and needs is important.
DRaaS plans can be availed via the traditional subscription-based model or pay-per-use models. The pricing can be highly variable and generally depends on the number of VMs, servers or applications included in the DR plan. It is ideal to choose a provider that can offer different DRaaS services for different classes of applications to keep your DRaaS strategy cost-effective.
Many data protection vendors often make organizations wait weeks or months to upload data over the wide area network (WAN). It is thus important to understand whether your provider offers services like cloud seeding, which allows fast initial seeding of your protected data. Similarly, it is vital to know whether they help create a DR runbook so that you have a working document to guide you during a disaster.
Enjoy flexible, cost-efficient DRaaS from Unitrends
Unitrends’ white-glove DRaaS can help you drastically reduce the cost and complexity involved in protecting your critical workloads from any IT disaster. Unitrends DRaaS delivers swift spin-up of your critical systems, applications and data in the secure Unitrends cloud at a cost significantly lower than what you would have to bear when you build and manage your own off-site DR.
From installation in our purpose-built Unitrends cloud to failover and recovery of service during a disaster to failback to your primary data center, our cloud and DR experts will take care of the entire process so that you can continue business as usual in the event of a disaster. With our automatic testing, you can have 100% confidence in your recovery capability.
You can choose from our diverse and flexible DRaaS options depending on how fast you need to recover your applications. Choose one-hour or 24-hour recovery times — guaranteed in writing for business-critical applications and an unlimited recovery option for everything else.
Get a demo of Unitrends DRaaS now. Experience the powerful capabilities of our simple, better and smarter DRaaS.