03-09-11 | Blog Post
Mike Klein explains about how private cloud computing changes the game when it comes to disaster recovery possibilities.
Disaster Recovery Using Private Cloud
Presented by Online Tech President and Chief Operating Officer, Mike Klein
So disaster recovery from an IT perspective is making sure you can recover your systems and your data. So that in case you have either a disaster that takes out your production IT system, or you have an outage for an extended period of time, you can recover and get your systems and your data back up and online.
Because in today’s environment so many businesses are critically dependent on their IT infrastructure, having a disaster recovery plan and making sure you can recover your data and your systems in a time-effective fashion is really critical to the survival of most organizations and making sure they can survive any disaster that may hit their IT infrastructure.
So the options for disaster recovery really depend on two things – it depends on your RTO, or recovery time objective, which is how quick you need to recover from your disaster. It also depends on your budget. The two are kind of tied together. If, for example, if you need to recover your data in a 7-day time frame, it’s going to be a lot more cost-effective than if you need to make sure that you can recover your data and your infrastructure in a 5-minute time frame.
So the best way to think about that is, there’s really a kind of spectrum – on one end of the spectrum, there’s off-site backup where you’re looking at a very cost-effective solution, something where your recovery time objective or RTO is really measured in days – 3-7 days.
On the other side of the spectrum would be called hot site backup, or hot site disaster recovery, and there you’re looking at a 5-minute type of recovery, but you’re also looking at a much more expensive solution that involves SAN to SAN replication. So that your data’s always replicated between both your production site and your disaster recovery site.
And then in the middle of that spectrum, you can find a couple of other options that are there. One would be cold site recovery where you have your servers available but not yet loaded from your backup. And the other would be a warm site recovery where the servers are set up, ready to go and just waiting for the data to be moved to them before you can bring them up.
Disaster Recovery Challenges
Some of the challenges of traditional disaster recovery, you really have two options when you’re looking at a traditional server that needs to be backed up. One is to back up the data, and the other is what’s called bare metal restore. Both of them have challenges either in the amount of time it takes, or the cost it takes to deploy those systems.
So for example, when you’re backing up data, the challenges associated with that is, to get that data back on the server, or recover your server, you’ve got to reload the operating system, reload the patches that go with the operating system. You’re going to have to reload your applications, reload the patches that go with those applications, hope that you got that all right, then reload your data into the system. It’s very time-consuming and error-prone.
The other option we talked about is the bare metal restore. And the nice thing about a bare metal restore is that you can take your entire backup, reload it on a similar hardware platform, and get it up and running. The challenge is, keeping and making sure that your hardware platforms are exactly identical or very close to identical between both your production site and your disaster recovery site. So in fact, you have to have two of the exact identical systems, which can be fairly costly.
Benefits of Private Cloud Computing
Some benefits of private cloud computing and how it changes disaster recovery, is it both lowers the cost and can dramatically change and lower the recovery time objective. So because when we’re running on a private cloud, all of the servers are virtualized, instead of just backing up the data, we can now back up the entire server off-site. So it’s easy to take a snapshot of the server every night, send it off-site, and then that entire server can be spun up fairly quickly. So now we’re talking about taking those backups and recovering in a matter of hours, instead of a matter of days.
Online Tech’s Disaster Recovery
To actually talk about how Online Tech handles their disaster recovery for our IT infrastructure, let’s talk about what we did with our IT infrastructure overall. We actually moved our entire IT infrastructure – 23 servers, into our own private cloud at the end of 2009. So what that allowed us to do is we took all 23 physical servers, converted them into virtual servers, we’re now running on two physical servers or physical hosts, as well as a SAN environment.
From a disaster recovery side, what we do now is we actually back up all 23 of those servers to our second data center, 53 miles away, and we also have a separate server – a warm site disaster recovery server that’s designated specifically for our infrastructure, to bring up those servers in case something happens to our main infrastructure.
People ask, would you ever go back to traditional disaster recover? I don’t think our ITT would ever let us do that. And the reason is, number one, their jobs have become a lot easier, both in deploying and making sure we’re doing our daily backups, as well as actually deploying and doing the testing. Second thing is the fact that we’re doing the testing every six months in a reasonable time frame, in less than four hours has become a real key advantage for us. And the third one is, our recovery time objectives have dropped dramatically since we moved to the private cloud, and we started doing our cloud backups and backing everything up into a hot site or warm site disaster recovery solution.
Probably the biggest impact our private cloud has had overall, is our backup strategy, our disaster recovery time strategy and how fast we can bring it up in a very cost-effective fashion.