January 24, 2019 By Jordan Shamir
Jason Firlotte
4 min read

Disaster Recovery vs. Disaster Recovery as a Service

Many factors come into play when deciding whether to invest in and manage your on-premises Disaster Recovery (DR) solutions or use Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) providers. Cost is a main consideration. Can you afford to own and operate your own DR solution? Also, can you effectively design, implement, and manage a DR solution that adapts to your organization’s changing computing requirements? And does it make financial sense to handle DR instead of investing these funds and personnel in other areas of the business?

Many organizations are realizing their existing on-premises DR solutions fail to provide ROI on capital. They’re looking elsewhere for less expensive and OpEx-based solutions. According to IDG research, 77 percent of CIOs say they want to reduce overall costs of DR solutions, and these leaders look to DRaaS providers solve this problem.

Will a managed DRaaS solution really be more cost-effective? Let’s explore what’s involved in architecting and managing your own DR solution. Fundamentally, your DR solution should mimic the capabilities of your production environment. At a high level, a DRP solution will require IT support staff, administration, facilities and infrastructure. This setup involves a large upfront capital investment to purchase all the data centres, networking, hardware, and software necessary to support your DR solution.

The real costs of Disaster Recovery

Typically, your DR solution lies idle without returning value on investment. Ongoing fully burdened costs can include your data centre, labour, connectivity, power, infrastructure, and software maintenance. These elements result in large upfront and ongoing operating costs associated with owning your solution. Compounding these costs is the need to ensure your DR solution upgrades in lockstep with your production environment. This requirement effectively doubles the costs of each upgrade. To complicate matters, new emerging DR solutions can’t be adopted until the existing purchased solution realizes amortization.

Comparing a DR solution to a monthly DRaaS subscription

Compare a DR solution to a monthly DRaaS subscription that includes enterprise-grade, preconfigured hardware, maintenance, and support associated with your DR requirements. The DRaaS subscription effectively moves the burden of maintaining the alternative site to the vendor, eliminating upfront costs and reducing overall operating expenditures. Much in the same way organizations have moved payroll, HR, and IT functions to SaaS and MSPs, using managed DRaaS and backup reduces the capital and labour-intensive costs of on-premises DR.

Aside from the benefits in savings that come with using DRaaS in place of owning your DR solution, consider the costs of downtime. Gartner estimates the average costs of downtime at $5,600 per minute for most midsize to large organizations. While implementing your DR plan onsite can be effective, DRaaS using cloud computing can provide faster recovery times if providers tailor the process properly.

Service and convenience considerations

At the same time, users want a level of service from the DRaaS provider’s customer care team that meets or exceeds their expectations. According to Gartner, smaller providers with well-managed customer care programs have the highest overall customer satisfaction ratings of 4.5 or better on a scale of 1–5. A large DRaaS provider with many clients is susceptible to becoming overwhelmed when many clients need the customer care team. This development nullifies the benefits of offloading these responsibilities to the DRaaS provider.

A common misconception when deciding which solution is best for an organization is that an owned and self-managed solution is cheaper in the end. On-premises DR solution proponents claim the solution provides tangible assets for the organization. They like how in-house staff can manage the solution without involving external vendors. The problem is that this comparison doesn’t factor in the fully burdened cost of ownership. Additionally, DR solutions are depreciating assets that will require upgrade or replacement. The impact of employee turnover can affect a DR solution substantially too.

The reality is that owning and managing your own DR site can cost approximately three times as much as using DRaaS. The terms of your contract will dictate the management of the DR solution by an outside vendor. The contract should include service levels and escalation processes. By offloading the DR management to the vendor, you allow internal staff to concentrate on managing operations.

Another issue is most on-premises solutions work on the assumption that most or all workloads fall into a common DR or backup platform. This non-tiered recovery service is often one of the biggest failings of on-premises DR and backup and can cause the following issues:

  • DR and backup platforms designed to meet only a general guideline for recovery

  • Underprotected mission-critical workloads

  • Overprotected bottom tier workloads

  • Greater risk of downtime for mission-critical workloads for the business

  • Under and over-investment at both ends of the application spectrum

Cloud computing and DR

Cloud computing offers a wide range of uses and services that a business can implement. Running 100 percent off the cloud is one of them. Tech startups are a great example of this practice.

If your organization intends to use public cloud providers as your primary production environment, CPA Canada urges using disaster recovery planning on cloud-based applications as you would on-premises applications. Failure to do so puts complete reliance on your CSP (Communication Service Provider) and leaves you with no options until your CSP comes back online. An alternative CSP is a recommended DR solution. This approach provides your business with a suitable option if the primary site is compromised and unable to operate. DRaaS providers that support multicloud platforms are the most suitable way to provide cloud-based resiliency.

While the one-time cost of DR hardware may be appealing versus DRaaS multi-year subscription fees, a true comparison budgets the total operational cost of the solutions. When taking all of these costs into account, the results show that DRaaS is the more financially responsible choice.

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