“DRaaS” Disaster Recovery as a Service

Information Technology brings tremendous value to an organization by making operational processes more efficient and by enabling new ways of doing business. But an inherent side effect of its value is our growing dependence on our IT systems. A service outage of even a few minutes can be annoying. But an outage continuing for hours, or days can bring a business to a standstill. Any event that disrupts key IT services for an extended period brings the potential of profound financial harm.

There are many types of events that can cause such a disruption. They include:

  • Natural disasters such as weather-driven power outages and floods.
  • Unintentional acts, like maintenance crews cutting cables and fires started by accident.
  • Criminal acts by disgruntled employees such as arson, tampering with IT hardware or software.
  • Risks inherent to IT such as equipment failure and Ransomware attacks.
  • Plain bad luck: the backup generator seizes after a primary power failure; a water cooler on the floor above the data closet develops a leak over the holiday weekend; a system fault causes the sprinkler system to engage.

The IT outages these disasters can cause range from a few days to many weeks, or even longer. Most of these are unpredictable, the only certainty is that one or more will hit you eventually.

Every business should have plans in place to allow business to continue following a disruption in IT services. For many, a central component of these plans should be DRaaS – Disaster Recovery as a Service. DRaaS leverages Internet cloud services to provide an alternative IT infrastructure that is standing by ready to be started (“cloud spin-up” in industry jargon) when needed. The beauty of DRaaS is its cost-efficiency: in particular, the minimal cost of maintaining the cloud systems in a ready-to-use state.

How Does DRaaS Differ from Image Backup?

Most PCG clients use our backup services to keep backup images of their servers and other key devices in the cloud. Acronis, our backup partner, is one of the world’s leading providers of backup services, meeting rigorous compliance standards for secure and reliable operation including SOC1 and SOC 2.

After a disaster, image backups can provide almost immediate access to individual files. But getting access to applications and databases often requires rebuilding or replacing the data center. DRaaS is designed specifically to short-circuit this process by activating replacement servers that can be accessed immediately, and provide service as long as necessary.

How Does DRaaS Work?

DRaaS requires two additional elements to be set up within the Acronis cloud:

  • Cloud servers and network gateways that are predefined and tested, but (aside from testing) are not activated until needed.
  • A second copy of the image backup is “in position” and ready for use by the cloud servers

The diagrams illustrates normal operation shows how the network is reconfigured when a server is lost.

In the event of a disaster, we activate the cloud servers and sever the connections to the primary servers (assuming the disaster hasn’t already accomplished this second step!) The routing policies are preconfigured to automatically reroute all connections to the cloud servers in the event that the primary servers can’t be reached.

How Do I Know My Data Is Secure?

Your data is always encrypted before it leaves your location and remains encrypted until it is needed. In the event of a cloud spin-up your data is decrypted and scanned for any malware. In particular, it is checking for inactivated ransomware that is hiding for future exploitation. In the event that a particular image is unusable, the system will be reverted to the last clean image (see “RPO” below). Once the cloud server is spun up it is connected to your location by an encrypted tunnel.

How Do I Know It Will Work When Needed?

At PCG we believe that no backup solution can be depended on unless it is regularly and thoroughly tested. Our standard for DRaaS is to test every four months, and for you – or your designee – to be part of the test by confirming that access to key applications behaves as expected. And as your MSP, whenever we make changes with the potential to impact your DRaaS we take additional steps to ensure that it will operate as required.

What Are The RTO And RPO?

RTO stands for “Recovery Time Objective”. The Acronis DRaaS has been independently verified (for example by the Gartner Group) as one of the fastest, with spin-up times of less than 15 minutes.

RPO stands for “Recovery Point Objective.” Our backup system creates a full cloud backup after each business day, and in many cases this is the image that would be spun up following a disaster. However, in the event that the latest version is corrupted (most likely through some form of criminal activity) we maintain multiple recovery points. Our standard is for cloud RPOs to span at least three months, with longer periods also available.

How Much Will DRaaS Save Me?

An IT outage has two costs, primary and secondary:

  • Primary costs are the operating costs of each day of operation without production. The best measure of the cost of a total IT outage is your operating cost for the year divided by the number of days you are open. Primary costs are usually accumulated on a per-day basis for the duration of the outage.
  • Secondary costs include lost business opportunities that are never recovered. For example the shipment you never make because a deadline is missed. Or customers that lose confidence because you can’t promptly address their service needs.  Secondary costs also include management attention that is consumed by communicating with customers and others about your outage. Secondary costs often grow exponentially with the length of an outage.

For most businesses, these costs can amount to at least 1% of annual revenue for each day of IT outage. DRaaS will typically pay for itself in the first two days of an outage. And while some “disasters” can be remediated in a matter of days, others can take weeks or months to resolve.

What Makes PCG DRaaS Different?

The Acronis DRaaS system PCG uses is among the fastest available. But a DRaaS solution is about much more than technology. It is about the team that implements the solution, tests it regularly, maintains the documentation up-to-date and ensures your data is secure.

For more specifics on how PCG can help keep your business running after a disaster, please contact us here.