How to Use the Cloud as a DR Site


Businesses first began using the cloud mainly for testing and development because it allowed developers and QA personnel to quickly and easily spin up test VMs without needing the intervention of IT administrators or storage administrators. As business began to get more comfortable and knowledgeable about cloud services and capabilities, they have also begun to leverage the cloud for more essential IT functions including the backup of critical data and using the cloud as a disaster recovery (DR) site.

For a very basic level of DR, you can use the cloud as a remote backup location. Cloud backup enables you the flexibility to pick and choose the data you want to protect as well as choosing the length of time you want to store the backup data. As data volumes are growing rapidly for almost every organization, cloud backup eliminates the need to worry about managing space on more expensive local SAN or NAS storage or by using a specialized backup storage devices; cloud backup is also a great way to protect against ransomware. The cloud is disconnected from your local infrastructure and you can secure your backups with their own authentication giving them a degree of isolation from your online processes. You can also store multiple cloud backup points ensuring that you have an uncorrupted backup that you can restore from.

The DR capabilities of the cloud go far beyond just basic backups. For DR, most businesses are looking at VM replication to improve their recovery point and time objectives. Using replication for DR enables you to forgo the lengthy restore process that is usually associated with backups. Instead, using replication you can quickly cut over to a VM replica in the cloud in the event of a failure. That replica VM can be nearly in-sync with the target – losing minimal if any data.

To establish VM replication to the cloud you need perform the following steps:

  1. Establish a connection between your local site and your cloud vendor – This is typically a VPN but other solutions are available as well.
  2. Create a backup of your critical VMs – The initial VM replica can be restored from a backup or most replication products can automatically seed the initial copy but that can be a lengthy process. This initial copy gives you a starting point for the replication process.
  3. Implement a VM replication technology – Microsoft and VMware both possess basic VM replication capabilities. Plus, there are several third part replication products that offer more advanced capabilities as well.
  4. Select the replication type – Replication can be synchronous or asynchronous. Typically, replication to the cloud uses asynchronous replication to avoid local latency issues.
  5. Select a replication interval – The replication interval controls how often data is transferred from your local VMs to the cloud. Most replication products allow various frequencies ranging from near real-time to 15 minutes or more. The interval you choose depends on your recovery point objectives.
  6. Select a number of recovery points – Most replication products also allow you to select the number of recovery points to create. Essentially, each recovery point allows you to recover the VM replica to an earlier point in time. It’s important to realize that your storage requirements increase as you add recovery points.
  7. Optionally extend the replication – Many replication products also enable you to create multiple replicas in different locations for increased safety and recoverability.
  8. Begin the replication – After the replication has been configured you can start the replication which will begin sending changes from the original VM to the replica VMs. Some replication products support automatic failover while others require manual failover in the event of an outage.

The cloud can be a cost-effective backup and DR site that can give your business more flexibility and the ability to rapidly restore your critical business applications in the event of a failure.