For SQL Server users who can't afford to build, configure, test, and maintain an effective SQL Server disaster recovery plan (DRP), disaster-recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) can be a great option. In fact, enterprise adoption of DRaaS continues to increase. Markets and Markets has forecasted that global DRaaS and cloud-based business continuity will grow from $640.8 million in 2013 to $5.77 billion by 2018, at a CAGR of 55.2%. This growth is being fueled by new DRaaS offerings that are promising faster recovery times in the cloud at lower prices and more flexible contract terms compared with traditional recovery methods.

If you're not already familiar with DRaaS, it's worth checking out. WhatIs.com defines Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service as the replication and hosting of physical servers, virtual machines or applications by a third-party to provide failover in the event of a man-made or natural catastrophe. In the event of a disaster, the third-party can resume operations through a failover to a cloud-computing environment.

Related: Application High Availability and Disaster Recovery for SQL Server

All of this DRaaS momentum is great news for SQL Server users who can't build and maintain their own DR environment. But all that growth means there's also a wide range of DRaaS capabilities and approaches, and you don't want to risk your DR plan to a less-than-capable provider. Here are my top 5 key capabilities you should look for when evaluating a DRaaS provider for your environment:

1. Support for both physical server and virtual machine recovery

The DRaaS provider should support both physical servers and virtual machines as failover targets for SQL Server workloads. This is crucial because we know from earlier research that users are running SQL Server in both bare metal and virtualized environments. The provider should also support multiple methods for the replication of on-premise data such as host-based replication and SAN-to-SAN replication.

2. Regular testing as part of service level agreement

The DRaaS provider should support low-cost, flexible, weekly DR testing as part of the documented service level agreement (SLA). Enterprise Strategy Group Research shows that users of DRaaS are 3 times (20% vs. 6%) more likely than as those taking the self-hosted approach to perform weekly recovery tests to determine if and how quickly they could recover from a major outage. That's the whole of point using DRaaS—be prepared, test often.

Frequency of Disaster Recovery Testing

3. Seamless workload manageability

The DRaaS provider should support the ability to seamlessly manage cloud-based and on-premise SQL Server instance workloads side-by-side from a single management console. The provider should also support the dynamic re-hosting of SQL Server instances from any on-premise host to any DR host. The provider should support policy-based SQL Server instance service-level recovery automation with full dependency coordination.  

4. Pricing that's competitive with doing it yourself

The cost to use a DRaaS provider should be less than the amortized monthly operational costs of an in-house DR configuration. Additionally, the pricing should be pay-as-you-go—no long-term contracts.

5. Compliance with relevant standards

The DRaaS provider must support recent compliance standards such as HIPAA, DoD 5220.22-M, SSAE 16 SOC 2, NIST 800-88, ITAR, FISMA, and PCI.

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DRaaS Benefits

Once you find a provider that meets all those requirements, what should you expect to get out of the relationship? Here are some of the benefits SQL Server users of DRaaS should see:

  • Fast data recovery through automation The right DRaaS enables you to create automated recovery plans through a simple interface. When a disaster failover is initiated, DRaaS manages the entire DR process to minimize loss of business services.
  • Reliable data recovery through easy testing of recovery plans – You get assurance that your recovery plans will execute with the desired results. The right DRaaS lets you relentlessly test failover plans without interruption to live production systems. It should help you find and solve recovery plan problems quickly and efficiently.
  • Cost effective data recovery through optimized datacenter resources – The right DRaaS gives you the flexibility to create the right recovery plan infrastructure that meets your business needs and costs objectives. It should help you consolidate resources at both the production and failover sites to reduce costs.

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