Disaster Recovery is Easy Stop Making it Hard

Fact #1 – Disaster Recovery and the solutions encompassing it were extremely difficult and time consuming.

Fact #2 – Technology has simplified Disaster Recovery, solutions can be purchased and setup in minutes.

Fact #3 – IT services companies want to keep it difficult to keep the traditional large project revenue setting up Disaster Recovery for customers.

Fact #4 – Companies have an emphasis on risk avoidance which creates a perception that IT must use the biggest vendor, spend a lot of time and a sizeable percentage of the budget to get the best Disaster Recovery solution.

Fact #5 – You can easily try these new Disaster Recovery solutions risk free and if they’re great then use them, if not then don’t.

Disaster Recovery

I’ve wanted to write something on Disaster Recovery for a while now as I have been in the IT industry for 17 years and seen the best and worst of DR products, I’ve personally implemented and consulted on some fantastic solutions and some terribly complex and convoluted solutions for large enterprises, mum and dad companies and every size in-between. What’s different now to say 5 or 10 years ago is that the market is being totally disrupted with innovative ways to solve the Disaster Recovery problem but companies are being incredibly slow to take them up.

In my role as the Principal Technologist/Evangelist at Zettagrid I’m very lucky and am constantly zipping around the country talking to all sorts of people from all diverse types of businesses, so what are they using for DR and what’s stopping them from joining the ranks of companies and enterprises whom have already joined the DR revolution and can now put that mindshare they would’ve worried about DR back into what makes their company grow and be more successful;

1.      Unaware of how protected or unprotected they are with the current Disaster Recovery solution.

2.      Yeah yeah I know we aren’t doing Disaster Recovery properly, we just don’t have the time.

3.      It sounds a bit too risky, I don’t want my name/reputation on the line when the business is so risk averse and scared of significant change.

4.      Confused with the differences between backup and Disaster Recovery.

5.      It’s what we’ve always done.

6.      We don’t want to waste the money we spent last year on our Disaster Recovery site.

7.      We’re a large enterprise so definitely need SAN to SAN replication.

Let’s delve a little deeper into these very real reasons I’m given daily and try to determine whether or not they’re still valid today and for the customer moving forward.

1.      Unaware of how protected or unprotected they are with the current Disaster Recovery solution.

This is a big one and one that I unfortunately come across the most. The customer is very pleased with what they have now and believe that they are 100% protected and truly have the DR box ticked. Accordingly, the board and executive team are making decisions for the business with the belief that they are fully protected. When talking to this type of customer/integrator/MSP I will ask a few leading questions around when they last did a ringfenced DR test? when they last did an actual DR failover? have you tested your DR every time you’ve made technology or infrastructure changes in the business? what scenarios can you recover from vs the scenarios you can’t recover from? and are the board aware of these different scenarios?

This often prompts the customer to start thinking more about what the solution does or doesn’t offer. Generally, we will discover that certain areas of the environment or certain situations aren’t catered for within their current DR solution. That almost always drives them to start the discussions internally into making changes to alleviate these newly found scenarios or starting to articulate this properly to the board or decision makers in the business about the true state of the companies’ ability to recover from the different possible disaster scenarios so they can make more informed decisions in relation to the running of the business.

2.      Yeah yeah I know we aren’t doing Disaster Recovery properly, we just don’t have the time.

Again, this is a common one and one that I believe would shock the business if they knew to the extent that it was true within their business. This one often stems from a lack of understanding of what solutions exist and how easy or hard they are to implement.

I know in my own life I often fall prey to this way of thinking, I have a list of things I want to achieve around the house and do I get stuck into task of building a new pergola that I’m not 100% sure how to do (even though bad weather is coming and I will really need its protection) or will I mow the lawn because it’s getting a bit long and I know exactly how to do that and there are no surprises? You’re right I’ll go to the pub for a few beers…

Seriously though I know I’m making light of it but it’s a good analogy of what I’m seeing happen in IT. A higher percentage than I’d like to admit of us are putting off DR even though we know we need to get it done but it’s much easier to concentrate on the smaller tech problems we come across like installing new applications, hosts or doing things in production that have a much more of a known good outcome.

When really digging in and exposing the install and setup options of some of the more recent DR products then I often see the customer or integrator start to gain more confidence in themselves and the new product as they start to realise that “hey this is definitely something I can do” and that it really wasn’t something they should’ve been continually putting off all this time.

3.      It sounds a bit too risky, I don’t want my name/reputation on the line when the business is so risk averse and scared of significant change.

Businesses really, I mean REALLY care about outages and things that take them offline. Anything that means they can’t process payments or keep the trains running or run the applications the doctor needs to print out a script for the lifesaving drug a patient needs.

Where this perceived risk of changing things comes from is from a misunderstanding that you must rip out the old solution in order to put in a new solution. This is just plain wrong, you can setup protection now based on a per application or VM basis and it can be done entirely alongside what you are currently doing for DR without impacting the current level of protection whatsoever.

When I tell customers that this is now an option it’s a very exciting time as I can then get them to try out a new DR solution for one application, set it up securely over the internet, no network link commitments, not being bound to any contracts and have it scale linearly in the likely event its better than what they’re doing currently.

I see two outcomes from going down this path, one is the increased profile within the business of the staff member, integrator or consulting firm testing out a new solution. The other is typically a gradual building of confidence in a new way for the company to do DR and an eventual swap to a smarter way of doing things.

4.      Confused with the differences between backup and Disaster Recovery.

Too often when I start up a conversation with a new customer about what they’re doing for DR they respond with how fantastic their tape backups are and how they archive for 7 years.

Look, tapes (and all other types of backups) are fantastic additions to the recoverability of a business when things go wrong but they are NOT a DR solution. A backup solution is great for recovering from any scenario where you still have your production infrastructure.

How good are your tape backups when you have lost your SAN, your data centre, the aircon in the server room, you’ve been cryptolocked, dead switches the list goes on and on… Without a data centre or hosts or a SAN to copy your data back on to those tapes are useless.

It’s up to us to drive home to the business the recovery time of all these different events. Is it ok to trust our backup solution to recover us from scenario X even though it means we must wait for Vendor Y to procure Product Z and ship it to us 3 weeks later?

The answer is invariably no, our company might cease to operate if we are down for 3 weeks. OK great we now agree then and let’s not try and fit a square peg into a round hole, let’s use a backup product for backups and a DR product for DR.

5.      It’s what we’ve always done.

Challenging the status quo is hard and I don’t want anyone to change just for the sake of changing. If after talking to a customer they have actually had DR events in the past and what they’ve got in place worked for them then fine. Chances are though they have never had a DR event and have just been lucky up till now that they haven’t had to dust off the DR plan and put it through its paces.

I don’t like to use the word ignorant as it has some bad connotations but in the context of DR and how fast the landscape is changing I do find that there is a lot of ignorance as to what is in the market now and that it is likely time for customers to start making themselves aware of how DR problems that have been plaguing us for years and forcing us to have multiple bespoke solutions can now potentially be solved with a single cloud based pay as you go model.

6.      We don’t want to waste the money we spent last year on our Disaster Recovery site.

Money is hard to come by, if after talking to a customer I find out that they’ve just spent $842k a few months ago refreshing their DR site then it will be a very hard sell to tell them to abandon this capital investment in something different.

Where the conversation here is in the capabilities of the current system and whether it solves all their applications DR requirements. Invariably there are always a few applications where the current solution has not been a perfect fit. This is where I start to educate and recommend potentially using a cloud based DR solution to complement their current investment in their DR site to provide the business with some better recoverability.

This allows us to put the newer cloud based DR solution up against the SAN to SAN replication or whatever solution the customer has invested in and shows the business how a newer DR solution stacks up against the traditional methods.

After a period one of a few things will typically happen, there will be a need for more storage in production or a new test/dev area or the DR environment is again up for a large capital investment to refresh the hardware. Now, I would be advising that based on the success of using cloud DR for that one application or use case to potentially remove the customers physical DR site entirely and use that SAN to give more capacity to production or test/dev etc.

7.      We’re a large enterprise so definitely need SAN to SAN replication.

Please don’t allow the size of your business to correlate to the amount you need to spend on DR. Often is the case where I see a larger enterprise just take for granted that they need a dedicated physical DR site and definitely need to duplicate the production infrastructure down to the finest detail in the DR site.

Why was this done? Often nobody can really answer that other than to say they wanted the best solution out there for the business because cost wasn’t a concern. Just because one option costs more money than another it doesn’t mean it’s a better solution.

In conversations of this nature I will always be steering the conversation back to the business and the requirements that the relevant application stakeholder have for the recoverability of their applications. Let’s let those conversations firstly drive the requirements of the DR solution and then armed with that information choose the solution that best meets the businesses requirements.

Stop sorting all the solutions from highest to lowest price or most recognised vendor to least recognised vendor and thinking that is an indication of capabilities or features. Learn what exists in today’s ever changing market and put in what works best for your requirements.

Back to our original facts

Disaster Recovery Facts

Ok, we went through a few facts at the beginning of the article and I want to flesh them out a bit and then leave you with a few things to think about for your business or your own customers.

Fact #1 – Disaster Recovery and the solutions encompassing it were extremely difficult and time consuming.

Yep they totally were, the old-school way of thinking and solutions had (and still have) enormous amounts of project planning and implementation times. If the DR solution you’re putting in now still has months of project work attached to it you are likely doing it wrong as DR is basically a commodity now and all the problems that once took a lot of effort to architect solutions around now all typically have very well mapped out solutions.

Fact #2 – Technology has simplified Disaster Recovery, solutions can be purchased and setup in minutes.

Solutions exist now like what Zettagrid have done with SecondSite and Cloud Connect Replication backed by industry leaders Zerto and Veeam. These products are all completely contract free, risk free and scalable from 1 VM to 1000’s with the same solution.

There is no infrastructure to install on the cloud side and everything has been automated. All that is left is to follow the install instructions on the Zettagrid site to setup the software. The solution can be purchased, setup and initial replication kicked off in under 30 minutes.

Fact #3 – IT services companies want to keep it difficult to keep the traditional large project revenue setting up Disaster Recovery for customers.

This isn’t spoken about but it’s no secret that IT services companies and integrators exist to sell IT skills to companies that don’t have them in-house. If they currently enjoy getting 4 months of project revenue setting up a complex DR solution then they are unlikely to be that happy with solutions on the market that erode that potential revenue away almost completely.

These companies need to adapt to the changing landscape and add value and generate revenue from value added services which might be the creation of Business Continuity Plans, Disaster Recovery Plans, monthly DR tests or regular reporting etc.

Fact #4 – Companies have an emphasis on risk avoidance which creates a perception that IT must use the biggest vendor, spend a lot of time and a sizeable percentage of the budget to get the best Disaster Recovery solution.

As we’ve already talked about, the cost of the solution or the share price of the vendor does not correlate to the functionality or appropriateness of their solution to your business. Stop thinking that you must have a physical Disaster Recovery site or a specific product from a specific vendor. Get the product that best fits what your applications need from a recovery point of view, no more no less.

Fact #5 – You can easily try these new Disaster Recovery solutions risk free and if they’re great then use them, if not then don’t.

When you have a product that you can try very easily over your existing internet links, with no setup or project fees in only a few minutes it makes it a very simple case to compare it against what’s being used in the business now.

This allows the product itself to prove that its better rather than relying on fancy marketing or sales tactics to get the sale. When the product has shown that it is good for the business then we can talk about using the WAN sizing tools to accurately determine if any additional or dedicated links are required and can then linearly scale up the solution to the customer’s entire fleet that need DR.

Disaster Recovery… So what now?

Disaster Recovery What Now

Start talking more about Disaster Recovery within your business. Start explaining that companies like Zettagrid have drastically changed the Disaster Recovery landscape. Products like SecondSite and Cloud Connect Replication have commoditised DR.

Get buy in from your business to try to do Disaster Recovery better, or reach out to me and let me help you drive that in your business and let’s remove risk and allow the business to concentrate on the things that matter.

Luke Brown

Author: Luke Brown

Luke Brown is an Advisory Systems Engineer at Dell EMC. He is passionate about all things tech and loves a good debate.

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