Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Managing the Multicloud

How to build a successful disaster recovery plan using multicloud technology

When disaster strikes a data center, you need to be sure recovery efforts are as smooth as possible. One of the best ways to do that is to use multiple cloud providers to back up essential data.

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Fires, power outages, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes -- those are just a few of the events that could cause a data center disaster. Once the dust settles (or even before), the most important task for IT is to recover from the disaster and get everything back to working order. This is where backups come in.

But what if the disaster that befell your data center isn't localized? What if your cloud provider suffers a sudden outage, or the virtual machines that store your data are damaged? You may be looking at a no-win scenario in which countless bits and bytes of essential data are lost forever.

Putting all your eggs in one backup basket (be it local or cloud based) makes recovery dependent on the integrity of that single backup. 

SEE: Disaster recovery: How to prepare for the worst (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

So, how can you make extra sure your disaster recovery plan works? By making backups all over the web, both in multiple clouds and in multiple locations.

What you need is a multicloud disaster recovery plan.

What is multicloud disaster recovery?

At its most basic, multicloud disaster recovery is simply making sure your data is backed up on more than one cloud provider. For many businesses, multicloud backups can be as simple as storing essential data with multiple providers, like Google Cloud and Amazon AWS.

Major cloud providers like Google even offer automated backups from platforms like Amazon S3, ensuring that essential web apps and data are regularly being synced to two locations.

So while multicloud disaster recovery is simple in theory, the actual implementation and management of it can become complicated quite quickly. 

Why are multiple clouds important?

If your reasons for investing in multicloud technology are primarily for backup and recovery, then your considerations are primarily going to be the geographical location of provider data centers. Large providers like Google, AWS, and Microsoft have data centers scattered throughout the country, and it's essential that all of your multiple clouds (however many that may be) are located as far apart as possible. 

Geographical distance can make all the difference when it comes to improving your resilience to disaster. It's nearly impossible that problems affecting a data center located on the West Coast, for example, will also be affecting one on the East Coast.

SEE: Disaster recovery and business continuity plan (Tech Pro Research)

Here's where the 'multi' in multicloud comes into play: If you have a single cloud provider for disaster recovery and one of its data centers goes offline, there's no guarantee data stored in its other data centers will be readily accessible. 

In cases where one data center drops off, load balancing becomes a serious issue: All of the provider's other clients will start trying to reach other data centers, which means their data -- and yours -- is going to be trapped behind a glut of traffic that could slow, or even kill, a connection.

If you split your backups between two providers in two locations, you won't need to worry about that nearly as much: It's practically impossible that multiple providers will go offline in the same place at the same time (barring a huge natural disaster), so if you lose one virtual server, you can hop to your other provider without issue.

How do I implement a multicloud disaster recovery plan?

Planning your initiative from start to finish is essential. Determining goals, figuring out who needs to be involved, choosing the right tools, and setting a timetable are all part of a successful multicloud backup and disaster recovery initiative.

One of the biggest considerations when getting started with multicloud backups is the locations of providers' data centers. Make sure you choose at least two providers that will let you select where data is stored, and that all those providers' data centers are in very different locations. 

Another important factor to consider is the skills of your IT employees when it comes to cloud providers. Various providers have very different interfaces, and knowing one doesn't mean an employee will be familiar with another. Additional training can be performed, but it can be easier to choose providers your team already knows well.

If going about the process manually using multiple providers isn't what you want, you can also opt to choose a product that's designed to do multicloud disaster recovery. Companies like Webscale and CloudEndure offer multicloud disaster recovery tools that may be a better choice for companies that only need to back up data and not manage web apps and other complicated tools. 

Once you've moved through all the planning phases, chosen the right products, and started actively backing up your data to multiple cloud providers, you can't just rest on your laurels and hope everything is working -- you have to test, test, and then test your setup again.

Perform regular disaster recovery exercises that put stress on all the potential weak points of your setup. This takes a lot of planning, especially if you're going to cover all your bases. Engineer scenarios that put your infrastructure, cloud providers, and even staff in stressful situations so you can find the chinks in your data recovery armor. 

There's no mistaking the importance of business continuity in the modern data-driven world. Whether you're using multicloud data recovery tools simply to protect big data, to ensure web apps don't go offline, or as total backup and disaster recovery tools, proper use of multiple cloud providers can be the difference between a bump in the road and a major catastrophe.

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