No matter the size of your organization or the nature of your workloads, protecting IT assets in the event of hardware failure or other operational interruption is core to responsible management. However, outside of business-critical applications, backup solutions have been the only affordable options to protect most virtual machines (VMs). When a crisis happens, recovery from backup can result in days or even weeks of downtime — particularly if new hardware must be purchased or backup testing was not systematic.
With tight deadlines and expensive personnel, the loss of even a few VMs can have productivity losses in the tens of thousands of dollars or more. And traditional disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) solutions — whether on-premise or at a service provider — have been extremely expensive, implementation complex, and testing and maintenance is too labor-intensive to justify. Companies need to provide continuous protection without added complexity, quick recovery without spare hardware, easy implementation without special skills, continuous testing without significant effort, manageability without another console, and the affordability of basic backup. Enter hybrid IT.
Hybrid IT integrates on-premise operations with public cloud, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), and can make comprehensive data protection practical and accessible for any organization and every type of workload by leveraging the low-cost, pay-as-you-go economics of public clouds for your secondary data center. Rather than building out a colocation site that may sit idle for significant periods of time and drain enterprise resources, it’s now possible to leverage public clouds to not only protect workloads but to recover them if on-premise resources become unavailable for any reason. However, certain roadblocks can stand in the way of a hybrid DR/BC if they are not implemented properly. IT managers can ensure the successful deployment of cloud-based DR/BC with the following three hybrid IT best practices:
Be sure your hybrid DR/BC is tightly integrated with on-premise operations.
In a successful hybrid IT environment, cloud-based infrastructure integrates seamlessly with on-premise administration, management, monitoring, workflows, and analytics. Without comprehensive integration, DR/BC becomes an exception process rather than a natural extension to day-to-day operations, creating substantial risk in a recovery scenario. On the other hand, solutions that are tightly integrated enable automated, predictable, and rapid recovery in cloud-based infrastructure like AWS. But watch out for providers that require significant upfront or lengthy ongoing professional service contracts to manage your hybrid DR/BC environment. Solutions that natively extend the technology your staff is already trained on and comfortable with should be the top priority for data center managers considering a hybrid approach.
Make continuous, automated testing a key part of your DR/BC plan.
Leveraging the pay-as-you-go infrastructure of public clouds for DR/BC provides a great alternative to the costly practice of building out a new colocation site, but it can simultaneously introduce new risks for the organization. After all, any hybrid IT solution will have a number of moving parts that must work together in concert. Automation is critical for initial replication, capture of ongoing changes, testing, recovery, and migration back on-premise. If any of these steps requires significant manual effort, watch out. Automated, easy-to-execute DR testing at the network layer also needs to be part of the mix in order to ensure applications will run without obstacles during recovery.
Most importantly, continuous testing must become part of daily operations, so you can have confidence that recovery will, in fact, be successful. We all know that testing, whether basic backup or comprehensive DR/BC, is typically handled as an occasional activity. For this reason, recovery has historically been error-prone and sometimes impossible. With newer technologies designed to make testing quick and easy, it’s critical to change patterns of the past and test early and often. This simple, yet vital discipline can save your data center and your job.
Don’t just replicate data, send production and scale-out workloads to the cloud, too.
Cloud backup products and services have been around for many years, but don’t confuse these solutions with hybrid DR/BC. Backup in the cloud without recovery in the cloud is unlikely to provide a complete solution for most IT shops. After all, once disaster strikes, whether the disaster is large or small, you still need infrastructure for the recovery and rapid recovery is a must have. If your data is in the cloud but recovery is back on-premise, you won’t have the financial benefit of pay-as-you-go cloud-based infrastructure, and you will have download latency to migrate the data back on-site. The latest technologies allow you to protect and recover workloads in the cloud, from development and testing workloads, to production and scale-out VMs at price points of basic backup, enabling enterprises to maintain BC and prevent data center managers from losing sleep.
Making hybrid IT part of your long-term roadmap
Industry analysts tell us that 74% of enterprises are planning to utilize hybrid IT infrastructures to boost their agility, lower costs, and increase productivity. Cloud-based DR/BC is an ideal first step in your hybrid IT roadmap, but IT managers should read the fine print to avoid the pitfalls of false promises of ineffective or complex hybrid IT solutions. Clear focus on DR/BC integration, automation, testing, and unified management will ensure your hybrid IT plan delivers on the promises and you can deliver the greatest value for your budget.