There was a time, let’s say 5 years or so ago, when disaster recovery options for small business IT set-ups ranged in pricing from very expensive to eye watering.
However, the landscape has changed vastly, thanks in part to cheaper cloud storage and innovative solutions from disruptive vendors.
Just recently we re-evaluated the disaster recovery marketplace for a number of clients, and found that although the expensive solutions are still around – and are superb options for specific client requirements – there are now some brilliant products and services that bring disaster recovery into the reach of every business. In fact, disaster recovery has now become a key conversation with our clients thanks in part to the destructive nature of the latest ransomware viruses and also the mission critical nature of most company IT systems.
What is Disaster Recovery?
Disaster recovery (DR) is, according to the Wikipedia definition:
A set of policies and procedures to enable the recovery or continuation of vital technology infrastructure and systems following a natural or human-induced disaster. Disaster recovery focuses on the IT or technology systems supporting critical business functions, as opposed to business continuity, which involves keeping all essential aspects of a business functioning despite significant disruptive events.
One of the big developments in the past few years has been the emergence of companies offering DRaaS (DR as a service). If you turn back the clock a decade, you would have had to purchase a replica of your current server hardware and run it either alongside your current system (clustering) or as a cold/warm/hot standby system which is essentially a replica of your main systems that is ready to bring live in a disaster.
With DRaaS, the large capital expenditure of purchasing standby equipment is largely gone. Instead, you pay a monthly fee to a service provider who have the technology and capability to restore your systems in the event of a major issue.
That still sounds expensive!
It can be. Solutions built around products like Zerto and IBM’s TSM are fantastic, and are designed for use by major enterprise clients which means they tend to have a price tag to match.
We’ve spent time looking for options that are robust enough for us to rely on and recommend to our clients, but that also carry a price tag that we can justify without wincing. As such, we’ve settled on Datto as our provider of choice.
Datto have a range of appliances that are designed to sit in your server room and quietly replicate your key servers. The appliances store a back-up of the server locally, and also stream it off to Datto’s cloud at pre-defined intervals.
In the event of a disaster with the server(s), the Datto device can (depending on model) either virtualise the server on it’s own hardware or virtualise the server on the Datto cloud and manage the connectivity to the server. In the event of a complete disaster that also destroys the appliance, the last cloud image of the server can be bought alive on their cloud and end-user devices can be quickly configured to talk to this server from wherever they are.
This provides the benefits of a single solution for both back-up and business continuity.
Even better, the Datto system can have the virtual server up and running within a few minutes of a major disaster being reported, meaning that downtime is minimised. When the main server is repaired or replaced, the Datto unit can then be used to re-image the server, so no data is lost.
We can’t divulge pricing here, but let’s just say that the 3 year cost of this solution would be more than covered by stopping just 1/2 hour of downtime for most clients we look after. When you factor in staff wages, loss of delivery capability and possible lost clients into your downtime cost calculations, the Datto solution is – in our opinion – a ‘no brainer’.
Of course, a solution like Datto is just a part of the disaster recovery planning process. You should also consider things like your phone system, access to alternative workspaces, loss of staff members, as well as other things specific to your business. It’s something worth spending time getting right, as 80% of businesses affected by a major incident either never re-open, or close within 18 months. (Source, Axa)