A little over twenty years ago, Pixar studio released their digital comedy, Toy Story, to wide acclaim. Lauded by audiences and critics alike, the film is one of the few to have received a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But little do people know, the film actually took two years to make and was almost lost, all thanks to an errant key command.
Pixar used Linux based machines to crank out their animations. Lary Cutler, Pixar’s former Technical Director, was in one of the directories when he noticed something odd. Of the 40 files there, suddenly only four remained. Realizing valuable data was being lost right in front of his eyes, Larry tried to have the machine unplugged. His efforts were too little too late though as ninety percent of the film’s data (accounting for two years of hard work) was lost.
That was not the only shock Pixar received that day. Unfortunately, data backups were tedious to carry out and harder to test then. Looking into their backup files, Pixar realized they had not been performed for the past two months. Galyn Susman, Technical Director and now the producer of Toy Story Franchise, luckily had a copy of the data in her home computer as she was on maternity leave. Even so, the film was scrapped and reshot over the next nine months.
What’s the Deal With Onsite Data Disaster Setups?
Despite technological advancements, data backup disaster stories such as these have continued unabated with frustrating regularity. What causes companies to set up extensive disaster plans and infrastructure only to see it fail when actually needed?
For starters, 75 percent SMB sized companies do not even have a disaster recovery plan in place. Of those, 93 percent tend to go out of business if struck by tragedy within a year.
A disaster setup also needs to be tested regularly and this is another area where companies tend to falter. Physical DR devices such as hard disks tend to wear out over time, especially if subjected to constant recording. Manufacturer defects, mechanical failures before expected shelf life, corrupted sectors happen all too commonly and need to be systematically ruled out to ensure business continuity.
As per Symantec, most large companies test their DR setups at least once a year. Automated DR testing solutions can also be deployed to take the edge off here, but manual testing should be employed to rule out any lapses.
Finally, the human element plays an important part in disaster recovery. Forgetting to back up data, not testing DR machines and overlooking updates are common errors employees can often commit. After all, manually testing large quantities of data and hardware uptime is a tedious task.
Kinds of Disasters Your Disaster Recovery Needs to be Prepared For
Your business’ continuity can be threatened in a number of ways. Here are three types of disasters your IT environment needs to be prepared for:
Natural Disaster: Onsite DR is especially vulnerable to disasters that mother nature inflicts, particularly because all your IT eggs are in one basket. Fires, hurricanes, flooding and earthquakes can occur any place any time. What if your DR infrastructure happens to be one of the places hit?
Cyberthreats: As the amount of data has exploded, so have the means to compromise it. Unfortunately, ransomware and viruses are not the only things you need to worry about today. Exceedingly clever phishing campaigns are conning employees and business owners into revealing sensitive information. Even regular backups are not intrinsically secure from cyberthreats as criminals continue to target them.
Accidents: Unintentionally deleting files, forgetting to back up data, ignoring software updates, power failure, mechanical system failure and theft are all potential adversaries to your business continuity.
While businesses face such threats, their DR infrastructure is not automatically immune from it. Any on-premise setup will face the same issues a company’s regular IT environment faces. While you can certainly bolster your defenses and spread the risk by diversifying your DR backups, cloud-based technology deliver advantages worth adding to your IT roadmap.
Why the Cloud Needs to be a Part of Your Disaster Readiness Plan
While keeping your disaster recovery cards close to your chest seems like the right thing to do, cloud technologies have greatly matured over the past decade. As the cost of cloud-based DR is dropping, more companies are adopting it than ever before. A survey by Unitrends found 36 percent respondents had a disk-then-cloud DR backup policy, against 23 percent in 2016.
A range of reasons are driving cloud adoption. First, by eliminating high upfront costs of hardware and software, cloud DR frees up your budget to flexible, on-demand model that can be expanded or contracted as needed. By removing the need to manage costly DR infrastructure on-premise, the cloud can also free up taxed IT departments to actually work on solutions that will deliver.
Next, as cloud based recovery solutions are not restricted geographically, natural disasters are all but eliminated as a concern. For reference, see how Amazon Web Services (AWS) handles securing your data through its strategically positioned Availability Zones. Cloud services have built-in redundancies and multiple delivery points to service unexpected surges in workload during times of crisis.
Finally, by outsourcing a part of your disaster management to the cloud, you have one less management hassle to worry about. Cloud service providers usually have far superior security measures in place, given that is their core competency. 73 percent of businesses admit they are not prepared to handle a cyber attack, which leads to the question, why continue to rely on on-premise IT for DR?
Gartner predicted 95 percent of cloud based security failures through 2022 will be caused by the customer. In other words, cloud service providers will only be responsible for 5 percent of expected failures, meaning cloud infrastructure will be far more secure than its on-premise version. That is why it is critical to understand your cloud provider’s Shared Responsibility Model.
While disaster readiness has always been part of any work culture, organizations have always been at the mercy of the technology available to them. Whether it was keeping copies of data on paper, recording it all on tapes or hard drives, each era brought with it advantages and disadvantages. Even so, this is the first time in history where businesses, regardless of their size, can spread the risk by duplicating their IT environment across offsite servers affordably.
Interested in learning more about how cloud DR can help your organization become more secure?
Give us a call to discuss best practices on DR readiness We know that cloud tech can be difficult to understand since it comes with its own language and complex features. Feel free to send us your queries as we are happy to discuss.