What is DRaaS (Disaster Recovery as a Service) – Part 1: Basics

What is DRaaS

What is Disaster Recovery as a Service?

Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) is a service model that provides backup and recovery via the use of a third-party cloud environment, whereby all of the disaster recovery functionality, including orchestration, are provided as-a-service. As-a-service means that the consumer of DRaaS need not own, nor manage, the recovery computing environment. Since DRaaS does not require a dedicated, physical secondary site, trained IT staff, nor upfront investment, it’s generally available at a lower cost than a self-constructed solution. Like other DR (disaster recovery) solutions, DRaaS keeps your business-critical applications operational and enables your company to run even when bad things happen: a hardware failure, a ransomware attack, or even a natural disaster. As an upgrade from traditional backup-only products, DRaaS provides very short recovery timelines (minutes) and on-demand, ready-to-use compute resources, for instant restoration of the applications. DRaaS is an effective solution to eliminate data loss and downtime – at a fraction of the cost of doing it yourself.

Why Disaster Recovery as a Service is important for business?

Today, businesses depend on software and computers more than ever before – not only as the backbone of operations, or as a powerful back-office suite, but also as important differentiators and as communication platforms. However, these systems are built from hundreds of building blocks that can, independently, break! Failed server components, bad application updates, ransomware, flood, and fire – all of which are disasters — have the potential to bring your business to its knees. It’s not a matter of “if”, it’s just a matter of “when” it will happen.

Traditionally, IT relied on backups to resuscitate applications in the event of disaster. However, in modern times, backups fail to solve critical data loss and downtime problems:

  • Backups data often appears missing, incomplete, or non-restorable
  • When a server fails, procurement of replacement hardware takes days!
  • Data restore can take hours and days of labor and waiting

DRaaS does not suffer from these issues and brings much more to the table: the ability to bring operations back to production in minutes, backup testing automation, scalability, and the opportunity to leverage the on-demand nature of the cloud. DRaaS is an affordable and easy-to-manage utility — even for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) — that may not have trained IT staff, deep pockets to set up failover data centers, or time to build comprehensive business continuity plans.

For the intrepid do-it-yourselfer, DRaaS can be used as a self-serve product. Conversely, DRaaS can be delivered by MSPs for the not-so-technically inclined company needing extra management and care.

Why Disaster Recovery as a Service is important for Managed Services Providers?

While the “service” part of DRaaS is more about it’s being offered as a all-inclusive product in the cloud – it can also be framed as how the product is supported. As noted above, many SMBs could benefit from a DR solution, but not all of them have trained staff and time to implement it. This is an opportunity for MSPs – and an important differentiator versus their competitors – to provide turn-key DR services (on top of a DRaaS solution). When the service of managing DRaaS is offered at a reasonable price point, and with low implementation and management costs, it becomes an integral add-on to the MSP toolkit to help SMBs with their IT needs.

Additionally, one feature of the Infrascale Disaster Recovery (IDR) product is that every backup can be automatically validated. IDR boots a virtualized copy of a protected computer in an isolated environment. During boot, it takes a screenshot of the system and performs an “inside-out” test by running a small application inside the machine. A daily backup verification report, with screenshots of virtualized protected systems ready to be used in event of a disaster, can help build trust between an MSP and a customer. Thus, an MSP that helps with IT, can now help with DR, integrate DR with other offers to the SMB, and provide real-time feedback and peace of mind to their customer that the DR solution is working!

What Defines a DRaaS Solution v. DR alone?

Every DRaaS offering should include the following:

  1. Capture of source physical computers or virtual machines (full images and incremental updates). This is done either using an agent that is installed on the source system or via interaction with the API of the virtualization platform (agent-less). Note: agent-less capture simplifies rollout and management of the product.
  2. Replication of source data to the cloud. Data can be replicated as discrete incremental image files, as changelogs (for sync-based solutions), or as unique data blocks (for solutions that support over-the-WAN deduplication).
  3. Configuration of DR run books. Boot sequencing and configuration allows restoring entire environments with a single click. Different solutions may achieve this with graphic sequence editors, simple list ordering, or scripting. 
  4. Automated failover (AKA recovery, AKA spin-up) of protected computers and networks in the cloud. At the time of disaster, individual systems or the entire environment can be spun up in the cloud. Older DR solutions required a phone call to the vendor’s support and formal declaration of disaster. With modern DRaaS solutions, a customer can start a single server or their entire environment (via DR run book) through a user interface.
  5. Failback from the cloud location back to the source. Since the recovery infrastructure is running in the cloud environment, and business operations are restored, the failback can be scheduled at a convenient time. To be a DRaaS means failback should be as simple as the failover.

According to Gartner, DRaaS offerings must also have a standardized SLA for recovery, amongst some other capabilities.

How is DRaaS different from regular backup or Backup as a Service?

With DRaaS, the data, applications, and network configurations are copied to the cloud. In the event of a disaster, the entire infrastructure can be quickly restored in the cloud. Thus, business operations can be resumed with this new, temporary, infrastructure. By using prepared run books, taking frequent snapshots of source systems, and automatically testing failover, recovery point objective (RPO) – maximum time period of potential data loss – and recovery time objectives (RTO) – target time between incident and recovery – can be decreased to minutes.

Conversely, traditional backup or Backup as a Service (BaaS) solutions take copies of data (and sometimes server configuration) and write them to disk or tape. These copies can then be taken offsite, or to the cloud. Unlike DRaaS, these copies are intended to be restored to the same, or new hardware, and not instantly restored as a functional server (that is, the data is not “spun up” and ready to go).

Therefore, there is a major difference in approach to recovery for these types of solutions:

  • DRaaS: Failover in minutes, then resolve the original problem – at your own pace
  • Backup: Rush to resolve the problem, then perform a restore

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What makes the Infrascale Disaster Recovery solution unique?

The Infrascale Disaster Recovery product is feature-rich and meets all of the definition above. Here are some other capabilities that our customers love and chose us for:

  1. Flexible scheduling, throttling, and deduplication during capture and replication of computers. This helps to avoid degradation of performance on source systems, and keeps storage and network usage at bay. 
  2. Local (on-premises) DR to avoid reconfiguration of networking and decrease latency. In most cases, businesses face “micro-disasters”, when just a single computer fails. Many solutions can perform on-premises DR either by spinning up a copy of the failed machine on a local DRaaS appliance or by doing an instant restore of the virtual machine to an on-premises hypervisor.
  3. Automatic testing of backups with boot (screenshot) verification. Automated testing of backups is the best way to ensure that every backup is usable and is often a key reason why companies choose a DRaaS solution instead of traditional backup products.
  4. Granular restore of individual files and folders. Where applicable to solve the disaster, it’s usually quicker and easier to restore individual files and folders than the whole system. 
  5. Restore to dissimilar hardware or hypervisor. When a server fails and needs to be replaced, chances are it’s going to be virtualized, not restored to a new dedicated box. Also, many companies today have both VMware and Hyper-V hypervisors in place. This makes physical to virtual and virtual to virtual conversion a valuable feature. 
  6. Convergent Backup and Disaster Recovery Solutions. IDR is both backup and DR. It allows storing the long-term archives of data and, unlike sync-based products, provides the necessary “air gap” between the source system and the secondary copy, not letting malicious change instantly populate to the secondary site. At the same time, an organization can enjoy instant DR spin-up times both on-premises and in the cloud, while still being able to roll back to an archived restore point made years ago.

DRaaS is an effective solution to eliminate data loss and downtime. Backup and spin up/recover at a fraction of the cost of doing it yourself. The Infrascale Disaster Recovery DRaaS solution builds upon the benefits of DRaaS and goes beyond: no extra site, no extra IT resources, and no fuss to failover or failback – in minutes! Be confident your data is protected. Gain the control and flexibility around your data and data operations.

If you want to learn more on how Infrascale Disaster Recovery solutions can keep your data safe and your business operational, visit the Infrascale website or sign up for a product demo. MSPs welcome!


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