Is Your Business Prepared for a Disaster?

In a perfect world disaster recovery would not be necessary, but the reality is that all businesses require a disaster recovery plan in some capacity. Some require near instant recovery; most can get by with much less. Implementation and regular testing of a disaster recovery or backup plan can literally save your company from going under. Worst of all, most companies who lack these things do not even know it.

The truth of the matter is that most businesses make unsafe assumptions, push out implementations for budget reasons, or make the same excuses. Can you say 100% that if your infrastructure were to go down or burn up that your business could recover?

Some assume they are safe because they are in the cloud, but you still rely on hardware. It is just all hidden behind the scenes. It is someone else’s problem, but do you know if the proper steps are in place? Do you know where your data is being stored? What happens if the data center itself suffers a disaster?

We hear clients say “we have a firewall”, “we have anti-virus”, “our users are smart”, or “it will not happen to us”. Those are some simple statements to risk an entire business on! All it takes is a single user’s moment of weakness or distraction to unload a program on your network capable of harvesting passwords, data, or encrypting everything and blackmailing you for millions to get it back.

In order to make sure you are safe, ask yourself these questions below. If you can confidently answer them, then congratulations, you are prepared for a disaster or malware attack! If not, I will dig into the options we provide our customers in order to explain what you can do to make sure your business is protected.

Ask Yourself:

  1. What software currently handles your backups?
  2. What exactly is being backed up, and if you lost everything else could you rebuild with only those backups?
  3. How often are your backups running?
  4. How often are they being kept?
  5. How often are the restore processes being tested to make sure they are working?

Backups are the minimum that every business should implement. This can be done in many ways with many different services, but running a business without backups is like riding a bike without a helmet. You can do it, but when something goes wrong, it’s really going to go wrong, so why wouldn’t you just take a moment to put on a helmet?

When it comes to backups in Azure there are three major options; File level backups, Azure Bare Metal Recovery, and Azure Backup for machines hosted in Azure. All the storage costs are the same for these backup types. Azure has a flat rate of $10 per instance (machine) + Storage consumed ($0.00448 per GB (GRS))

First let us dig into some of the onsite options. These are good for clients who are not sure if they are ready for hosting or are looking for a way to backup data offsite, something we highly recommend.

Azure Backup Agent

Installing and configuring the azure backup agent is straightforward, can be done in a short amount of time and uses multiple backup options. The options could be file level backups for important files or folders, direct SQL database backups into Azure using SQL services, or system state backups. This method does have a few points that anyone considering it should be aware of:

  • This agent does not protect a hardware level failure.
    • In case of a failure, a new machine would have to be built manually and the data would then be downloaded to it.
    • This could be time-consuming depending on the client environment, amount of data, and download speeds.
  • The agent needs to be deployed and configured manually for each machine.
    • This can also be time-consuming if you are trying to back up a lot of devices.
    • Estimate at least 15 minutes per machine.

Azure Bare Metal Recovery (BMR)

Azure BMR is done using MABS (Microsoft Azure Backup Server). This is a lightweight version of Microsoft’s DPM backup software that has been around for years. This option is ideal for environments requiring disaster recovery. Using this option, you avoid having to install operating systems or critical system services during a recovery scenario. Devices are either recovered fully onsite or as virtual machines in Azure.

  • The major difference is that this requires a management server to set up onsite.
    • This can be a physical or virtual machine dedicated to the task.
    • It will take a local copy of the backups and then push them into Azure.
    • This means that the initial setup cost can be more expensive and resource intensive, but the backup costs for Azure remain the same.
  • Included in this is the file recovery of the traditional Azure Backup Agent.

Azure Backup for Machines in Azure

This is the simplest and easiest to manage of the backup options. This does require the machine being backed up to be hosted in Azure. If you have servers deployed in Azure, backup policies are set up with a few configuration settings and can be deployed as needed across multiple machines.

  • This is a machine and file level backup like BMR.
    • Cannot be restored to an on premise environment.
    • Recovery would be limited to new VM deployments in Azure.
    • Recovery can be done in a small amount of time if configured correctly.

Disaster Recovery includes more than just backups. These services are designed to limit downtime in the event of a failure. This can be achieved through two primary tools; Azure site recovery and Azure availability groups.

Azure Site Recovery (On-Premise to Azure)

Site recovery services are used to establish a failsafe. In the case of on-premise, site recovery can be set up to synchronize virtual or physical machines with Azure.

  • Once configured and tested servers can be replicated in minutes in case of a failure.
  • The server data is kept in sync with Azure and can be failed over with the press of a button.
  • This is also very useful for large migration efforts into Azure.

Azure Site Recovery (Across Azure Regions)

Many users assume that moving to the cloud means that their system should always be available. This can be a fatal error, as we discussed earlier; the cloud just means your data is being hosted by someone else. Typically, this means it’s hosted in data centers located around the world. By default, your data is housed in a single data center. Should an earthquake bring that building down, your data goes with it.

  • Once configured, servers can replicate to multiple data centers for redundancy.
  • Can be spun up across the country in minutes if primary system goes down.

Azure Availability Groups

This is another great feature to leverage when hosting in Azure. With this option you can designate groups. Azure will limit the allowed downtime based on these groups.

  • Within a group only a single server can be shut down at a time.
  • Exceptionally useful for maintenance and environments requiring 24×7 uptime.
  • Included as a feature when hosting a machine in Azure.

Now that we have familiarized ourselves with the backup options available from Azure, do you think your system is ready in case of disaster? How long could your business survive a total system outage? If you were hit with malware today that encrypted all your data, how would you recover?

For more information or questions on disaster recovery and backup options, feel free to reach out to us.

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