Floods occur, networks crash, and applications fail. Those who haven’t planned for these calamities are at serious risk of losing not just critical data, but also their business. Disasters can strike at any moment (especially in Australia); and even small organisations with modest operations must ensure their infrastructure, applications, and data are prepared for the worst.
To achieve this, you need cloud-based business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) schemes in place. Normally, companies opt for “Infrastructure-as-a-Service” models because a third party manages the hardware required for storing and restoring data. But if you have applications that need to be running at all times; then a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) environment is a vastly superior option.
What is PaaS?
For those who don’t know, PaaS is a platform you can use to develop or deploy web-based applications. A good example of PaaS is Windows Azure, where Microsoft provides the operating system, programming language, database, web server, storage, and networking resources; all of which you use to build and run your own application. By moving your applications to a cloud-hosted infrastructure like PaaS; you not only minimise costs but you also get several features that keep your mission-critical applications, data, and business alive.
Deploying your applications on infrastructure created by big-name cloud providers like Microsoft and Amazon is already a huge step up in ensuring business continuity. As mentioned, these companies support your software with enterprise-grade hardware, storage, and networks. On top of all that, they have nearly unlimited resources to manage those components; enabling them to keep availability at or above 99.9% with top-notch backup and recovery technologies.
When you opt for Microsoft’s PaaS; issues like server maintenance and updates are managed for you; all you really have to worry about is developing and deploying your custom software.
Multiple data centres
Besides high-availability infrastructure; PaaS providers maintain data centres all around the world. Microsoft Azure, for example, is available in 36 regions, two of which are located in East and Southeast Australia. This setup gives you several fast, efficient ways to recover from localised disasters. If one data centre goes offline due to a flood, fire, or power outage, you can simply run your applications in a secondary server based outside the disaster zone.
Azure also aids DR with Traffic Manager, a solution that automates the distribution of users’ traffic across multiple servers. Within the platform, you can create a priority list of servers; that users will be routed to when failure occurs. If the primary data centre goes down, Azure reroutes incoming traffic to the next available server; making sure that your web applications are accessible by anyone who is allowed to use them. With redundancy built into your applications, you minimise the possibility of service disruptions.
Cyberattacks are a major threat to small businesses. In fact, according to a study by the Business Continuity Institute; 81% of organisations are ‘extremely concerned’ about the threat of data breaches. Also, given the increasing frequency and sophistication of ransomware attacks like WannaCry and Petya; companies must have backup plans in case their files are taken hostage.
With PaaS, you can protect your data in several ways. For starters, Microsoft PaaS platforms offer advanced 256-bit application level encryption to protect data integrity after a breach. With strict access management policies and multi-factor authentication; you prevent unauthorised users from gaining entry into your applications and wreaking havoc. Finally, you can use built-in backup services to make copies of your application data; and use those copies to perform point-in-time restores if your current files are ever corrupted or destroyed.
Disasters and security threats aren’t the only causes of downtime. Increased traffic can slow down the performance of your web applications; and in some cases, crash them. When public-facing applications become unresponsive; potential customers will likely search for alternatives, resulting in lost revenue and reputation.
By taking advantage of scaling the features PaaS offers; you can easily increase hardware, storage, and network capacity to ensure a surge in traffic doesn’t disrupt your service. In Azure, you can even configure scale settings based on usage, time of day, and user. For instance, if you expect increased app usage from your production staff during the afternoon, simply log in to Azure portal, go to the Scale page, and schedule the amount of computing resources you think they’ll need after lunch.
Auto-scaling features respond instantaneously to the rules you’ve set; giving you the flexibility to support different workloads and keep your applications online regardless of surges in traffic.
The only way to be sure your firm can survive a disaster is by making sure your business-continuity and disaster-recovery plans work. With failover testing features; PaaS simulates the recovery procedures you’ve set for each application; and identifies issues like post-disaster traffic not being rerouted to the right server. Once you’re aware of the problem; you can either reconfigure the plan yourself or get expert help from a cloud services consultant.
PaaS may sound more complicated than Infrastructure-as-a-Service or Software-as-a-Service; but the features it brings to your organisation are powerful and effective. If your business applications and data are important to you; then there’s virtually no reason why you shouldn’t opt for a PaaS solution.
Cloud-based business continuity is an incredibly nuanced field; which is why you need the help of cloud experts like Empower IT. We can help you make a smooth PaaS migration, help you develop a customised business-continuity and disaster-recovery plan, and make sure you are ready for any natural disaster, power outage, or cyberattack. Call us today so you can rest easy tomorrow!