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Top tips for robust disaster recovery in the cloud

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Keeping businesses running in the event of either natural or man-made disasters is essential, since any downtime quickly results in reduced productivity, brand damage and resulting revenue loss, writes Allen Mitchell, cloud consultant at Commvault Cloud Solutions Group EMEA.
In today’s business world, data has become a core asset, and therefore needs to form a central component of any disaster recovery or business continuity planning.
Achieving this, however, is made more complex than ever thanks to the prevalence of cloud-based and hybrid technology solutions and infrastructure.
Disaster recovery (DR) needs to cover data both on premises and in the cloud, and cloud-based DR could be the ideal solution. Effectively addressing the challenges of cloud DR can assist organisations to deploy effective and robust strategies that ensure business continuity across all core assets, including data.
Given the critical nature of technology infrastructure and data to business today, ensuring business continuity through effective disaster recovery planning is a task that should therefore be of the utmost importance at the highest level. The reality is that many organisations simply do not have disaster recovery plans in place, and the plans that do exist cover only a few applications.
Plans are often also not tested or maintained, and therefore do not reflect the changing infrastructure. The main reasons cited for this lack include cost and complexity.
Public cloud services can offer a solution to both of these issues, enabling DR to be extended to cover a wide array of systems, applications and data. This in turn makes DR far more robust and effective.
Here are some top tips to help businesses achieve maximum benefit from cloud-based DR.

Get involved
Time and again, studies have shown that organisations without the ability to recover effectively from a disaster fail in short order.
Disaster recover planning and testing are mission critical, and need to be dealt with by C-level executives, including the CIO and the CTO. DR should not only be a strategic IT imperative, but a business imperative as well.

Understand your risk
For DR and business continuity planning to be effective, it is essential to identify and understand the potential risks to your business as well as the likelihood of these risks occurring.
In South Africa, for example, power failures are not just likely, but fairly common, and need to be planned for accordingly.
Systems also need to be categorised by their importance to the business, so that critical systems backup and recovery can be prioritised over those of lesser importance.

Deal with security concerns
Often the biggest issue cited around cloud-based DR and backup is concern over security, specifically the belief that the cloud is not as safe as on premise solutions. The reality is that there always needs to be some level of trust, and choosing a trusted provider is essential.
Cloud DR is no different from Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, many of which are already in use within organisations.

Budget accordingly
In spite of the fact that DR is mission critical to business continuity, it seldom has much of a budget. This often means that efforts must be piggybacked off another area of IT.
Combining DR with other cloud and virtualisation efforts can have a number of benefits, since the pay as you go model often makes it a more cost effective and affordable option.

Tie it all together
Off-site DR can be useful for both applications and data, and the cloud enables this without requiring the construction of an additional data centre.
However, organisations also need to ensure that they make use of a solid recovery option that ensures applications and data in the cloud are recoverable quickly according to their business continuity objectives. This typically requires cross-platform solutions to allow for the recovery of all of the different data and applications required.

Factor in mobility
The growing bring your own device (BYOD) trend as well as the plethora of mobile devices in use in the workplace can cause DR complications. The risk of data loss from mobile devices has become a major issue, as device loss now also has to be factored in to planning and recovery.
BYOD specifically introduces further complexity, since enterprises need to protect corporate information but do not wish to backup employee’s personal data on corporate servers. Acceptable use policies for personal information on business devices can be one solution to this growing challenge.

Regular testing is essential
Testing is critical to discovering any underlying issues with DR planning and systems. Infrastructure changes over time, and as a result what was once an effective DR strategy may become less so.
Regular check-ups can alleviate any problems before they can have a detrimental effect.

Comprehensive is key
A comprehensive DR plan means that risks are mitigated and that business continuity has a strong foundation.

Conclusion
Business today relies heavily on technology and data, and therefore DR and business continuity need to become part of the fabric of the business.
Demonstrating the value of such planning in terms of the cost and loss of revenue in the event of a disaster can go a long way toward removing any negative sentiment toward such initiatives. While there are many risks and contingencies that need to be accounted for, cloud and virtualisation are increasingly viable options for effective and robust disaster recovery.