Mar 06 2020

How Disaster Recovery as a Service Is Saving Small Businesses Time, Money and Worry

There are plenty of DR options, but service-based solutions offer several advantages.

It’s an unpredictable world. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, each of the past five years has seen 10 or more disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion each. The annual average number of billion-dollar events between 2014 and 2018 is double the 38-year average established between 1980 and 2018, the agency says.

Major weather events, meanwhile, are only one type of event that can cause lengthy, unpredictable disruption to business. There are also fires, human error and increasingly sophisticated cyberattackers working tirelessly to cause havoc, among other threats.

For organizations of all types, it adds up to a major source of risk.

“We estimate currently that as many as half of all organizations would fail if they were hit by a disaster, because they could not recover their data in a timely fashion,” says Phil Goodwin, research director at IDC. “Only 11.4 percent of organizations rate themselves as ‘fully mature’ on disaster recovery.”

Enter Disaster Recovery as a Service. More robust than Backup as a Service — which has no provisioning for compute or network needs — and an alternative to other disaster recovery models that rely on replica data centers or a subscription to third-party managed infrastructure, DRaaS employs on-demand resources.

“The key difference is that, with DRaaS, organizations don’t have to buy or subscribe to large, expensive, duplicate infrastructure in order to prepare for a disaster,” explains Goodwin. “Most organizations replicate their data to the DRaaS provider. In the event of an actual disaster, they can spin up additional machines.”

It’s an economical model that has attracted a growing number of businesses. IDC forecasts that the DRaaS ­market will be $4.5 billion in 2020, and $6.5 billion by 2023.

Disaster Recovery Gives Insurers Peace of Mind

Pennsylvania Lumbermens Mutual Insurance is the oldest and largest mutual insurance company ­dedicated to wood products and building material industries.

For almost 125 years, PLM has insured wood manufacturers and distributors throughout the U.S. from its Philadelphia headquarters. The company took its IT infrastructure from bare metal to on-premises VMware in 2008, and into a cloud-based data center with a VMware infrastructure from bare metal to ­on-premises VMware in 2008, and into a cloud-based data center with a VMware partner in 2014.

“At the same time in 2014, we provisioned a disaster recovery site in Atlanta,” says BJ Gardner, PLM’s lead systems architect.

About a year ago, Gardner started exploring the possibility of offloading the DR site. He wanted an alternative that would be less expensive and offer better connectivity and visibility. The fact that VMware now offers a DRaaS solution made the decision to sunset the Atlanta site an easy one.

“In the end, the process is very similar — replication is replication,” says Gardner. “We weren’t worried about functionality. We lost some footprint, so we have less to worry about. We got rid of a circuit that was troublesome for us.”

The shift to a DRaaS model has also made the management of PLM’s data easier, Gardner says.

At the time of the transition, the company’s IT department was losing head count. By simplifying day-to-day data management for the company, DRaaS has allowed PLM to do more with less.

“My engineer before had to monitor jobs daily,” says Gardner. “He would monitor backup jobs, replication jobs. Now, our managed service provider handles that, so there is less daily work for us.”

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Why now is the time to consider disaster recovery as a service for your small business.

Businesses Need Disaster Recovery To Keep Clients Running

For Corevist, a business-to-business commerce solutions provider established a decade ago, the decision to employ a DRaaS solution from TierPoint was driven by customer demands.

“We have a lot of large organizations, including Fortune 100 and 500 companies, in our portfolio; they all have very strict expectations around their critical applications,” says Justin Diana, vice president of operations.

Based in Raleigh, N.C., Corevist op­erates internationally across all time zones; there’s never a time when the business can go down.

Diana selected TierPoint for its re­covery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) capabilities — under 30 minutes and under 10 minutes, respectively. The ability to be back up and running in a matter of minutes, not hours, and with less than 10 minutes’ worth of lost data more than satisfies Corevist’s clients’ needs.

“TierPoint DRaaS already had integration for our environment; it would replicate it byte for byte,” says Diana. “Literally, with the push of a button, we can replicate the entire environment in a preconfigured and waiting matching environment.”

Time is critical to Corevist’s business model, which is part of the reason the company made the decision to use a DRaaS solution.

“There are many traditional methods for recovery, if you’re not a mission-­critical or business-critical system,” says Diana. “Traditional backups, offsite backups, spare hardware in your garage: Those are all viable solutions to a disaster if you have hours or days to come back up.”

That doesn’t describe most businesses. For those like Corevist that have strict RTO and RPO requirements, he says, DRaaS can be the best path to ­meeting those needs.

11.4%

The share of companies that would rate themselves as "fully mature" on disaster recovery.

Source: IDC

Businesses Need a Backup They Can Use

Muhlenkamp is an independent investment management business, serving clients across the U.S. since 1977.

The company first formally implemented a disaster recovery solution almost 15 years ago, says Richard P. Dean, operations and information ­technology manager, when it worked with a local company to back up its VMware systems offsite. Prior to that, Muhlenkamp had relied on physical tapes that would be carried offsite by hand.

“We needed to get serious about something we could switch over to and use,” says Dean. “In our business, it’s a regulatory requirement.”

By the mid-2010s, Dean was ready to find a less expensive solution and, as an IT team of one, a lower-maintenance solution. After a false start with another DRaaS provider, he turned to iland in 2016.

As Dean points out, if a key member of a small IT team is incapacitated, it can be as disruptive to a business as a major weather event or cyberattack. It’s important that businesses choose a DRaaS partner they trust, and one whose service is easy to use, he says.

“Now, if something happened to me, someone else in the company, along with support from iland, would be able to bring up the system and make it usable,” he says. The improved functionality of iland DRaaS also netted the c­ompany significant savings: about 50 percent of the previous cost.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Read how digital transformation starts at the data center.

Mitigate Disasters With the Right Solution

DRaaS is not a silver bullet for every organization. IDC’s Goodwin recommends looking carefully at the platforms the business will be trying to recover before committing to the DRaaS approach.

“DRaaS is typically oriented toward virtual infrastructure,” he says. "Organizations with legacy systems may need to look for a provider that can supply all of their platform requirements, or consider two different platforms.” It’s best to carefully consider an organization’s specific platform and service-level needs before selecting a provider.

“The vast majority of organizations are in the middle — they want someone who will manage the infrastructure, provide testing capabilities and services, but don’t want or need heavyweight consulting,” says Goodwin.

He calls it the “Goldilocks solution.”

For Gardner at PLM, finding that j­ust-right provider to help keep things running wasn’t about doing something new; it was about finding a better way of doing something his organization has always done.

“I’ve been in IT for 20 years now, and I’ve never not had DR,” he says. “With DRaaS underneath the covers, you’re still backing up your data, but the main mechanism is much more real time.” 

Photography by Colin Lenton/BizTech Magazine