October 7, 2016

State-Wide Power Outages? Are you and your network prepared?

South Australia and its residents were left without power on Wednesday evening following severe storms. "Essentially what happened is a massive set of power was removed and when that happens it trips the system," SA Premier Jay Weatherill said in a press conference on Wednesday evening.

Many businesses lost power too during the outage, crashing their network and leaving them without the ability to function until services were restored.
This left a lot of people feeling unprepared for disasters within their organisation and recognising fault with their current backup and recovery plan. It’s also provided an opportunity for everyone else to re-evaluate the current disaster plan and ask “What would happen if this happened to us?”

BaaS vs DRaaS

Many businesses look at Backup as a Service vs Disaster recovery as a Service very early on, but fail to re-evaluate as the business grows and their infrastructure scales up.
If you were affected by the recent outage or are worried that your business is unprepared for a similar scenario, here are a few tips to help you out.
The decision of BaaS vs DRaaS really comes down to a few main points.

How prepared are you for disaster?

Whether it’s a state-wide power outage or just a server crashing, how prepared is your infrastructure for disaster?

  • Do you have High Availability servers? Fault Tolerance? Redundant or Backup Power?
  • What Backup Solution are you using currently? Is it time to look at DRaaS over BaaS?
  • If a Server Crashed, what is the standard RTO? Can your business afford to be down this long?

These are commonly overlooked scenarios that can have major impact when something disastrous occurs. Too often we get contacted after a major incident where it becomes clear that the businesses existing plan did not perform up to stands but was only realised too late. We find that many companies are guilty of out of date risk assessment and recovery strategies. To stay on-top of disaster, updated recovery plans should be a critical part of the service provider’s role and should be re-visited constantly.

How much is your business losing during downtime?

One thing I’ve always disliked in disaster recovery planning is when the following is used: “If it fails”
What you must always remember is, it’s never a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.

If the South Australian outage has shown us anything, it is that the bigger it is, the harder it falls. Even as I write this currently 17,000 homes and businesses are still without power whilst many others are still facing intermittent drops. This incident has provided a good opportunity to ask yourself, if this happened to me or my clients, what would the outcome be?

If the answer is that you face a similar scenario to the many that had to close-up shop during the outage, would it be a good time to re-assess the current recovery plan?

Really the best question to ask is “How much are we losing, quantitative or qualitative, with our infrastructure down?” and “Could this be mitigated by utilising a DR solution?”

Onsite Disaster Recovery vs Offsite Disaster Recovery

There are many things you can do locally to prepare yourself for disaster, however often the cost and effort of such a scenario outweighs the benefit.

  • High Availability Servers: When discussing HA there are some great benefits but also some obvious downsides.
    For Example, Purchasing Secondary Hardware, often passive duplicate servers. You must then also think about the not so obvious, which can be time spent maintaining this Active/Passive or Active/Active scenario. Does the cost and effort here outweigh the benefit?

Well, what if you could take out a lot of this maintenance? What if someone else managed the Hardware and made it always available for you? What if an added benefit was it was located in a geographically different location in case of a Natural disaster or other disasters occurred? Here describes the benefits of Offsite Disaster Recovery. Utilising Probax DRaaS you can replicate your Virtual Environment offsite to one of our three secure data centers (Perth, Sydney and Melbourne) so that if your Servers ever fail, you can just fail the VMs over to the cloud and continue operations.

  • Backup Power Supply: Backup Power Supplies are so common these days I think I’d be shocked if a business didn’t have one. Uninterruptable Power Supplies allow for your infrastructure to stay online utilising battery power when the main power goes out. However many businesses I see have only a UPS capable of powering devices in order to provide time to shut everything down safely. If you’ve invested in a solution to keep the servers online for extended periods of time then great, but what if a local Power Failure affects other services? What if the power issues affect your Internet connection, as we saw in the Case of South Australia? If you are hosting a Local Web Server or Email Server, that would mean communication from the outside would cease, perhaps costing your business dearly.

In the case of DRaaS, you never have to worry about this. Activating your DR plan to a state of the art Data Centre means that you are able to failover the infrastructure to the cloud and continue operations for your business until the local power is resumed. Then just simply failback to your local infrastructure being sure to carry all the changes that were made whilst the VM was powered in the Cloud and you will have minimised the downtime from potentially hours to only a few minutes.

  • Data Backups: Data Backups are Critical; however they cannot assist in all onsite disaster cases. If you are hosting an on premise Web Server and it goes down, to recover that data may take a few hours even with the best of Recovery solutions. Now let’s say DMA Locker 3.0 hit your network, encrypting your Web Server and Local Backups, restoring from the Cloud may take even longer. All the while people reliant on your web service will not be able to reach you.

 Its cases like this that Probax DRaaS would benefit the business and provide a fail-back solution for when disaster strikes.

Probax DRaaS

With Probax DRaaS, you will be utilising Veeam’s Availability Suite to keep up to date replications of your Virtual environment in the cloud. You are able to choose from one of three data centers across Australia for your standby VMs to be held, then when the time comes, you can simply Failover parts of your infrastructure or perform a Full site failover. Keeping your critical services online and restoring continuity to your businesses greatest assets.

Please feel free to get in contact with us if you are thinking about changing to a DR Solution, or even if you just want a bit more information on how Probax could help you with your or your clients current recovery plan - 1300 885 117

As always, our thoughts here at Probax are with the Families and Emergency services in South Australia currently working hard to restore power across the state.