By Matthew DeCurtis, Anexinet
Outside of your people, your data is the most critical asset to your organization. Here are the proper questions to help you uncover the foundational design of a Disaster Recovery as a Service provider’s offering. It is essential for you and your organization to understand any inefficiencies or vulnerabilities that may exist in the service. So, go ahead and ask:
1. “Is your DRaaS solution Cloud-Native, or is there an onsite component?”
It is vital to know upfront if you’re going to need to make room in your rack to accommodate a large storage array or if you need to provision a dedicated circuit just for incremental backups throughout the day. The last thing you need is your production network taking a performance hit every fifteen minutes while your incremental is synchronized.
Most providers have an onsite component to their design. This is an entirely valid setup—in some cases, a better solution for those who frequently need to perform large restores. Since the hardware is onsite and local to your other resources, the time to restore is significantly reduced over the LAN vs. WAN. On the other hand, if you’re looking to get out of the hardware game, you need to weigh your options and decide if performance is important enough to bring another piece of hardware onsite.
2. “Where is my data going when it’s shipped offsite?”
Another great question to ask, and one that may make the provider uncomfortable if they are trying to resell a DRaaS product and pass it off as their own. They may not know where it’s stored; if so, that’s a red flag. You want the assurance of knowing your data is stored in a facility that meets (at minimum) SSAE-16 Type II requirements or follows ISO27001 standards. The security at the facility, including physical access control management, data loss prevention procedures, backup and failover sites, physical security, and best practice management is paramount. While you’re at it, ask about any previous breaches as well.
3. “My facility is a total loss and I won’t have new equipment for a week. What do I do in the meantime?”
This question will help expose the maturity of the system. A mature DRaaS service provider will have reserved compute set aside for these instances. Your machines are captured in a snapshot with current system-state information so they can be stood-up in their datacenter, and a Branch Office VPN created between the two environments for secure access. This works well to keep things moving along on the production network, but by no means is it a long-term solution, as performance generally takes a significant hit.
4. “How do I get my data back onsite after we’ve run through this practice?”
The last thing you want to attempt in this scenario is pulling your production data back to your environment over what is generally a throttled line. It could take weeks for this to complete and isn’t feasible.
Your data has changed significantly during the two weeks of running on cloud resources. The service provider knows this and should have a solution available to take a snapshot of the changed data, create a new delta, load them all onto an NAS or BlackBox appliance, and securely ship to your facility to start the rebuild. Trust me when I say this is the fastest way to get your machines back online.
5. “Do you have financially backed Service Level Agreements?”
Financially backed SLAs usually come at a premium, but you’re paying for a premium service for your premium systems, don’t skimp here. Identify those systems in your environment that are critical to keeping your business running. Don’t wrap SLA’s around utility servers, print servers (unless you’re a print company), or other services that don’t play a role in running your day-to-day functions. Most likely, you’re already on a cloud email solution (e.g., Office 365), so consider one of the servers in your environment already accounted for (though not the most critical server), as business communication can go on at this point. Domain Controllers, CRM’s, ERP’s, CPQ’s, and Payroll are the ones to focus on here.
By now, you’ve sat down with key stakeholders and have an idea how much money it costs the organization to remain idle: no quotes out, no sales in, no production. The financially backed SLA keeps you in your DRaaS provider’s best interests.
This article should help you make an informed decision when selecting a Disaster Recovery as a Service provider. Coming to the table armed with use case scenarios, familiarity with the methodology, and the confidence of knowing what you’re looking for gives you a significant advantage when interviewing potential partners.