Perhaps this scenario sounds familiar: you know that your current backup and disaster recovery solution isn’t reliable enough. Backups are slow, take hours each day to maintain, and you have low confidence that restores would work in a disaster situation.

shutterstock_1172858932You know you need to make changes to protect your company’s data, but the options seem endless, and you’re not sure which choice is right for your business. You might be wondering why disaster recovery and business continuity planning is so important, or maybe you just need to know more about the options available to you.

If these problems have become an everyday concern then you’re not alone. This guide is designed to help you find a solution that’s right for your business, presenting information about ‘as a Service’ solutions to help you make a well-informed decision. 

So, whatever the size of your business, and whether or not you know your budget or the level of service you require, you can use this guide to give you the information you need to get closer to your next data protection solution.

 

Chapter 1: Backup as a Service

Chapter 2: Fully Managed Data Backup and Data Recovery Service

Chapter 3: Disaster Recovery as a Service

Chapter 4: Virtual Desktop as a Service

Chapter 5: Considerations for Whole Server Recovery

 

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Chapter 1

Chapter 1: Backup as a Service

How does Backup as a Service work?

There are multiple benefits for your business if you choose Backup as a Service (BaaS). The joy of this type of solution is the ability to hand over to experts and let them do the legwork for you, allowing you to get on with other important aspects of your role that usually end up on the back-burner.

 

Assured DP - Making Backup Simple

Rob Mackle, Director and Co-Founder of Assured DP explains why there is such a need for automation and systems that work quickly in today’s environment:

“It’s common now for IT teams to get stretched, sometimes leading to reducing them. It used to be that there was always a backup admin or team but not now. So offering the service for backup – which is something most people don't really want to do or can’t invest the time in – is appealing. Obviously it's a very important job, but they don't want to invest time in it. They want a service that can free up time, helps run backup smoothly, is slick, fully documented and great for audit purposes.”

 

There are various levels of Backup as a Service. From basic hardware offerings, through to “Rolls Royce” solutions, where businesses can have entire environments, including all backups, completely monitored and handled. This type of service includes having the restores performed for you; individual file restores can be taken on so your company no longer has to perform these.

 

The main benefits of BaaS include:

  • A consultative and tailored approach to the design and installation of your solution. 
  • A pay-as-you-grow solution which is flexible, scalable and affordable. 
  • Expert support for all your daily backup and recovery requirements.
  • A manageable all-inclusive cost, based on your data size.

Ian Thompson, Assured DP’s UK Head of Data Services explains the flexibility of Backup as a Service:

“Backup as a Service means different things to different people. It can be as simple as giving customers an OpEx model to purchase. So backup as a service can almost be a financing arrangement.”
 

businessman hand working on laptop computer with digital layer business strategy and social media diagram on wooden desk

What are the costs associated with BaaS?

Whilst you would be paying monthly for your managed service provider (MSP), utilising Backup as a Service means you could see total cost of ownership (TCO) savings of up to 50% by:

  • Eliminating the need for tapes, tape drives and the costs of storing backup tapes offsite.
  • Reducing backup software and hardware costs. 
  • Savings on backup management time.
  • Reducing your data centre footprint as you will need less space for storage.

 

Who would BaaS best suit?

The fast growth of data sources and real-time communication channels have forced IT professionals to look beyond conventional backup methods. 

The beauty of Backup as a Service is that it suits a wide range of enterprises. From large organisations, to smaller companies with only 1-2 Terabytes (TBs) of data: the service can be tailored to suit anyone. 

 

Some of the reasons businesses choose Backup as a Service include:

  • Financial – Backup as a Service offers a more affordable option with an Opex pay-as-you-grow model.
  • Positioning – if your competitors have modernised their data protection solutions, you may want to position yourself on an even (or superior) footing to them.
  • Convenience – some businesses want to outsource their entire backup process and never see it again. BaaS can make this possible.

How long does it take to get up and running?

BaaS has a simple setup, makes use of automated elements to speed up the process, and offers reliability. 

Depending on the vendor solution, it may take a few hours to install, and only between 1-2 weeks to get fully seeded and operational. This is also dependent on the size of your environment and how many of your existing backups need to be migrated.

Some enterprises have to backup at very specific times due to the nature of their industry or data. For example, if your company only runs backups over weekends or evenings, then setup can take longer.

 

How does Backup as a Service save time?

Time is one of the largest currencies for most businesses. One of the key things companies who choose Backup as a Service are looking for is to give their employees more time and energy to complete their workload, without the distractions and irritation of constantly babysitting backups. Here are three of the biggest advantages: 

1: You and your team will spend far less time managing backup. Switching to automated backup policies means backup is going on behind the scenes instead of at the forefront of everyday tasks. 

2: BaaS is flexible and grows with your data. So managing backup capacity, and frequently rescheduling jobs to try and run efficiently with the tape, becomes a thing of the past.

3: Once the backups are set, they don’t need to be revisited again. This ‘set and forget’ method is appealing to many businesses who are used to the time-sapping nature of regular manual backups.

 

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Chapter 2

Chapter 2: Fully Managed Services

What should a Fully Managed Service offer?

 

Mnaged ServiceThis is the ultimate option for businesses who want a comprehensive solution to their data protection. It unifies backup, recovery, analytics and compliance into one high-end solution. Perfect for businesses who don’t want to miss a beat when providing an up-to-date, thorough and secure data-recovery solution for their organisation. 

For businesses who know their current data-protection solutions aren’t rigorous enough, Rob Mackle, Director and Co-Founder of Assured DP explains they aren’t alone:

“Technical problems tend to be the biggest concern for IT departments. Simple things like backup windows and how long backups take to complete are a big point of anxiety. Normally that's down to the company’s technology or environment not being up to scratch so backups aren’t scaling properly. This is where a Fully Managed Service can really make the biggest difference.”

Other features of a Fully Managed Service include:

  • A solution tailored to suit your individual business needs.
  • A provider that takes full ownership of the backup and restores.
  • Backup monitoring to help prevent failures.
  • A provider that liaises with you in the event of failures or issues.
  • 24/7 365 support.

What are the costs and savings associated with a Fully Managed Service? 

Significant TCO savings should be made due to the reduction of hardware, software and, of course, management time. This makes it a difficult option to ignore for businesses who want both a financially viable and all-encompassing solution. 

This service means you can protect any number of hosts or virtual machines (VMs), whilst only paying for the protected data size or level of service that you need. 

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but something that can be highly customised and that means the cost options are tailored to your business and budget, too. A fully managed service should be available as either a Capex or an Opex model (usually Opex) which makes it an affordable and achievable option for SMEs, as well as larger organisations.

 

What are the advantages of a Fully Managed Service?

There are multiple reasons to choose a Fully Managed Service. Investment in a data protection solution is something you can’t afford to get wrong so MSP can offer added peace of mind. They will already have a good working relationship with the vendor, plus they will have solid technical knowledge and expertise of that platform which saves you training your team in order to deploy a new solution.

 

Who would a Fully Managed Service best suit?

Due to the comprehensive nature of this service, it tends to be businesses at the top end with larger budgets and the most at stake if there was an issue, who choose this option. 

These are companies where backup is more closely monitored – this could be for financial or confidentiality reasons. This article from Information Age explains why many large businesses are turning to managed service providers (MSPs):

‘Technology grows in complexity by the day, internal IT departments with limited resources struggle to keep up with it all. Good MSPs can provide a steady level of support to meet challenging requirements...MSPs increase efficiency in that they can offer working dynamics that internal teams may not be able to do, for example, 24×7 coverage.’

 

How long would a Fully Managed Service take to get up and running?

A Fully Managed Service is a case of continuous refinement, rather than something with a start and finish time. 

After deployment, it should be up and running in 2-3 weeks. But there are always going to be changes to servers, backups, or SLAs which need constant monitoring. Your service provider will own the changes day-to-day to keep things updated and running smoothly.

 

The timings depend largely on how long you want to keep your data, and how fast your environments change, particularly if you’re a larger organisation. Every experience is different as, again, this should be a customised service where your provider listens to you and your needs and then actions the changes accordingly.

 

How does a Fully Managed Service differ from legacy solutions?

The biggest change you’re likely to see is that all your data-protection solutions become centrally managed. There’s no more confusion about who is running which backups, or having multiple providers responsible for different areas of your data protection; everything is maintained in one place.

With this also comes support when you need it. The last thing you want when you’re running your backups through one centralised provider is poor communication, so you should receive a high standard of support to help guide you through any queries you might have. 

 

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Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Disaster Recovery as a Service

How does Disaster Recovery as a Service work?

 

DRaaS Video

Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) further enhances BaaS by providing the ability to replicate all the critical company information offsite to a disaster-recovery location. In the event of a significant IT failure, servers, applications and data can be brought online rapidly to allow the business to continue operating with minimum disruption.

It is fully managed, flexible and scalable, allowing any size of customer to have their systems fully recovered by an expert third party at a geographically independent site, leaving their limited resources free to handle operations locally. 

 

What are the costs associated with Disaster Recovery as a Service?

One of the best things about this option is that DRaaS offers high-performance DR at a fraction of the cost of legacy solutions. This makes it almost impossible for decision makers to deny Disaster Recovery as a Service’s validity as an option for your business.

Traditionally, running DR in-house would carry significant upfront costs, including having to up-skill and train existing staff, or even invest in new staff – plus the extra time it takes to manage, maintain and test.

Not only is Disaster Recovery as a Service cost effective, but sending your on-premise data to the cloud is quick and easy, further improving the productivity of your team.

 

What are the pros and cons of DRaaS?

The pros of Disaster Recovery as a Service:

  • It offers rapid recovery with minimal input from your IT staff in a time of crisis.
  • It’s a weight off your mind: you get to hand over responsibility to an experienced third party to help you manage the responsibility of disaster recovery.
  • Because data is stored on disc with error checking and parity, it is much more reliable, giving you the confidence that all of your data can be restored.

 

Ian Thompson, Assured DP’s UK Head of Data Services explains why DRaaS offers such a lifeline for many businesses:

“In the event of a disaster – if you imagine a fire, a flood, or a natural disaster; or something that's suddenly caused your building to be inaccessible or inactive; or your servers don't work – to actually be able to offload a massive chunk of that responsibility is an enormous relief.” 

 

The cons of Disaster Recovery as a Service:

There are no cons per se, just a few things to bear in mind:

  • Frequent changes become your responsibility to share with your provider: if you regularly change your servers, the layout of your data, or the way your products work, you will have to keep your provider frequently updated. This is no longer an in-house managed process; you need to inform your external DRaaS provider so they can best update your systems and keep you fully protected.
  • Companies with particularly sensitive data (such as government bodies or financial institutions) might not want their data being recovered in a third party data centre. If this is the case they could have a full private cloud BaaS and DraaS solution to ensure compliance.

 

Who would Disaster Recovery as a Service benefit most?

The purpose of this guide isn’t to just tell you about every solution that would suit you. It is to help you drill down into what you need, ahead of pursuing your ultimate choice. As long as you have a disaster recovery plan, it’s up to date, and is tried and tested, then you may decide this service isn’t for you. However, it does suit many types of organisations including: 

 

  • Small to medium enterprises (SMEs). However, DRaaS can also be deployed for larger companies within their own environment.
  • Enterprises with a single site where all your technology resides, this option is a good choice.
  • Businesses with a single or a small IT department. They  will really see the value of Disaster Recovery as a Service, where it may not be as cost effective for them to run it themselves in-house. 

 

How long would DRaaS take to get up and running?

The average time for Disaster Recovery as a Service full setup is around 6 weeks. The timeline may look something like this:

  1. Initial deployment
  2. Backup configuration
  3. Initial backups between 1-2 weeks 
  4. Backups are replicated over weeks 3-4
  5. The disaster recovery test is scheduled over weeks 5-6

If there is a particular need to get a disaster recovery tested quickly, then it is possible to do it faster. However, in most cases businesses are in no great rush to complete it as they would rather get it right. 

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it business man in network server room have problems and looking for  disaster situation  solutionHow reliable is DRaaS?

DRaaS needs to be reliable. It’s an insurance policy to call on, should the worst happen. So if you’re not confident it’s going to work when needed, you should probably work with your existing technology to perfect that recovery, or consider looking at alternatives.

A good DRaaS provider will not only allow you to test the recovery platform, but should actively encourage it. Only by testing the process, end to end, can you be confident that DRaaS will be reliable when called upon.

Once tested, issues are ironed out, and the process documented, DRaaS should be a very reliable and dependable process that, all being well, you will never need.

 

In this Information Age article, they explore how – despite the widely acknowledged dangers of not having a disaster recovery provision at your organisation – there are worrying statistics that show how many companies don’t have a reliable solution in place, in the event of a disaster:

“Only 29% [of participants] said they could get hardware to replace servers... and just 29% said they could recover to the cloud, 54% admitted they couldn’t – 17% said they didn’t know... What’s clear from our research is that, for many companies, disaster recovery is shelfware, set up once and then rarely, if ever, tested or thought of again.”

 

How does Disaster Recovery as a Service save time?

DRaaS offers the ability to rapidly restore replicas for testing or recovery without impacting ongoing replication or production – a massive bonus for most organisations who want minimal interruptions to their workforce while undergoing a change in provider. 

As Rob Mackle, Director and Co-Founder of Assured DP explains, time management is amongst the main concerns of most customers he speaks to: 

“For a lot of people, their priorities come down to: finding a great service and improving internal time management. They’re considering how much resource staff are having to spend on backups. Often they might have outsourced their solutions in the past and their outsource providers didn’t do a great job, so they’re looking for a provider who will actually deliver.”

 

How does DRaaS differ from traditional solutions? 

Some of the biggest differences compared to solutions you might be using at the moment include: 

  1. No need for additional hardware, software or a secondary site.
  2. No need to up-skill - The MSP is skilled in recovery, so you don’t have to be.
  3. Seamless crossover: the data is already sat on disks in the DR site so it can be accessed natively – there’s no waiting around for lengthy restorations.

 

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Chapter 4:

Chapter 4: Virtual Desktop as a Service (VDaaS)

What is Virtual Desktop as a Service?

 

Computer keyboard and multiple social media images

If users couldn’t get to their desktops due to a disaster, or couldn’t even physically enter the building where they work, you would need a solution so that your business wouldn’t grind to a standstill. Staff members would probably have access to a home computer, tablet and a mobile phone – these tools could help your workforce get back online after a major outage. 

It’s likely they’d need to access email and applications specific to your industry in order to carry on working. Virtual Desktop as a Service provides a “desktop” in the cloud and is the perfect compliment to DRaaS as it would provide users with a fast and flexible way to access the recovered servers and applications securely, across the internet from a wide range of devices.

 

Your team would get all their familiar icons, settings, web browsers, short cuts and beyond, and connect to their virtual desktop from any web browser, anywhere in the world. It’s the most convenient, user-friendly and secure method to help work continue as usual if disaster strikes. 

 

What are the costs associated with Virtual Desktop as a Service?

This service acts as an add-on feature for those already using a disaster recovery solution. It usually requires an upfront commitment to the service, which is typically done per desktop.

An affordable fee that covers you each month is a small price to pay for the security of knowing that your team would be able to keep your business going in relative normality, should their physical workspace be compromised. 

 

What are the advantages of virtual desktops?

The advantages of using Virtual Desktop as a Service are numerous and include:

  • The ability to run your secure work desktop on any device wherever you have an internet connection.
  • The knowledge that you can connect to your virtual desktop and get secure connectivity to all your servers and applications during a DR.
  • Giving users the familiar experience of using their desktop with all applications as if the disaster had never happened.

 

Who would Virtual Desktop as a Service best suit?

Virtual desktops are a great solution to aid Business Continuity and would suit:

  • Any organisation that has no current contingency in place for hosting users in an alternative local office, if a primary office is unavailable.
  • A company that uses VDI at present and wishes to have this available during DR.
  • For any organisations already utilising DRaaS, VDaaS is the natural add-on service.

 

How long do virtual desktops take to get up and running?

Virtual desktops get you much further along in business recovery, just when you need it most. Desktops should be ready to use as soon as servers are restored. The provision of a virtual desktop happens in parallel with the recovery of the servers, and setting up the rest of the environment.

For example, if a disaster recovery test is performed at 9am, the desktops could be ready by noon. And the same time scales apply 24/7, there’s no variation for time of day, or day of the week – it’s consistently that reliable.

Ian Thompson, Assured DP’s UK Head of Data Services, explains how virtual desktops help businesses:

“Within two or three hours you should be able to say to people, "Log on to your disaster recovery site through your web browser and away you go, carry on working.” Staff should be able to get their emails, carry on with their work, do whatever they were doing with their clients and keep on going as usual.”’

 

How does it differ from traditional solutions?

Five or ten years ago, if your computers went down for whatever reason everyone at your business probably had manual tasks they could be getting on with until their desktops came back on. Now, however, there aren’t as many manual tasks for people to do. Staying proactive and achieving a usual day’s work without access to their desktop would now be nearly impossible for most people.

It is a business’ duty to ensure their employees can get back on track quickly to avoid delays, frustrations, and to maintain a high level of customer and client care. Virtual Desktop as a Service means you always have the provision in place for giving your team what they need during a crisis.

 

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Chapter 5

 

Chapter 5: Considerations for Whole Server Recovery

 

network server room with computers for digital tv ip communications and internet

In an ideal world, every server would be virtualised, modern and therefore predictable to backup and recover. In the real world, however, there are almost always a number of legacy systems that cause more than their fair share of headaches, many of which are physical.

 

It’s important that your BaaS solution, and where applicable, your DraaS solution can handle all aspects of your data-centre recovery. When you are experiencing a serious outage, it’s these systems that will start to stress the recovery process, and lengthen the time taken to get your end users back online.

 

Common issues experienced with whole-server recoveries

There are recurring issues that many companies experience when attempting a whole-server recovery. Some of these may sound familiar:

  • Mismatched physical hardware, causing driver conflicts and issues booting the Operating System.
  • Older version of VM hardware or disk types, unsupported on recovery systems.
  • Lengthy recovery times waiting for large VMs to restore.
  • Attempts to recover older unsupported OS on modern hypervisors.
  • Recovering sub-standard, poorly performing hardware which lengthens recovery times, and frustrates end users with slow data access.
  • Failure to perform a full recovery test to prove successful backups, and document end-to-end recovery procedures ahead of a real invocation.

 

Best Practices for whole server recoveries

There are a range of ways to avoid some of the most problematic issues during whole-server recoveries. These include:

  • Performing at least one recovery test for each server, to prove you have a process to do it.
  • Ideally, performing this once or twice a year – or, at the very least, after major changes to the server.
  • Ensuring all backups are full backups, so recovery doesn’t require multiple incremental recoveries which may fail.
  • Planning to have backups offsite as soon as possible after completion, preferably at your DR location.
  • Scheduling backups to run 7 days a week, including holidays, as modern systems are usually 24/7.
  • Designing the DR equipment to handle the Input/Output of the users, but also the IO of the recovery operation itself, within acceptable timeframes.
  • Considering using an expert DRaaS provider if your business has recovery requirements that exceed your current capacity or budget. 

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No matter what your company size, budget or security needs, there is a new solution for you. Whichever you decide to pursue, you’ve made a step towards exploring your options, so the hardest part is already done.

Your company’s data protection should be at the forefront of your IT department’s priority list. We hope this guide acts as a useful tool for sharing the options with your team, and helping decision makers choose an option that’s right for you.

If you're still not sure which solution might be right for your company, simply click here to speak to an expert who will be happy to help.

 

You can also download our guide '10 things you can do now to prepare for a data backup solution switch'

 

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