Considering a cloud service offering? You’re not alone. Practically every IT organization out there is at least discussing the cloud as a way to improve services, save money, or shift workloads, and there’s good reason for that. While the cloud might not be for everyone, it has tremendous advantages for understaffed IT shops, and can offer businesses from sole proprietorship’s to multi-nationals with millions of employees services on par with anything that could be deployed internally, and at a price point that could save a ton on the budget. However, when a company moves services to an outside provider, they are also moving responsibility for all the related aspects of that service both when things are running normally, and when they are not. Disaster recovery in cloud computing is one of the most important things for any customer to consider when investigating Service Providers. There are some key areas you want to make sure are covered, and that you fully understand, to make sure they meet your business needs and that no surprises come up should disaster strike.
One man’s disaster is another man’s blip
I’m sure every good cloud service provider has a disaster recovery plan in place; that they have tested it and certified it, and they have geo-diverse resources available to support operations in the event of a site loss, but if I am going to consider a provider, I want to know what those are, how they are implemented, and what it will mean to me and my users. I’m also very interested in how a cloud service provider will help me in case my company is the one that experiences the disaster.
Read the SLA
Actually take the time to read and understand the SLA being offered by your cloud service provider. Ask questions and walk through scenarios to be sure you fully understand what constitutes a disaster, how that impacts your SLA, and the specifics around a DR event. Who declares a disaster, what processes and technologies are in place to minimize the impact to customers, and how long will it take to restore service. A few hours of downtime may seem like an eternity, but your business should be able to survive it, and if it can’t, maybe a cloud service is not a good fit for you, but no business should have to deal with day or multi-day long outages. You may be entitled to a credit on your account, but restoring service is much more important.
The word disaster implies that bad things have happened, and when it comes to an IT service, that usually implies data loss. Make sure you understand the recovery point objective of the service so you know just how much data loss is possible in the event disaster strikes.
Get the Recovery Time Objective out in front of all the stakeholders, and make certain they ALL understand and agree to it. Should your cloud service provider experience a disaster, they should be able to restore services within that RTO. Your boss yelling at you to call them up to yell at them to go faster will help no one, so you want to make sure everyone understands how long things will take to get back to normal.
Disaster recovery testing
More Cloud service providers offer multi-tenant than not, which means getting them to test DR on your schedule, or in cooperation with your own processes isn’t going to happen. Review their DR test plans and results, and make sure they are sufficient for any internal or external obligations you have. You may have to adapt your own DR plans and testing procedures to work within the constraints of your provider, so you want to know how this might impact audit, accreditation, or contractual obligations with your own customers before committing to a service provider.
Cloud computing has the potential to save companies large percentages of their IT budget, and to offer services that they cannot do on their own. Fully understanding how disaster recovery works in your cloud computing provider’s offering will ensure a successful adoption, and should disaster strike, getting operations back to normal with the least pain possible.
By Casper Manes on behalf of IT Channel Insight, a site for MSPs and Channel partners where you can find other related articles to disaster recovery.