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comparing different geographic approaches for DRaaS

East vs. West: A Take on How Different Geographies Address Disaster Recovery

Posted by   | 19-11-2020

Working in the Canadian IT industry has taught me the nuances and the dynamics of the North American IT industry. As a Business Development Manager, I have had the opportunity to build new business from ground up in different geographies. These geographies had only been limited to North America up until a couple of years ago.

After spending almost 2 years in the EMEA market, I learned that not every great IT initiative or product traverses across markets in the same way. What might be a key customer pain point within North America may not be a challenge for consumers in  EMEA.

A perfect example of this is the Credit Card. Credit cards became incredibly popular in North America as a method to avoid carrying cash and writing cheques. For consumers, this new mode of payment was an easier and quicker method to make purchases even without any cash sitting in the bank. While, Americans focused on the credit aspect and the ability to carry debt from one month to the next, this benefit did not resonate with British as much. This could be tied back to an older society and banking system that made Brits hesitant to carry debt from year to year. The average British person carries  $2,959 USD of credit card debt in 2020, compared to the average American who had $6,194 USD of credit card debt in 2019. That is about a 47% difference between the two countries.

In stark contrast, when Credit Cards & Banks introduced “Pin” and the contactless “Tap and Go” technology, the UK was quick to adopt it. It delivered the same original outcome - a simple and quick method to buy products but with a different customer experience. The success of the adoption can be seen no clearer than at a local pub or club with multiple credit card machines built into the bar top facing the patrons, similar to a cashier stand at a grocery store.

Within the technology industry, the same type of diversion in consumer behaviour exists between the two markets. Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) has become popular for business as technology allows for optimized Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) & Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs) within minutes instead of hours. That decrease in time is the biggest driving force for businesses to move away from Active-Active or Active-Passive configurations for business continuity.

What is Active-Active and Active-Passive in Disaster Recovery?

Active-Active and Active-Passive is when an organization has two like-for-like IT sites that reside in two different locations. All the data from the active (primary site) gets replicated to the secondary site, whether that site is in active or passive configuration. Companies must double the capital expenditure (CAPEX) on hardware and work effort whenever upgrades, patching, and maintenance is required for the hardware and software of data centre systems.

Cloud companies now offer DRaaS that is as effective as the original Active-Passive data centre architectures. These services are not heavy on the operational expenditure and offer a cost-effective, robust, and scalable solution.

Depending on an organization’s environment, they can look to have a DRaaS solution that ensures 25-40% resource availability at all times. These solutions are designed to get the critical and tier 0 applications up and running, applications without which the business cannot operate, within the RTO & RPO goals of an enterprise. Such cloud-based disaster recovery solutions are built for saving costs and investing in cloud to scale these resources to be prepared for a failover at the time of a disaster. This is a reliable and smarter business decision.

These “active” and “passive” data centre sites offered by DRaaS providers are branch locations or rented facilities that are at least a few miles apart to reduce the risk of critical data loss from natural disasters while minimizing latency and keeping data accessible. DRaaS solutions remove the need for any employee to physically visit a site. The innovative data recovery solutions used today create options where employees can kick off a failover from their phone let alone a secure URL! Internet service providers (ISPs) continue to improve internet connections and technology throughout all countries, helping to drop latency for even remote locations.

North America: The Dominant and Growing Market for DRaaS

North America takes DRaaS a step further by incorporating geo-redundancy when deciding locations for DR sites. The concept of geo-redundancy involves hosting the cloud service somewhere that is geographically different to where the production site is located.

Changing weather patterns and natural disasters in countries like Canada and the US vary greatly throughout the country, and as a result, it is recommended that geo-redundancy must be considered when organizations are looking for a DRaaS solution site.

EMEA: Still Rolling the Dice to Adopt Cloud Based Disaster Recovery

In contrast, the UK places geo-redundancy as a low priority. It is rare that a request for a specific distance or location is used for a DR site, rather enterprises in this region focus on the data centre facility where the data resides..

Say for instance, if an organization is located in the South of England, then we usually get requests to keep it below the middle of the UK, and vice versa in the North. If an organization is in London, then having a data site outside of the M25 may be suggested, but not always. There are two key reasons for this. Firstly, all of the UK is primarily tied to a national grid. A major power shutdown has the possibility to wipe out the majority of Great Britain’s power, nullifying the geo-redundant location. Secondly, the country is far smaller in size as compared to America and Canada. Any “Act of God” or natural disaster has the potential to affect the vast majority of Great Britain again neutralizing the concept and need for geo-redundancy, which has become such a key component of DR within North America.

The US and Canada are both massive countries by land area and it makes sense for them to have gravitated to geo-redundancy. North Americans were the same people that created urban sprawl and suburbs hours away from the city centre. Conversely, the UK has always been a small island that has been able to stay self-sufficient. The country has never had any major outage both electrical or natural in recent memory and was able to handle most of the bombings during WWII and still supply power to majority of citizens.

Do I think one is better than the other? No. I believe that North America has taken it too far with having geo-redundancy listed as mandatory requirements with details around the minimum distance, maximum distance, and allowed areas within sales process, tenders, and request for proposals. Picking the right solution that meets your RTO & RPO along with ease of testing is far more important than where exactly in a given country the data resides.

But what may change in the future?

  • DRaaS providers need to continue to develop and educate how security features help to keep data safe and exclusively accessible to customers even in different countries.
  • As economies develop and improve new laws and regulations on data residency and privacy, service providers need to ensure that they are compliant and agile to a framework that supports the country’s changing mandates.
  • Customers must have the ability to quickly change or switch the DR site which can help them avoid being non-complaint if new laws are created by governments.

These factors will instill confidence in businesses to invest in service providers as well as allow for larger economies to realize that a coast-to-coast approach may be over kill, as having a site at most 50 miles away might be more cost effective and less resource intensive in the longer run.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that modern approaches to disaster recovery strategy are becoming more robust and comprehensive while traditional approaches recovery are finally being realized as inefficient. With the implementation of advanced technologies and multi-layered cybersecurity, more and more enterprises are increasing their budget spent on DRaaS, which is favouring its growth in both markets..

Ultimately, a disaster recovery plan to achieve complete IT resilience consists of more than just the steps to recover systems and applications. Whether an organization decides to go for a managed service or a hosted do-it-yourself service, DRaaS can help control costs, diversify data protection with an extended network of sites in the cloud. Disaster recovery solutions provide the confidence to withstand any potential disruption whether it is planned or unplanned irrespective of the geography.

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