Australia has a long history of disasters. And every time they hit, businesses suffer major losses. On average, businesses experience up to 27 hours of downtime caused by disasters each year. And for small businesses, one hour of downtime costs roughly $8,000. That’s $216,000 in one year.
But there’s a way to minimise the cost of a disaster. With an experienced managed IT services provider (MSP); you can put in place a comprehensive disaster recovery (DR) plan with guaranteed uptime minimums, customised to your business’s needs. Here are a few of the DR plans MSPs offer.
Backup-only disaster recovery plan
The minimum service a reputable MSP will offer to keep your business running is to back up your files daily. With backup-only plans, a backup technician will store copies of your files in at least three different locations; onsite, on a removable drive (like a USB drive), and in their secure data centres.
But as far as disaster recovery plans go; backup-only strategies are not enough; because they’re focused solely on securing files rather than the entire IT infrastructure. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since you need your data to work; but you also need your servers, computers, and apps to be operational, too.
Cold site DR
A cold site disaster recovery plan involves renting out space in a secondary facility where you can set up a temporary office in the event of a disaster. These facilities have the basic infrastructure required to get servers and data online in a pinch; including power, cooling, and network connectivity.
Cold site DR provides a place to work after disasters that cause long-term damage to the primary site, such as fires and floods. It’s also relatively inexpensive compared with other DR plans; as they’re mostly inactive throughout the year; and therefore don’t cost as much in terms of maintenance, power, and cooling.
However, because you will need to install the hardware, reinstall software, and reload data from tapes when disaster strikes; recovery times are slower than other plans, usually taking 3-5 days instead of a few hours. As such, cold site DR is not a particularly popular option for businesses with stringent uptime requirements.
Hot site DR
Since pretty much all organisations have zero tolerance for prolonged downtime, especially ones in the financial and healthcare sectors, hot site DR makes the most sense. Hot site disaster recovery plan is where an identical facility is set up in a remote location; fully equipped with systems preloaded with apps, data, and security software. At higher price points, these facilities even come with phones, tablets, and other equipment required to run your business.
Unlike cold sites, hot sites are active and have up-to-date copies of data at all times, so if the primary site fails, employees can simply move to the hot site and work as if nothing happened.
While this plan is effective at reducing downtime, cost can be a concern. With a hot site, you’re essentially running two offices at the same time; which means you have to pay double for hardware, software licenses, maintenance, internet, power, and cooling.
If setting up a backup facility doesn’t fit your budget, virtual DR solutions are a great option, as they’re not only far more cost-effective, but also easier to manage. With virtual disaster recovery services; MSPs create a working replica of your entire computing environment, including servers, storage space, operating systems, apps, and data.
Called “virtual machines” (VMs); they can be run on any workstation. So in the event of a major disaster like a ransomware attack that locks down your users’ computers; you can run a VM on those machines and it will be as if the incident never occurred.
Compared with cold and hot site DR plans; where backup servers need to be loaded with fully configured OS and software before the data can be restored, VMs are hardware independent, meaning they can be copied and installed anywhere; without any configurations. The great thing about this is you can load your backup VMs in a secondary server or in the most barebones computer as easily and as quickly as moving a file, allowing you to recover from a disaster in minutes.
Another benefit to virtual DR is easier testing. Traditionally, testing a DR plan requires disabling the primary site and restoring apps and data on the recovery site. With virtual DR; you can easily create an isolated VM to simulate non-disruptive tests; and see whether your solutions will work during a real disaster.
You also save a lot of money when you sign up for an MSP’s virtual DR services since they take care of everything; from VM set-up to ongoing backup maintenance; for a small monthly fee. What’s more; you’ll get access to their cutting-edge data centres; that are guarded by firewalls, encryption, and intrusion prevention systems, and maintained 24/7. No longer will you have to rent out space for a cold site or hot site recovery. In fact, to ensure complete data redundancy, MSPs will keep your backup VMs in multiple fault-tolerant servers so you can always access and recover your most mission-critical files, apps, and resources, anytime.
Picking the right plan
Before choosing any of these DR plans, it’s important to analyse your systems, data, and requirements. For instance, large companies that have a considerable IT budget and high availability requirements will benefit with a hot site DR plan. But for small businesses that need flexible disaster recovery, virtual DR is the top contender.
Still not sure which plan you should implement? If you’re worried about bushfires, storms, power outages, and cyberattacks putting you out of business, call the experts at Empower IT. We’ll provide a comprehensive risk assessment, understand your recovery objectives, and design a plan that minimises downtime and ensures your peace of mind.