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What is disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS)?  

Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) is a cloud computing service model that allows an organization to regain access and functionality to its IT infrastructure after a disaster by backing up its data and IT infrastructure in a third party’s cloud computing environment. 


Disaster recovery planning is critical to business continuity. Many of the types of disasters that have the potential to wreak havoc on an IT organization have become more frequent in recent years:

  • Natural disasters such as hurricane, floods, wildfires, and earthquakes 
  • Equipment failures and power outages 
  • Cyber attacks

How can I use DRaaS to prepare for a disaster?

To prepare for these and other potential disasters, organizations should prepare a disaster recovery plan. The strategy, processes, and procedures that make up an organization’s disaster recovery plan depend on how much downtime an organization can handle and how frequently the organization is able to back up its data. A disaster recovery plan should include a recovery point objective (RPO) that states the frequency of backups and a recovery time objective (RTO) that defines the maximum amount of downtime allowable after a disaster. 


With disaster recovery as a service, a service provider that offers cloud disaster recovery can move an organization’s computer processing to its cloud infrastructure in the event of a disaster. This way, the business can continue to operate, even if the original IT infrastructure is totally destroyed or held hostage. This differs from Back up as a Service, where only the data, but not the ability to process the data, is backed up by a third-party provider.  


True DRaaS mirrors a complete infrastructure in fail-safe mode on virtual servers, including compute, storage, and networking functions. An organization can continue to run applications—it just runs them from the DRaaS service provider’s cloud or hybrid cloud environment instead of from the disaster-affected customer’s physical servers. This means recovery time after a disaster can be much faster, or even instantaneous. Once the physical servers are recovered or replaced, the processing and data is migrated back onto them. Customers may experience higher latency when their applications are running from the cloud instead of from an on-site server, but it’s better than nothing running at all.  

How does disaster recovery as a service work?  

DRaaS works by replicating and hosting servers in a third-party vendor’s facilities versus in the physical location of the organization that owns the workload. The third-party provider implements a disaster recovery plan in the event of a disaster that shuts down a customer’s site. Organizations may purchase DRaaS plans through a traditional subscription model or a pay-per-use model that allows them to pay only when disaster strikes. Disaster recovery as a service solution varies in scope and cost – organizations should evaluate potential DRaaS providers according to their own unique needs and budget. 


DRaaS can save organizations money by eliminating the need for provisioning and maintaining an organization’s own off-site disaster recovery environment. However, there are risks. There is no guarantee a DRaaS provider will be able to meet the agreed upon RTO if both the provider and customer are affected by the same natural disaster, such as a large hurricane or earthquake. Different DRaaS providers have different policies on prioritizing which customers get help first in a large regional disaster or allowing customers to perform their own disaster recovery testing. 


What is the importance of DRaaS?

Planning for disaster recovery is an important aspect of business continuity. Because disasters by their very nature do not occur on a regular basis, the importance of disaster recovery is often overlooked or minimized by business leaders. Disaster recovery planning can also be expensive—another deterrent to implementing a disaster recovery plan. Unfortunately, cyber attacks are increasing, as is extreme weather—two major causes of IT infrastructure disasters. Downtime can cost a business hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is much more costly than even the most expensive disaster recovery plan. 


DRaaS takes the burden of planning for a disaster off of the organization and puts it into the hands of experts in disaster recovery. It can also be much more affordable than hosting your own back-up infrastructure in a remote location with an IT staff standing by if disaster strikes. For many organizations, it’s a near-perfect and long-awaited solution to a nagging problem. 

Is disaster recovery as a service right for you? 

Organizations may choose to hand over all or part of their disaster recovery planning to a DRaaS provider. There are three main models for disaster recovery as a service: 


  1. Managed DRaaS: In a managed DRaaS model, a third party takes over all responsibility for disaster recovery. Choosing this option requires an organization to stay in close contact with their DRaaS provider to ensure that it stays up to date on all infrastructure, application, and services changes. If you lack the expertise or time to manage your own disaster recovery, this may be the best option for you.
  2. Assisted DRaaS: If you prefer to maintain responsibility for some aspects of your disaster recovery plan, or if you have unique or customized applications that might be challenging for a third party to take over, assisted DRaaS might be a better option. In this model, the DRaaS offers its expertise for optimizing disaster recovery procedures, but the customer is responsible for implementing some or all of the disaster recovery plan.  
  3. Self-Service DRaaS: The least expensive and most risky option is self-service DRaaS, where the customer is responsible for the planning, testing, and management of disaster recovery, and the customer hosts its own infrastructure backup on virtual machines in a remote location. Careful planning and testing are required to make sure that processing can fail over to the virtual servers instantly in the event of a disaster. This option is only a good idea if you have experienced disaster recovery experts on staff. 

Planning for disaster and getting the help you need is something every business needs to consider. Whatever option you choose, a disaster recovery plan is essential for business continuity. 


Related Topics
Disaster Recovery
Business Continuity
Virtual Machine

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