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Disaster Recovery: Using The Cloud To Avoid Common Mistakes

Whether your primary computing capabilities are in-house or in the cloud, disaster recovery (DR) capabilities are essential. Ensuring that you have the DR capabilities that you need and that they are correctly configured is a complex process. Here’s how to avoid common mistakes by using cloud-based disaster recovery capabilities.

Set up your disaster recovery systems in a different location from your production servers. Setting up duplicate servers for In-house redundancy is almost like having no disaster recovery protection at all. If your back-up server is in the same server closet as your primary server, or even in your office across the street, what happens if there is a fire or flood? In addition, in-house backup won’t provide protection in an earthquake, hurricane, or tornado, and in-house redundancy is not helpful if someone gets in to your server room and walks out with both primary and back-up servers (and we have seen this happen). Your disaster recovery systems should not be located near your office site.

Configure DR backups to be certain that you can restore. Most basic backup services assure that you have a remote server on which you can do business—but you need to configure the service properly to be certain it will work. Use image-based backups to make sure you back up applications as well as files. That will allow you to restore the exact version of all application software you use, which you may need in order to access the associated files quickly and to be sure the software will recognize your files.

Image-based backups will also assure that you retain the security permissions associated with all your files. File back-up software generally does not back up security permissions, which could leave you with the laborious task of manually restoring permissions to every file in the event a complete restore is required. If you don’t back up your applications as well as the files, it can easily take a full week to reinstall the server.

Be certain your DR backup retains server copies for multiple days. Whether you use Microsoft™ Azure, Amazon Web Services, or a private data center for disaster recovery, you should set up a replica of your server in a different cloud location. But one replication is not enough—you should configure the backup to retain multiple days of files – at least a week, and preferably thirty days. Without this, a ransomware attack or accidental deletion of files on your primary server will be duplicated in the cloud replica. With multiple copies, you can restore from a date prior to the event.

Make sure your cloud servers have their own off-site backups. The cloud service company may back up the entire server that your cloud server shares with many other companies, as a single image, which would prevent you from restoring from that server. If you plan on restoring from your cloud server, it’s important to configure and pay for having that server backed up separately. That’s often not included in basic cloud services. When you set up a cloud DR backup, by default the cloud provider will back it up to the same data center, which could be problematic if they are the ones experiencing a disaster. You can configure your server to be backed up to another data center; you usually must pay separately for that service.

Your cloud applications need DR protection, as well. Most people don’t realize that cloud application services like Salesforce, Office 365, and G Suite back up your company’s data, but they don’t make it easy to restore. Often their default restore option is to restore your entire company—which is not that helpful if your problem is two corrupted folders / clients. Office 365, for example, doesn’t offer file-level restoration even if you are paying $20/month per person. Some cloud services may not offer you the ability to restore any of your company’s data, even though they backup their entire system (with all their clients). Even where you can set up file-by-file restoration, there’s usually no provision for restoring whole folders—which could leave you to click through all the files one by one to restore them.

You may want to use a backup and restore service (such as Backupify, CloudAlly, DropSuite, or Skykick) that is separate from the cloud application provider. With some cloud applications, you can sync your data — notes, files, documents, etc. — with the desktop version of the software, and then back up your desktop.

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If you have both a server and cloud services, you will need to have disaster recovery backup provisions for each. Unless you have the specialized knowledge to make all the parts work together, setting that up could be a laborious process that may still not result in the disaster recovery capabilities you need. It’s best to have a professional firm set up and configure your DR cloud services.


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