Penn Medicine associate CIO on the upsides of disaster recovery as a service

John Donohue has lived through all three options for disaster recovery and today leans heavily toward DRaaS because of that experience.
By John P. Donohue
07:16 AM

Of the many things an information technology executive is responsible for these days disaster recovery rarely makes the top five list for being innovative or fun. 

Yet, an effective disaster recovery strategy can help an IT executive and his organization stakeholders sleep better at night.  Disaster recovery is considered best practice for most organizations and is required from a compliance perspective for many organizations.  A lot like an insurance plan, you hope you never need disaster recovery, but you hope your strategic plan works well if and when you need it.  These days with both regional weather issues and information security breaches causing system outages, disaster recovery may be more important than ever before. This is even more evident when you recognize how the extended outage of critical online systems can have on brand reputation, operational excellence and financial stability.

For a long time now, disaster recovery was considered “table stakes” or “blocking and tackling” for information technology professionals.  In the “old days” of information technology, an IT exec had two traditional disaster recovery choices.  An organization could build its own disaster recovery solution in its own datacenters. This option required a significant capital expense with technology that typically had a four-year lifecycle. 

Furthermore, this hardware and infrastructure had to be scaled through additional capital investments along with organizational growth. Even in the world of virtual machines, this was expensive and challenging for organizations with limited capital or limited data center space.  The other option was to go to an outside organization and contract for disaster recovery services. 

The pitfalls of this model were high operating costs and the need to compete for the disaster recovery hardware if a regional disaster impacts multiple clients at the same time.

There is a “new kid in town” when it comes to disaster recovery solutions which can deliver some innovative benefits. In the current “as a service” world, there is now another option to consider when spinning disaster recovery solutions. 

Many providers and, in fact, many applications vendors are now offering Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS).  When you look at the options that are available today, DRaaS may be worth looking at. 

Some of the potential benefits of DRaaS include:

  • Does not require you to use existing expensive white space in your data centers
  • Does not require you to invest in the hardware infrastructure for disaster recovery
  • Allows you to scale on demand as your business requires
  • Allows you to potentially avoid hiring staff by tapping you into local applications and technology expertise at the vendor or provider
  • Allows you flexibility at the end of your contract term

Having experienced all three versions of disaster recovery (build it yourself, contract with major provider, DRaaS), I would lean heavily toward DRaaS if I had to do it again. If this option is provided by your major applications vendor, talk to them about pricing and compare against the traditional models.

If it is not provided, and they have the resources and desire, you may be able to work with them to establish a new service line and enjoy the financial benefits of being their first DRaaS customers.

Here is to hoping that you never need your Disaster Recovery capabilities. 

John Donohue is associate CIO of technology and infrastructure at Penn Medicine.  

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