What is DRaaS? Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Disaster Recovery
Data Center Maintenance
When disasters hit the news, many IT professionals are prompted to reevaluate their preparations.
It’s that time of year, when many of us in the Northern Hemisphere brace for natural disasters. From Lancashire, England to Brattsjö, Sweden, to the California-Oregon border in the U.S., wildfires are creating havoc. And a year after the U.S. suffered three severe hurricanes, one which hit England as an extratropical cyclone, the tension is palpable.
When disasters hit the news, many IT professionals are prompted to reevaluate their preparations. In a previous series of disaster recovery planning blogs, we covered the essentials of disaster planning, but many organizations are still trying to determine how to protect against a widespread catastrophic event that outstrips any single-site DR solution.
After all, the best RAID system cannot withstand flood waters, power surges, or explosions, so getting data and applications off site, preferably in a location geographically isolated from the primary data center, ranges from desirable to absolutely critical.
Many organizations have struggled to marshal the expertise and budget to develop, provision, configure, test, and maintain a comprehensive, off-site disaster recovery facility, to be used only in crisis scenarios. This is where DRaaS—disaster recovery-as-a-service—comes in.
A DRaaS Definition
DRaaS is another important development in the democratization of IT. Capabilities once available only to well funded, enterprise-scale organizations can now be accessed by businesses of all sizes. According to Gartner research from late 2016, there are more than 250 DRaaS providers and over 50,000 active production instances. DRaaS may even overtake traditional disaster recovery services this year.
The main attraction of DRaaS is that it replicates all data and applications to serve as a secondary infrastructure, which users can access remotely if the primary environment goes down. Most DRaaS solutions exist in the cloud.
DRaaS works by leveraging software-based infrastructure and virtualization. Businesses are increasingly provisioning servers, storage, network and other resources as software instances on disparate hardware.
Beyond dynamic provisioning and automation capabilities, a key advocate of software-based infrastructure is that such instances can then be backed up, much like data always was. If such backups are not simply sent to a disk or tape repository but to the cloud (or point-to-point DRaaS provider), they are in another, possibly several, data centers and can be operated as if they were local.
How DRaaS Differs from BaaS and RaaS
IT pros have seen a lot of change in disaster recovery services, so what makes DRaaS different from BaaS (backup-as-a-service) and RaaS (recovery-as-a-service)? It may be helpful to see them on a continuum.
BaaS is the most basic, providing only off-site backup. The IT organization decides which files to send to the provider’s storage systems, manages the backup processes, and maintains responsibility for data consistency and restoration.
RaaS is the next step up. It typically involves hosting of server images and production data backups. If a problem brings down the primary site, the provider facilitates download of these images to a customer-run site. It is still necessary to rebuild the capabilities, whether physically or virtually.
The turnkey nature of DRaaS is what truly sets it apart in the evolution of off-site disaster recovery options and is driving its popularity.
Primary Advantages of DRaaS
At the most basic level, DRaaS reduces the time required to return applications to production, as data is not restored over the internet. Rather access to applications and data is made available remotely.
DRaaS offers many key benefits when compared with traditional options, such as operating a second failover site or going the “backup and restore” route. Infrascale breaks them down in a few short slides, the main takeaways from which are the following:
- The business can continue operations while IT fixes the problem. End-users continue to access applications and data, virtualized in the cloud.
- DRaaS can often spin up within minutes, putting employees and customers back in business with barely noticeable downtime.
- There is no need to build and maintain a disaster recovery site to gain these advantages, and there are no additional IT resources to manage and test.
- Like any aaS prospect, pricing will vary based on the SLAs and the provider, but the costs can be considerably lower than a dedicated DR site.
Downsides to Consider
Nothing in the world is perfect, and DRaaS is no exception. IT pros should consider issues like the following, which were highlighted by Tech Target:
- The IT organization is at the mercy of the service provider to respond appropriately in the case of a disaster and meet recovery point objectives. Shortcomings in their capabilities may not be apparent until an emergency strikes.
- Performance issues can arise with applications running in the cloud, although appropriate testing can mitigate problems.
- Migration back to an on-premises data center can lead to issues as well.
Despite these challenges, DRaaS is becoming the “go to” option for many types of IT organizations. Some DRaaS vendors offer all-in-one solutions, while others are more mix-and-match in their approach. We’ll take a look at some of the options in the next post.