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Simplifying disaster recovery through cloud

Simplifying disaster recovery through cloud

(Left to right) Gregg Petersen is Regional Director of Africa, Middle East, SAARC at Veeam; Nabih Maroun is Executive Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton MENA; Rosa Donno is Senior Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton MENA; Claude Schuck is Regional manager for Africa at Veeam.

The global landscape is characterised by two contra-acting forces. On one side we have increased environmental, geopolitical, economic, and sociological upheavals building up in almost every region. This is increasing the awareness of nations and businesses to build resilience and disaster recovery solutions into their day to day fabrics of operation.

On the other hand, we also have digital transformation that is fast penetrating every industry and every market segment, as well as cloud becoming a dominant buzzword. Says Claude Schuck, Regional Manager for Africa at Veeam, “The business continuity and disaster recovery landscape has changed irrevocably following the arrival of always-on and digital transformation. Companies in Africa are embracing digital transformation with its associated benefits. Veeam is in a position to help accelerate this availability growth in South Africa and the rest of the continent.”

Data availability solution vendor, Veeam recognises the new challenges companies face across the globe in enabling the always-on enterprise. To address this, Veeam is helping organisations meet recovery time and point objectives of less than 15 minutes for all applications and data, through a solution that delivers high-speed recovery, data loss avoidance, verified recoverability, leveraged data and complete visibility.

“When a disaster strikes, businesses of all sizes need a reliable solution for on-demand disaster recovery in the cloud. The cloud makes disaster recovery affordable for businesses of any size, but many of them still struggle to properly manage the complex disaster recovery process, including data restore and network setup and configuration for seamless user experience,” Schuck adds.

The statistics make for grim reading: at least one major disaster occurs every single day, impacting lives or economic growth, often with grave consequences. Indeed, regardless of technological, economic and scientific advancements, nations the world-over find themselves vulnerable to all manner of threats.

Countries large and small are frequently rendered unable to manage the increasingly complex level of risk that accompanies life in the equally complex age. Against this backdrop, national resilience has become a strategic imperative on the agendas of national governments around the globe.

A country’s resilience is founded not just on its ability to deal with chronic stresses or acute shock, but also on its ability to prevent and manage risks in a changing world. Nations that master the art of resilience rapidly adapt and respond to internal and external events and, crucially, continue operations when hit by disasters.

In fact, the damages from such disruptive events have been estimated at $1.5 trillion over the last ten years in countries within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development bloc, as well as the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China.

In their advisory report: Building National Resilience, Nabih Maroun, Executive Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton MENA, and Rosa Donno, Senior Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton MENA, point out that the negative consequences of a disaster can be as much as 20% of that country’s GDP.

The 2014 Ebola outbreak provided the starkest contrast of how building resilience can affect catastrophic events. Sierra Leone experienced the highest rate of infection in Africa with 8,706 reported cases, along with the second highest death rate, whereas Nigeria successfully contained the outbreak, suffering just 20 cases and eight deaths. How is it that these two West African states had such markedly different outcomes? The answer lies in resilience.

The interconnectedness of the world offers us many advantages, but it also poses risks. With electricity blackouts, terrorism and disease pandemics all in the mix, it is clear that the global risks to nations are myriad. What is more, they arise across five main categories: economic, environmental, technological, geopolitical and societal.

Countering them requires no small measure of investment, but the good news for government is that investment in shoring up resilience tends to be well-placed. The British Department for International Development estimates that for every dollar allocated to building or enhancing resilience, the yielding multiplier ranges from $2.3 to $13.2.

Studies from the Overseas Development Institute indicate that, in 2015, conversations about resilience were concentrated on climate change, geopolitical conflicts, economic issues, water and food security and urban infrastructures. These conversations soon progressed from the realms of the theoretical, to operational methods of building resilience and governance requirements. Currently, the best way to tailor resilience strategy is to adopt and implement a comprehensive framework.

In fact, the popularity of resilience, borne out of necessity, has given rise to a great number of frameworks or guidelines that focus on specific resilience features or on resilience as a system. Among the most popular is the City Resilience Framework developed by US-based independent professional services firm, Arup, in collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation.

The framework provides a tool for assessing and measuring resilience at the city scale. It assesses indicators across four categories: health and wellbeing; economy and society; infrastructure and ecosystems; and leadership and strategy, as well as 12 goals that specify the elements that cities should strive to embrace in order to become more resilient. This framework is comprehensive and technically robust, although the focus remains at an urban, city level, and the approach is focused more on monitoring and evaluation of performance, not necessarily on building capacity.

In addition to the Resilience Framework, Arup has also developed the City Resilience Index. The index draws upon both qualitative and quantitative data and comprises 52 resilience indicators that are assessed through 156 questions. Responses to the questions posed are then aggregated and presented according to the 12 goals of the Framework.

In addition to Arup, the World Bank and the OECD have also published resilience guidelines that are widely recognised. Some of the frameworks offer resilience performance monitoring and evaluation, while others give more attention to the implementation process of resilience plans and programmes. To be comprehensive, the path towards national resilience should certainly include both.

Technology solutions

Amongst the latest innovations being used in disaster recovery solutions is the backup and restore of virtual machine images and the usage of cloud solutions. “At Veeam, we see a huge focus on cloud and service provider technologies. We have learned a lot about what organisations want. They want disaster recovery as a service, the ability to failover the datacentre or maybe only part of it, as well as ease of use with regards to the larger business continuity and availability practice,” explains Schuck.

The multiple products used by Veeam to provide an end-to-end disaster recovery solution include:

Veeam Availability Suite, which includes Veeam Backup and Replication, leverages virtualisation, storage, and cloud technologies that enable the modern datacentre to help organisations save time, mitigate risks, and reduce capital and operational costs. Veeam Cloud Connect makes it easy for end-users to extend their backup infrastructure to the cloud. Veeam Cloud Connect also makes it easy for service providers to offer hosted backup repositories or complete backup services. The new Veeam Powered Network or Veeam PN, simplifies and automates a disaster recovery in Azure.

Veeam Disaster Recovery in Azure combines Veeam Direct Restore and Veeam PN. Veeam PN for Microsoft Azure is a solution designed to simplify and automate the setup of a disaster recovery site in Microsoft Azure using lightweight software-defined networking. Veeam Availability Platform for hybrid cloud provides businesses of all sizes with the means to ensure Availability for virtual, physical, and cloud-based workloads.

“Veeam Backup and Replication is the flagship product. We would do a local backup using Veeam Backup and then use Veeam Replication to replicate the virtual machine to a disaster recovery site. The disaster recovery site can be either the customer’s site, third party site, or from a cloud service provider like AWS or Microsoft Azure,” elaborates Gregg Petersen, Regional Director of Middle East, Africa and SAARC at Veeam.

The process involves making a copy of the virtual machine image on a remote storage device, either on the same network, outside the network, on a cloud-hosted drive, or with a service provider. The location of the final storage drive is decided by the level of disaster recovery compliance that the user has chosen to build into the system. Based on the location of the remote storage device where the virtual machine image has been saved, the end-user would need to build alternative remote system to continue operations.

But now the cloud is simplifying the process, since a virtual machine image saved on the cloud is already remote and secure. This benefits the end-user who does not need to set up costly alternative system operations at the remote site and can access the virtual machine image saved on the cloud-hosted drive from any active and operational location. The access is provided through a virtual private network. Hence by using the cloud as a remote disaster recovery site, the end-user can restore and continue operations from any convenient and suitable operational location.

If the operations at the primary site are affected, the end-user can operate from any other location around the globe, accessing the virtual machine image saved on the cloud-hosted drive. For this process, Veeam has built partnerships with service providers, designated as Veeam Cloud Service Providers including Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Veeam has also been developing its portfolio of cloud facing solutions, as descried below, to make this happen.

Disaster recovery and the cloud

Many IT organisations are considering public clouds such as Microsoft Azure for new services to reduce challenges with on-premises datacenter. In fact, Backup as a Service, Software as a Service, and Disaster Recovery as a Service, markets are flourishing. Organisations often struggle with how to pair business challenges with the ever-expanding offering in the cloud.

When a disaster strikes, all companies need reliable and effective on-demand disaster recovery to minimise loss and quickly reestablish Availability — even within seconds, if possible. Fortunately, cloud solutions have revolutionised the way we manage disasters. With the vast adoption of private, public and hybrid-cloud services, there are many solutions available for an organisation to not only protect the most critical business workloads, but also enable the cloud as a remote office so that organisations do not have to physically build and maintain a secondary site.

Cloud adoption, distributed company structures and rapid globalisation are the key points that need to be taken into consideration when deciding on Disaster Recovery as a Service. The most important is to keep services online 24x7x365. Or, in the case of disaster recovery, keep the organisation together and provide employees and customers with uninterrupted user experience. But maintaining all of this requires sophisticated networking requirements. Take the case of traditional virtual private networks, for example. This technology is great — it has proven itself to be a fundamental building block of the modern business. But, we all wish it was a little less complex and more user friendly.

Veeam’s recently launched Microsoft Azure appliance called Veeam PN, allows end-users to connect various physical networks and endpoints into one virtual, dedicated-private company network, bringing connectivity to workloads. Veeam PN is a small Linux appliance that can be easily installed directly from the Azure Marketplace. It features an intuitive web interface that simplifies management, configuration and monitoring. It also leverages OpenVPN and SSL technologies, allowing an administrator to implement Site-to-Site, and Point-to-Site, connectivity scenarios.

Veeam PN for Microsoft Azure is free to download and does not require a license. Veeam PN allows an IT administrator to create a secure connection between remote offices and hosting sites; it allows end-users to join on-premises networks and private-cloud networks in Microsoft Azure; it allows remote users to securely connect to the company network.

Veeam PN was specifically designed to work directly with and complement the functionality of Direct Restore to Microsoft Azure. Direct Restore to Microsoft Azure enables users to take on-premises workloads and move them to the Azure cloud. Now, the two products work in unison to deliver Veeam Disaster Recovery in Microsoft Azure and minimise downtime during a disaster by simplifying and automating the setup of an on-demand, disaster recovery to Azure, solution.

One possible use case for Veeam PN is when it is organised around the network hub as the main point of all endpoint communication. The network hub could be installed in the Azure cloud or on-premises. Assume that in a small business the server managing the SQL based POS applications fails, paralysing the customer facing operations around the POS terminals. This is typically the worst-case scenario when both customer service and day-to-day sales transaction are directly impacted. If the IT administrator has backed up the SQL server virtual machine to Microsoft Azure using Direct Restore to Microsoft Azure and Veeam PN, there is a possibility of the operations continuing with minimal delay.

The virtual machine on Microsoft Azure can now be accessed through any laptop connected on the same network as the POS terminals, through Veeam PN. This brings back the customer facing operations through the POS terminals as if the original server were operational again. While in reality the original server is now offline and under maintenance or replacement. This is typically how real-life disaster recovery scenarios can be planned for and reacted to operationally.

“The nice thing about Veeam Cloud Connect is, you can as a Veeam partner provide cloud services to your customer without having to build a datacentre, replicate to a Veeam Cloud Service Provider, and facilitate the transaction, while maintaining the customer relationship,” states Petersen.

Veeam has developed a Microsoft Azure appliance called Veeam PN, that allows end-users to connect various physical networks and endpoints into one virtual private company network.

Veeam has developed a Microsoft Azure appliance called Veeam PN, that allows end-users to connect various physical networks and endpoints into one virtual private company network.


Drivers and inhibitors

The disaster recovery landscape has changed irrevocably following the arrival of always-on and digital transformation. Companies in Africa are embracing digital transformation with its associated benefits. In South Africa, the Protection of Personal Information PoPI Act, is adding to the pressure to govern data as it drives data compliance and availability. Companies are required to have an effective disaster recovery and business continuity plan in place to safeguard data from loss, theft, or compromise.

Complying with the Protection of Personal Information, PoPI Act results in a knock-on effect for business operations. Companies must not only ensure that its systems are up and running as quickly as possible, but that its operational plans are cognizant of how data, specifically that of customers, is stored and recovered.

“The prevalence of connectivity across the continent remains a challenge in terms of disaster recovery, especially in outlying areas located beyond the main hubs. Smaller companies on the continent may experience bandwidth issues, but this is part of the cost of doing business and does not mean the responsibility should go away. Bandwidth will be the most consistent challenge for organisations to fully implement business continuity for complete datacentre availability,” says Veeam’s Schuck.

“In Africa, all they would need is an Internet connection and to choose any service provider where they want to replicate to. There is no limitation in terms of why they should not be doing it, supports Veeam’s Petersen.

But Petersen points to an initial setback that often happens in the African technology environment. “The biggest challenge is the initial replication,” he says. During the process of building the initial virtual machine image on a remote network site, the entire data has to be moved through the Internet connection. With the comparatively higher latency as well as significant costs of high speed data transfer connections in Africa, this could be a time-consuming operation and hence a significant inhibitor.

Petersen also points to end-users transferring the initial image of the virtual machine by alternative methods to the remote site and then updating it periodically. “Once the initial replication is done of the large amount of data then it is very quick, because you are only going to replicate the daily changes across the network.”

There are several data reduction technologies that can be used to help meet that need such as compression and deduplication, WAN acceleration and storage snapshots. The keen IT professional can combine some or all of these technologies to meet the business continuity requirements. The lack of skilled partners in-country that offer disaster recovery as a service is another inhibitor. Working with trusted partners mean companies should be able to use solutions that are optimised to deal with limited bandwidth.

The lack of technical skills to manage such disaster recovery solutions in a timely and cost effective way, is also driving the opportunity for entry of managed service providers in Africa. This is promoting Veeam to encourage its channel partners in Africa to gain suitable certification to start their own managed services built on Veeam solutions.

“We encourage our partners to become Veeam Certified Engineers so that they can do their own installations. This is very important for us. The good thing about Veeam is that it is a very simple and easy product to implement in a day or two, and your customers can be up and running performing a local backup. Once the local backups are running you can discuss the disaster recovery strategy,” says Petersen.

The opportunity to deliver managed services in Africa, is also drawing in the entry of global system integrators. “You find big system integrators are doing very well in terms of managed services. They manage infrastructure onsite and offsite providing disaster recovery as a service,” continues Petersen.

Globally and in Africa the adoption trends are quite similar. Small and medium based businesses are more readily adopting cloud based, disaster recovery solutions, than larger enterprises. An additional reason for Veeam channel partners to address disaster recovery solution opportunities in African markets.