Disaster Recovery – How to Protect Your IT Environment Remotely

September 29, 2020

As we face an ongoing global pandemic and its impact on our lives, we have realized that even with the progress made over the last several years toward digitalization, we still rely on physical environments to operate our IT infrastructure. We were not entirely prepared to shift to a digital environment overnight, and when we did, there were compliance and security implications.

Independently, if an organization is still in lockdown or making its first steps back to the “new normal,” it’s required they keep their business operational and guarantee continuity. Whether ensuring that your technology doesn’t go down, that your remote workers can access all your systems securely, or that you can continue to communicate with – and support – your customers, making sure you have a resilient business continuity plan in place to prevent any interruption is critical in our “always-on” world.

The lessons learned 

The lessons learned during the current pandemic can be used for other types of disasters that are more commonplace, like ransomware. We typically think of ransomware as the action of encrypting files and servers so we can’t work with them or access any of our precious corporate data. A standard recovery would involve restoring from a good backup. 

However, what if it wasn’t the files and servers that were encrypted, but your networking gear, such as switches, firewalls and routers? Well, the solution is to failover to the disaster recovery (DR) site. This would work for staff that is not in the office, but it would force you to send all workers home to begin working from a network that had not been compromised. This isn’t a global pandemic… this is just ransomware. Does your DR plan cover this scenario? How long would it take for you to recover?

Strengthen your DR posture to weather future storms

If you are an organization that still houses your critical compute in your office building, it’s time to make a change. Move that infrastructure out of your facility. The fastest move can be to a data center provider, sometimes called a “lift-and-shift,” which protects you from physical, power and bandwidth threats. This can have an immediate benefit with minimal impact and changes required.  

Another popular option, especially with mid-sized organizations, is moving the critical systems to the cloud, including using Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) in the cloud. DRaaS is flexible and scalable and doesn’t require upfront costs. It allows an organization to replicate business-critical information to the cloud environment either as a primary point of execution or as a backup for physical server systems. In most cases, the right DR provider can offer you better recovery time objectives than your company could provide in-house. Taking this step can set you up to consume more advanced and resilient services, increasing your DR readiness. 

DIY or outsource?

So, should you develop a DR strategy yourself, or should you get someone to help? The two critical questions to ask are: 

  1. “If I do it myself, does it drive revenue to the bottom line?”
  2. “Is it something that’s core to my business?” 

If the answers are no, then outsource. Outsourcing will free up your IT resources to focus on projects that do add revenue to the bottom line.

It’s essential to protect against long-term outages, rather than just blips on the radar. Depending on the type of disaster that you’re dealing with, you need to be armed with the right tools and processes to overcome it, and your DR strategy needs to be flexible and adaptable. One of the goals of a DR plan is to get you through the short-term crisis and get stabilized so you can then determine whether or not to implement long-term crisis procedures.

Whether you have a good DR plan or no DR plan at all, it’s highly recommended you get a professional disaster recovery planner involved to have a look at your current posture. Through an expert’s eyes, you’ll recognize new planning strategies and design principles out of the current crisis that will make your plan even more robust. And, you’ll realize there are areas you may not have considered before, such as contractual and legal changes.

Be proactive, build a resilient infrastructure

If you have no plan and aren’t protecting your workloads, pick out the top 10 applications in your environment and start protecting them with a cloud-based DRaaS solution. This can buy you some time to start planning the rest of your DR strategy. If you have an existing plan, ask yourself, which part of my environment is fragile and vulnerable? Focus on that section of your plan and then rinse and repeat.

Imagine being so confident with your DR plan that you could “flip the switch” at any moment and know that everything would work. What if you could flip the switch before a crisis occurred instead of waiting until it happened? The best strategy is to work with a Professional Services team to perform GAP analysis and then develop a roadmap to get there. 

In conclusion, disaster recovery is not a “set it and forget it” insurance policy. It’s a plan that has to be quickly put into place when a disaster strikes to guarantee the continuity of your business. The COVID-19 pandemic is here to remind us of it. Although extremely important for business survival, a DR plan requires time and expertise to develop, leading to additional investments in resources and infrastructure to build and manage it. If DR isn’t part of your core business, it’s best to rely on a partner to develop and manage it for you. Providers like Flexential with a full suite of solutions, including data protection, cloud, colocation, managed and professional services, can provide the infrastructure, security and expertise your organization needs to build and manage a resilient DR infrastructure that will work seamlessly when you need it.

Steve Hasselbach, Solutions Architect

Steve Hasselbach

Solutions Architect

Steve Hasselbach has 27 years of IT experience and is an expert in Disaster Recovery solutions. As Senior Solution Architect Manager at Flexential, Steve works close to prospects and customers to design robust DR solutions that address complex infrastructure requirements and business needs.

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