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A Guide to Disaster Recovery Strategies in AWS

Disaster recovery for IT workloads is not a nice to have; it's a necessity.

5 min read
A Guide to Disaster Recovery Strategies in AWS

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Disaster recovery for IT workloads is not a "nice to have"; it's a necessity.

In the cloud, disaster recovery aims to protect your data and applications from disruptions, whatever the cause, like data centre outages, hardware failures, or even natural disasters.

The disaster recovery (DR) landscape has changed drastically in the past decade. No longer is DR solely the domain of large enterprises with massive IT budgets. DR, as a service, has become more affordable and easier to use, making it a viable option for companies of all sizes.

Many disaster recovery strategies are available, each with its pros and cons. Here we will go through the most prevalent disaster recovery strategies and how you can implement them in disaster recovery AWS.

What is Disaster Recovery, and Why Do you Need It?

Disaster Recovery (DR) is a process or set of procedures designed to protect an organization from the impacts of an unexpected event. It is an integral part of any organization's business continuity plan. In the event of a disaster, such as a power outage, data centre failure, natural disaster, or even human error, a DR plan can help minimize downtime and ensure that critical business functions can continue.

DR also assists organizations that handle sensitive data, such as personal health information (PHI) or credit card numbers, in meeting compliance requirements like PCI-DSS or HIPAA.

It is also essential to consider DR when building applications on AWS, as any downtime or data loss can significantly impact business operations. You may also face unexpected charges, such as data transfer fees, if your application cannot handle disaster scenarios efficiently.

Isn't Being in the Cloud Good Enough?

While it is true that being in the cloud does provide some level of protection against disaster, it is not enough. Cloud providers like AWS have disaster recovery plans and procedures for the hardware and facilities they maintain. However, since this only focuses on protecting the provider's infrastructure and ensuring that their services are available to customers, it is the responsibility of the customer to have a disaster recovery plan to protect their data and applications.

What More Do I Need?

There are a few key components that you need to consider when putting together your disaster recovery plan:

Data Backup

You need to have a way to back up your data and store it in a safe, alternate location. Depending on your needs, this backup location can be either on-site or off-site in the same cloud provider or another cloud provider in the case of multi-cloud deployments.

Alternate Application Hosting

Along with your data, you need a plan for spinning up your applications as quickly as possible if your primary site becomes unavailable.

Reliable Network Connectivity

It would be best if you had a way to connect to your disaster recovery site. You might choose to do this either through a direct connection or through a VPN.

Robust Testing and Validation

You need to be able to test your disaster recovery plan to ensure that it will work as expected. This testing and validation should include disaster scenarios and planned maintenance windows.

There are many other factors to consider when creating your disaster recovery plan. However, these are the most important ones to keep in mind.

What Can Go Wrong?

Many things can go wrong during the disaster recovery process. Here are some of the most common issues:

Data Loss

This is the most common problem that occurs during disaster recovery. It can happen for various reasons, such as data corruption, hardware failures, or even human error.

Application Downtime

Downtime can occur if your disaster recovery plan has not been thoroughly tested or if it does not cover all the necessary components.

Network Issues

Network issues can occur if you do not have a well-designed network connectivity plan. It can also happen if your network infrastructure cannot handle the increased traffic during a disaster.

Unexpected Costs

Cost surprises can occur if you do not understand your disaster recovery plan well. It can also happen if you try to cut corners to save money.

Here are a few things that you can do to avoid these problems:

Hire an experienced disaster recovery consultant: getting help from a knowledgeable and experienced source is the best way to ensure your disaster recovery plan has a proper design and implementation.

Test your disaster recovery plan regularly: testing will help you identify any potential problems with your plan.

Monitor your disaster recovery progress: observation will help you identify any areas that need improvement.

Disaster Recovery Objectives

Disaster recovery objectives are the goals you want to achieve with your disaster recovery plan. These objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. They ensure that your disaster recovery plan has a design that will meet your particular needs.

The two most crucial disaster recovery objectives include:

Recovery Time Objective

RTO is the maximum time until your applications are up and running after a disaster. It is essential to set a realistic recovery time objective. If you choose an unrealistic goal, you may be unable to meet it. Depending on the workload, you may select a duration between 2 and 24 hours because it gives you enough time to get your applications up and running without too much downtime.

Recovery Point Objective

RPO is the amount of data you can afford to lose after a disaster. RPO is usually expressed in terms of time. For example, you might want a recovery point objective of 2 hours, meaning you can afford to lose up to 2 hours of data in a disaster. Always keep the duration as low as possible to minimize data loss.

Disaster Recovery Strategies

These strategies are the different ways you can achieve your disaster recovery objectives. The most common disaster recovery strategies include:

Backup and Restore

Backup and restore is the most common disaster recovery strategy. It involves taking backups of your data and applications and restoring them in the event of a disaster.

This strategy is simple to implement and relatively inexpensive. However, it does have some drawbacks. For example, restoring data from backups can take a long time, requiring a higher RTO. If your backups are not properly taken care of, they can become corrupt and unusable, violating your RPO.

Pilot Light

With this approach, you set up architecture in an alternate location where the bare minimum is running all the time. In the case of an emergency, the whole architecture can be up and running very quickly. Lit up much like how a gas furnace is lit from its pilot light. This approach is more automated than backup and restore and has a faster recovery time. However, remember that this strategy itself can take longer and cost more to build than other disaster recovery strategies.

Warm Standby

This approach is similar to the pilot light approach but involves keeping more of the architecture running all the time at the secondary site. Your secondary site is scaled-down and always on. Failover happens faster than with pilot light; however, it can be expensive to implement because you must maintain two copies of your data and most of your application power. You would choose this strategy if RTO must be extremely low and money is no object.

Multi-Site Active/Active

This disaster recovery strategy involves having a 100% mirror of your data and applications in a different geographical location. This way, if one site is unavailable, the others can take over instantly. While this strategy is excellent for an RTO of zero, it is more expensive than the warm standby approach. However, it can be easier to implement using infrastructure-as-code because you deploy the same architecture to a new region with little to no changes.

How to Get Help

The best way to avoid disaster recovery problems is to hire an experienced disaster recovery consultant.

The team at Pilotcore has decades of collective experience helping organizations with cloud disaster recovery plans. We can help you design and implement a plan that will meet your specific needs. We also provide multiple services that can help you with your disaster recovery plan, including:

  • Providing training to your staff on how to implement and use your disaster recovery plan. This way, they will be prepared in the event of a disaster.
  • Testing your disaster recovery plan to ensure it is working correctly. This is important because it will allow you to identify and fix any problems with your plan before a disaster occurs.
  • You will also have access to our disaster recovery experts, who can provide guidance and support when you need it.

Please contact us today if you are interested in learning more about our disaster recovery services. We would be happy to discuss your specific needs and provide a proposal!

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