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3 Ways to Keep a Customer’s Cloud DR Plan From Becoming Your Disaster

Disaster Recovery

Michele CorvinoBy Michele Corvino

In an ideal world, cloud users would never experience downtime or data loss. Providers would keep their infrastructures running flawlessly, 100 percent of the time, with no glitches interrupting business continuity.

But this is the real world. Incidents happen. Whether the cause is a natural disaster, a massive data breach or some malfunction as yet unforeseen, the cloud is not infallible, and sometimes your customers suffer losses.

Unfortunately, infallibility comes at a price. According to IDC, the average total cost of unplanned application downtime per year for the Fortune 1000 is $1.25 billion to $2.5 billion, while the average price tag for infrastructure failure is $100,000 — per hour. Unfortunately, some cloud customers who believe they have comprehensive disaster-recovery (DR) solutions don’t, in fact, have any guarantee. They’ve never tested their plans and have no idea what their recovery times will be. 

One example of this can be found in a study that my organization conducted with ThinkStrategies, in which 10 percent of respondents reported that their DR plans include only a backup. Whether on-site, off-site, tape or disk, a backup plan is not a DR plan. While a backup may be vital to business continuity, it only brings data files back from a single point of time (the last backup) in the event of deleted or corrupt files. In the case of a hardware disruption, organizations need a secondary environment to restore those backups.

An effective disaster-recovery plan needs not only a reliable underlying cloud, but an MSP to help design the customer-specific solution.

In addition, many cloud users fail to test their DR plans, even though it’s the only way to know what will happen in response to a disaster. If the plan doesn’t pan out, it may be too late to save the business from devastating consequences.

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This is why it is critical for MSPs to work with their cloud infrastructure partners to encourage customers to have the right DR plans in place and test them regularly before a disaster strikes.

Here are three key areas where MSPs can make a significant impact:

  • Planning & Design: Disaster-recovery plans shouldn’t be created haphazardly or live in a silo. In order for them to be most successful, it’s critical that they align with a user’s business needs and cloud architecture. Not every customer will have this capability in-house, so MSPs can play a vital role in the consultation process. However, not all providers offer planning and design services. In fact, the ThinkStrategies survey found that only 31 percent of respondents had hosting providers that offered architecture design. The survey also found that businesses are three times more likely to have their DR plans fail if they create their own strategies versus signing on a managed cloud hosting provider to help them — indicating the important role MSPs can play.
  • Implementation: Collaboration is key during the DR onboarding process. If this is the first go-around for a customer implementing a DR plan that aligns with its cloud needs, it might not go as smoothly as you’d expect. Managed service providers can quarterback the process and ensure the cloud provider and customer are communicating effectively.
  • Ongoing Testing: Just because a DR plan looks good on paper doesn’t mean it won’t need to adapt to a business’ changing needs. Managed service providers should keep the lines of communication open with their customers 24/7 so when something in the infrastructure that affects the DR plan changes, the plan can be revised.

And don’t forget to document. Documenting a DR plan is pivotal to reducing the confusion during a real disaster. A documented practice of a DR plan, known as a runbook, should include the steps, stakeholders, processes and resources needed to recover an environment during testing or in the event of a disaster. It should be updated after each test and after each production change to ensure its effectiveness.

Surprisingly, not all hosting providers help their customers with the documentation process. According to the ThinkStrategies survey, less than 20 percent of respondents stated that they had runbooks provided by their hosting provider — a major hole in the DR safety net.

In conclusion, businesses count on their hosting partners to deliver performance and superior service, and the hosting partner’s success reflects on the MSP. When a customer’s cloud infrastructure goes to hell in a handbasket they will be looking for help and, just maybe, someone to blame. Will you be the hero or the goat?

Michele Corvino is director of product management at ViaWest.


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