20 January 2023 — Acronis

What is Cloud DR (Disaster Recovery)? Cloud vs On-Premise

Acronis
Cyber Protect Cloud
for service providers

Before your organization invests in supporting your disaster recovery plan, be sure you understand the pros and cons of each choice. For some organizations, on-premises DR may be the right solution, while others can save money and achieve the best DR protection with a cloud-based DR solution.

What is cloud disaster recovery (Cloud DR)?

Cloud disaster recovery (or "Cloud DR", for short) combines services and strategies to store backup data, apps, and other resources in cloud storage, be it public clouds or a dedicated service provider. If a disaster occurs, all affected data, apps, and resources can be easily restored to the primary data center or a cloud provider to resume operations.

As far as purpose goes, cloud DR is virtually identical to traditional disaster recovery - it aims to protect your company's resources and ensure business continuity via reliable data access and immediate recovery.

Before cloud DR, traditional DR was limited to local DR and alternative-site options. Storing your data in a local data center wouldn't do much good in the event of a flood, fire, or earthquake. An alternative storage site may protect against natural disasters but adds significant business costs for constructing and managing the secondary site.

With cloud DR in the picture, public cloud and managed service providers (MSPs) can offer clients a dedicated facility with a wide range of backup and DR services. Companies can receive continuous access to automated, highly scalable, self-driven DR services off-site without the added expense of choosing, installing, and maintaining DR tools in a secondary data center.

Companies of all sizes use cloud-based DR and pay for the services via a contract or monthly or annual fee.

What is the difference between DR and failover?

Disaster recovery and failover are both critical to ensuring the high availability of services. However, during a system failure, the two terms refer to different purposes regarding business continuity.

Before we dive into the two concepts, it's critical to discuss downtime.

Downtime is the duration a particular system or network isn't available. Downtime can severely impact your revenue and customer satisfaction, so minimizing it is imperative, especially if your company provides services dependent on high availability.

What is Disaster Recovery regarding downtime?

Disaster recovery refers to the procedures taken to ensure the quick recovery of a company's entire IT infrastructure following a system failure.

A robust disaster recovery plan includes many disaster recovery strategies:

  • data backup
  • virtual machines
  • cold sites and hot sites
  • disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS)

What is failover regarding downtime?

Failover refers to your company's backup connection server environment. It presents an available connection or environment you can switch to if your primary data center shuts down unexpectedly.

Failover often relies on a duplicate, different connection type. For example, the backup connection to a fiber-connectivity environment would be cellular.

Failover for a specific server would involve moving all services offered by an environment to a duplicate server set. The machines within the second set (stand-by machines) can be located in your primary location or off-site. Machines can go offline in a physical location or cloud environment.

Regardless of the volume of affected machines, failover ensures your operations keep running in the face of hardware or infrastructural failures.

Disaster recovery vs failover: summary

Failover seems more relevant for small-scale (everyday) machine or network infrastructure failures. A failover system is often kept in the same location as the primary system.

Disaster recovery is responsible for large-scale infrastructural failures. It aims to recover all servers and services to their original state.

Cloud disaster recovery as a failover strategy

Cloud DR can also be perceived as a failover technique. Here, cloud DR would refer to transferring a workload to cloud-based virtual machines during an outage. The difference between traditional failover and cloud DR here is the backup infrastructure medium. With failover, you'd typically use a physical site to load workloads, while cloud DR enables transferring to cloud environments to resume business operations.

Are Cloud DR and DRaaS the same?

Disaster recovery as a Service (DRaaS) enables cloud disaster recovery as a failover. However, there's a critical difference between cloud DR and DRaaS.

Cloud disaster recovery is a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach. For example, your company can use Microsoft Azure as a secondary data center. (or the Google Cloud, if you're daring enough) Still, it's up to you to calculate how to replicate workloads to the cloud and initiate a failover in the event of a disaster.

On the other hand, different DRaaS providers specialize in designing a dedicated cloud disaster recovery solution. They present a ready-made platform to automate workload replication and failover. Additionally, DRaaS providers typically offer organizational tools to assist in the failback once the outage is mitigated.

In summary, cloud DR and DRaaS are two distinct approaches aimed at a similar result. Either approach can be a better fit for your company, and both have advantages and disadvantages.

Cloud disaster recovery advantages

  • Extremely flexible
  • Supports multiple data centers in the cloud

Cloud disaster recovery disadvantages

  • Requires significant cloud computing expertise to store data effectively

What are DRaaS advantages?

  • Much easier to use (cloud resources, cloud workloads, and cloud services are all taken care of by the cloud vendors)
  • Reliable server capacity

What are DRaaS disadvantages?

  • Isn't as flexible as cloud disaster recovery
  • Potentially ill-equipped to handle large-scale disasters

Why is a cloud disaster recovery plan important?

A comprehensive disaster recovery plan ensures that your disaster recovery strategy can quickly recover business-critical data to resume normal operations.

Traditional disaster recovery planning is challenging for many companies. When you add cloud environments, calculations may be even more time-consuming. This is why a well-thought disaster recovery plan is critical to ensure disaster recovery workflows.

Using cloud technologies to backup data to a cloud platform requires more expertise than traditional DR. As cloud-based DR is still relatively new for many companies, your DR plan must outline all crucial aspects of the disaster recovery strategy.

The disaster recovery plan should include:

  • Recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO)
  • Steps to take during power outages
  • Diversity of backup storage
  • Business impact analysis
  • Off-site DR protocols
  • Remote access privileges
  • Potential disasters to prepare for
  • Virtual servers maintenance
  • Cloud DR employee training
  • Business functions prioritization
  • Steps to restore data following a failure

While traditional DR approaches are a pillar for business continuity, a cloud disaster recovery plan aims to simplify the process so you can focus solely on business operations, even in the face of a disaster.

Your unique disaster recovery plan brings flexibility to off-site DR and negates downtime in a timely manner. It enables you to reliably store backups, automate data transfers, fortify operating system updates, and cover all other resources required to mitigate the effects of natural disasters.

On-premises disaster recovery solution

On-premises DR refers to a solution where your secondary DR systems are located on-site where your production systems are. This can be an expensive option because it requires your organization to:

  • Hire IT technical staff to develop, test, and execute your DR strategy
  • Back up your systems and data and maintain these backups in an on-site data center, physical or virtual machine (VM), or disk or tape stored on-site
  • Invest in hardware, software, maintenance, and support for hardware and software

Advantages of cloud disaster recovery strategies

Cloud disaster recovery can help your organization minimize downtime and data loss to ensure business continuity, lower disaster recovery costs, and enable you to comply with regulatory requirements.

Whether a flood, hurricane, tornado, fire, cyberattack, or human-made disaster destroys or brings down your production systems, downtime can put your business out of... business. With cloud disaster recovery, the DR provider replicates your systems and backup data to a cloud infrastructure at least 150 miles away from your production systems. This geographic distance is essential to minimize the chance that the same disaster affects your production systems and cloud disaster recovery site. When a disaster strikes your production systems, the cloud provider performs the DR orchestration: failing over production systems to the cloud disaster recovery site and failing back to the primary site once the IT infrastructure is back in place, ensuring your organization achieves the agreed-upon recovery point objectives (RPOs) and recovery time objectives (RTOs), which are defined as:

  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO). The maximum amount of time you are willing to lose data on your systems because of an event.
  • Recovery Time Objective (RTO). How fast you can recover from the moment of a disaster to the moment you return to normal operations.

Reputable cloud providers offer a guaranteed service level agreement (SLA), which dictates these terms, ensuring that your systems and business get back up and running fast while minimizing data loss.   

Lower DR costs

With cloud disaster recovery, you can reduce costs and enjoy peace of mind because:

  • Smaller businesses can eliminate the need to hire DR experts to manage on-premises DR.
  • Larger IT teams can focus on core operations rather than DR planning, testing, and execution.
  • The cloud provider will orchestrate the backup, failover, and failback services and maintain your backups in a safe and secure data center.
  • You will not need to invest in purchasing and maintaining duplicate hardware or software.

Enable Compliance

If your organization is legally required to comply with industry or government regulatory requirements – such as HIPAA, GDPR, PCI, and SOC 2 – managed DR can help you stay compliant without hiring in-house compliance experts. Reputable cloud providers can ensure compliance with whatever controls you require, so it is important to ask the right compliance questions when researching cloud DR providers.

What is the difference between Cloud DR and on-premises disaster recovery?

While cloud disaster recovery can mitigate downtime, lower DR costs, and enable compliance, on-premises DR also has some advantages:

  • Minimize the chance of data loss since on-premises DR replicates data in near real-time via a local area network (LAN) rather than a slower internet connection used to replicate data to a cloud infrastructure.
  • Reduce latency when a disaster happens or when you need to recover selected files/folders. It is faster to access an on-premises system using a LAN versus navigating an internet connection to access a cloud infrastructure.
  • Predict the ongoing costs of an on-premises DR solution more accurately, as cloud-based disaster recovery costs will increase when a disaster happens, and your organization is actively accessing the cloud infrastructure for day-to-day operations.

Compared to a cloud-based disaster recovery solution, there are disadvantages to an on-premises DR solution. For example, your organization:

  • Must invest in hardware, software, and ongoing maintenance for the on-premises site
  • Must hire technical staff to develop, test, and execute your DR strategy
  • Must ensure that your DR strategy meets all required compliance requirements
  • Can lose all its systems and data because an on-premises traditional DR site can be vulnerable to a disaster – such as a flood, fire, storm, or cyberattack – that impacts your production systems

Acronis' solution for cloud disaster recovery (Cloud DR)

While only 6% of disasters are natural, the remaining 94% are human-made and much more likely to impact your business. A modern DR solution ensures your organization can continue operations, regardless of the type of disaster.

Organizations with larger IT budgets and staff can choose to manage DR in-house with a comprehensive solution like Acronis Cyber Disaster Recovery. This solution is easy to deploy and maintain and ensures that all production on-premises or cloud-based workloads are immediately available when a disaster strikes.  

Alternatively, small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with smaller IT budgets and minimal IT staff can rely on a managed service provider (MSP) to deliver a cloud-based disaster recovery solution via a platform like Acronis Cyber Cloud. With Acronis' cloud-based DR solution, an MSP can monitor, deploy, test, and remotely manage all your data and provide multiple layers of protection, including backup and disaster recovery.

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