Natural disasters run on a schedule here in Australia. From November to December, bushfires and power outages are common occurrences. From March all the way to August, floods and storms become more frequent. In fact, just a few months ago; Queensland and certain areas of New South Wales suffered colossal damages from Cyclone Debbie.

Due to these devastating incidents; companies are turning to cloud-based disaster recovery (DR) solutions to protect their data and keep their business running. But, like most disaster recovery plans; implementing cloud-based DR isn’t as simple as installing productivity software. To deploy this solution effectively, you need to do the following:

Identify your requirements

First, evaluate your business’s needs in order to determine the right infrastructure for your cloud-based DR solution. Ask yourself what data or applications are considered mission-critical, then assess the likelihood and severity of different types of disasters.

For instance, organisations in NSW, Victoria, and Queensland that experience storms and floods; as probably require remote data backups when their onsite data centres are disabled. Other agencies with critical business software can also choose to replicate entire virtual machines (VMs) to a private cloud; to maintain high availability, regardless of localised disasters.

Choose your cloud provider wisely

Once you’ve identified your DR requirements, look for a provider that offers the capabilities you need. Not every cloud services provider offers comprehensive business continuity solutions. For example, there are some that provide storage-only plans and nothing else. Meanwhile, others may replicate VMs, but do little to secure and maintain them.

In any case, make sure to find a provider that offers robust service level agreements for your VMs or data backups. Their disaster-recovery service should come with risk assessments, DR-testing, and high-level security controls to meet privacy and regulatory obligations.

Secure your backups

Security is a top concern when it comes to cloud-based DR; after all, your digital assets are no longer located where you can physically protect them. Whether you’re using cloud backups or VMs; make sure that 256-bit advanced encryption standards are applied to your data while it’s in storage or in-flight.

If you’re relying purely on public cloud backups; make sure your cloud vendor is securing your data with firewall protection, antivirus software, and intrusion detection and prevention systems. More importantly, you’ll want to have integrated identity and access management to prevent unauthorised access, data loss, and external attacks.

Consider the details

There are also a couple logistical steps you need to look into. If your company is using the cloud solely for its backup capabilities; you only have to consider the public cloud platform, as the power, cooling, and server locations are managed by the cloud vendor. For businesses that require backup solutions; consider Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google Cloud Platforms.

If you plan to replicate VMs to the cloud to redirect users to a cloud-based machine during a disaster; you’ll encounter domain name system (DNS) challenges. VMs in the cloud will have IP addresses that are local to the offsite data centre they reside in. To fix this; your cloud provider must be able to manage and modify DNS records; so that your virtual server can be located when it’s in the cloud.

It’s also important to consider the VM services and solutions your cloud vendor offers. Companies that require secure data replication and failover, high-availability, and a centralised VM management system; will be better off going for proven DR products such as Veeam software.

Manage your bandwidth

Developing a bandwidth management strategy is another crucial step in implementing cloud-based DR. Since your data and/or VMs are hosted in the cloud; you must have adequate internet bandwidth for quick and efficient backups and recovery. At the same time, your cloud backups or replicated data must not consume so much bandwidth that other internet services suffer.

There are several strategies to avoid this. First and foremost is bandwidth scheduling. Because uploading and copying data to the cloud tends to eat up lots of bandwidth; limiting the overall bandwidth used by data backup applications during the day; and then increasing that limit after office hours is a great way to eliminate network bottlenecks.

Similarly, quality-of-service capabilities allow you to reserve network resources for DR solutions; without consuming an excessive amount of the available bandwidth. With URL filtering solutions; you can even block bandwidth hogs like YouTube and Netflix, leaving more room for cloud backups and more critical applications.

Finally, consider setting up internet usage policies that prevent employees from visiting social media websites or other bandwidth-intensive services for long periods of time.

Test your backup

After you’ve fleshed out the details of your DR solution; you must conduct periodic testing and comprehensive employee training — just as any business continuity plan strongly recommends. Once or twice a year, preferably when disaster season is approaching; ask your cloud provider to assess the effectiveness of your backups and/or VMs and to make sure they’re meeting your data recovery objectives.

Then, run training seminars to help your employees understand their roles during a disaster and how to retrieve critical files in case the local data centre is destroyed. Though these tasks may seem tedious; constant testing and refining is the only way to be sure your business can withstand any disaster.

Disaster recovery, virtual machines, and the cloud can be a difficult topic to wrap your head around; especially if you’re not a cloud and business continuity expert. But we at Empower IT are. When you meet with us; we will discuss your data backup and recovery options; and offer a robust service designed specifically to ensure that your company survives. Contact us today to protect your business from natural disasters.

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