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August 31, 2023

How to automate IT disaster recovery with runbooks

IT disaster recovery, whether your architecture is on premises, in the cloud, or a combination of the two, is becoming increasingly complex but essential as new threats to resilience continue to emerge.

In a recent BCI webinar, Cutover CPO Marcus Wildsmith, CTO Kieran Gutteridge, and VP Product Marketing Walter Kenrich discussed how you can leverage automation via runbooks to streamline the IT disaster recovery process, reduce human error, and mitigate risk. Read the key takeaways from the session below.

Navigating IT disaster recovery complexity

Technology operations architectures are often complex - organizations today have a vast array of competing technologies to choose from to run the business and there is no right answer. All organizations end up with a mixed technology estate - this is not a bad thing, it helps optimize for cost and aligns the right technology to the problems being solved. However, it does lead to a complex hybrid environment that is hard to operate efficiently.

A complex architecturally environment can lead to several technology operations challenges, including: 

  • Additional time and effort required from people
  • Several integration points across geographies, networks, and the cloud
  • The need for consistent health checking and notifications
  • Different rates of software versioning
  • The need for skilled resources across architecture domains
  • Automation becoming a full-time project
  • IT DR testing becoming siloed

How automation can help improve resilience

There are several ways that using automated runbooks can help you navigate these challenges. For example, as your organization scales, carrying out daily health checks becomes more of a drain on time and resources and the time available to check each piece of technology goes down. Automation is needed to enable you to carry out more checks in less time and free up people to do more beneficial things.

Barriers to IT disaster recovery automation

Although automation has clear benefits, it’s not always easy to accomplish. A recent survey carried out by Cutover found that the main barriers to automation for organizations included knowing where best to focus automation efforts, a lack of skills to support automation, finding suitable vendors or specialist support, and scaling. There were also other factors such as leadership buy in, budgetary constraints, a lack of urgency, and not knowing where to start.

How can automated runbooks help organizations overcome some of these challenges and gain the benefit of automation for IT disaster recovery?

Runbook automation for IT disaster recovery

The “old way of working” when it comes to IT DR, where teams, applications, and technology are siloed, causes delays, excessive costs, and revenue loss. Using automated runbooks can help you mitigate this risk and recover more quickly and effectively.

What is an automated runbook?

A runbook is a dynamic task list that codifies the teams, technology, and automation involved in recovering from an incident. The best runbooks are flexible, meaning you can edit them on the fly as an event unfolds. They are also visible and auditable to enable you to continuously improve and report accurately to regulators. 

Why are runbook integrations key to your success?

  • They provide the flexibility to build simple integrations or sophisticated workflows
  • They remove siloed operations across DevOps and IT teams
  • They reduce repetitive and error-prone tasks
  • They meet the changing demands of IT and adapt quickly
  • They allow you to gain visibility throughout your processes

Runbook automation provides benefits in four key areas:

  1. Precision orchestration: Runbook automation provides consistency across complex critical architectures. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to anticipate all the steps you will need to take in any given scenario and you may need to adapt your plans but you still need a level of precision in the orchestration of who does what when, what order it gets done in, and what integration you need to kick off an automation at any time.
  2. Reduced risk: Connect your people, tools, and systems on a single platform - if you’re relying on manual ways to orchestrate the process you’re much more reliant on individuals as single points of failure or knowledge rather than having that knowledge codified in a repeatable way. Runbooks reduce the risk of manual error, remove the cognitive load off individuals, and help you ensure you have the best possible plan ready to go.
  3. Integrations and automation: Integrate and automate your core IT technologies. Organizations have invested a lot in automation but it’s sometimes buried - runbooks are how you surface that work and make it usable. 
  4. Real-time dashboards and audit trails: Runbooks provide a central point of reference and control for continuous improvement and internal audit and control. If you have steps codified and a way of capturing what happened and when, you reduce the overhead of giving visibility to whoever needs it whether during the recovery or after.

Cutover is focused on providing automated runbooks for technology teams. Watch the full webinar to learn more from this session or book a demo to see the Cutover platform in action.

Chloe Lovatt
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