Disaster Recovery (DR) has become an integral strategy for today’s organizations that are increasingly relying on automation, and high up-times for their application services and hardware.

Traditionally, businesses have had to deal with the setup of an extensive infrastructure in order to support their business continuity plans. Many a time, these solutions were not comprehensive enough to cater to increasing demands for quality and accuracy such as no data loss, quick recovery and support of multiple environments. In addition, they resulted in heavy cost overheads. As a result, Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) is gaining popularity, especially among small and medium sized businesses that lack the necessary skills and expertise to set up a DR plan on their own. Azure Site Recovery (ASR) from Microsoft offers a robust DRaaS solution to strengthen business continuity by helping you orchestrate a disaster recovery (BCDR) plan suited to your organization.

Azure provides the option of an alternate data center that continuously synchronizes your data. It provides you with a reliable backup plan in the event of a disaster such as fire, earthquake, etc. when the primary center is no longer operational. Even small and medium scale organizations that do not have the resources to invest in heavy-duty architecture and hardware can leverage Azure. It has transformed the model of site recovery from an operational overhead to a convenient service-based framework with a pay-as-you-go model.

Azure Site Recovery offers significant benefits in comparison to an in-house managed secondary site:

Cost benefit: Using Site Recovery as a service ensures that there is zero CAPEX, optimized OPEX and a low TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) for the organization planning the backup strategy. There is no cost incurred in buying disaster recovery hardware and in maintaining the setup with overheads such as additional personnel, cooling temperature, etc. Organizations can enter into periodic contracts and evaluate the success of their strategy, with the flexibility to shift to a different solution, as needed.

Easy and flexible configurations: A typical setup of an alternate data center can be quite cumbersome. Azure management portal helps create recovery plans that can be customized based on business requirements – be it simple or complex. The process, target and configuration servers are registered in a Site Recovery vault. The vault configuration then manages the replication, failover and recovery between the on-premises site and Azure data center. The simplicity of this entire configuration makes it an easy to implement solution.

High on-demand availability: Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is one of the key requirements for a reliable DR service. In Azure, the automated recovery setup with dynamic conversion of source VMware Virtual Machine Disks to bootable Azure Virtual Hard Disks helps get the infrastructure up and running in no time. In the event of a site wide downtime, applications can come back faster with quick initialization times and network reconfigurations as a result of the low RTO.

Near-synchronous replication with near-zero Recovery Point Objective (RPO): Minimal or zero data loss is a key mandate for any DR system. ASR provides a virtualized cloud platform with Continuous Data Protection (CDP) technology that synchronizes the state of the systems continually. This ensures that when the systems come up, the needle is set to the most recent snapshot, achieving a tolerable data loss.
Replication and failover support for heterogeneous server types: ASR helps with the replication of multiple kinds of servers such as VMware, Hyper-V, AWS and physical servers. VMware vCenter server managed VMs can now be replicated to and recovered in Azure. It also provides application-consistent replication for multi-VM, n-tier applications.

The array of benefits provided by ASR is not just limited to non-disaster scenarios. An interesting application is where testing needs to be done in a production environment with real-time data, but with no disruption to the end-user. This can be done by failing over the primary site to the Azure site or a secondary data center. This is followed up with the use of the primary site for testing, reporting, and other analytics. Azure also scores highly in providing a secure operating environment, where all data communication happens in an encrypted fashion.

DRaaS contracts provide businesses the much needed flexibility to adapt to growing needs or changing requirements. When choosing an ASR service provider, organizations must ensure that that the service provider has the capability to migrate applications onto the cloud following industry-wide best practices, with no data disruption involved during the migration. They must also ensure that the service provider utilizes the best of Azure tools and practices along with ITIL based principles for efficient business service management within well-defined SLAs.