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June 22, 2024

Cloud IT disaster recovery planning (with example): 5 essential steps to ensure success

A cloud disaster recovery plan is essential to every business with cloud workloads. Regardless if workloads are in a private or public cloud, multiple clouds, or hybrid in both cloud and on-premises, you need a comprehensive plan to get your critical applications and systems back up and running should an outage occur. 

This article provides best practices for cloud disaster recovery, a cloud disaster recovery plan example, and cloud disaster recovery solutions.

Understanding cloud disaster recovery

Cloud disaster recovery is the process of recovering and restoring applications, resources and data in the cloud. The principles of IT cloud disaster recovery (DR) are the same as traditional IT DR. The only difference is where the servers and applications are located and who supports what - in the cloud compared to on-premises data centers.

What is a cloud disaster recovery plan?

A cloud disaster recovery plan (DRP) is a comprehensive, step-by-step plan, containing a list of all technical and business tasks that need to be completed during a recovery. This includes both manual and automated tasks and should encompass plans for recovering workloads in either single or multi-cloud environments. 

However, diversifying with a multi-cloud disaster recovery strategy can provide more scalability, reliability and security, but also significantly increases complexity for cloud DR plans.

Key components of a cloud disaster recovery plan

As with any plan, a disaster recovery plan for cloud services will be tailored to meet each business’s unique needs. But, there are some core components that should be included in every cloud disaster recovery plan including:  

  • An inventory of all applications defined by criticality tiers: mission critical, business critical, business operational, and administrative
  • Recovery strategies for each workload tier
  • Detailed, step-by-step recovery procedures per application and/or tier
  • Organization of each recovery procedure in a runbook including all tasks and dependencies
  • A communication plan with methods (SMS, email, Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc.) and course of action during each recovery process
  • Automation of manual, repetitive tasks using key cloud service provider (CSP) services, such as AWS Elastic Disaster Recovery (DRS)
  • Key recovery metrics: recovery time objectives (RTOs), recovery time actuals (RTAs), and recovery point objectives (RPOs)
  • A reporting method with real-time data to share progress during a live recovery

Designing your cloud disaster recovery plan, an example! Similar to designing a traditional IT DR plan, disaster recovery in cloud computing is oriented around the location of applications or services and the type of DR strategy. Typically, they are grouped by application tier criticality - mission critical vs business critical, etc. When designing your cloud DR plan, a best practice is to create runbook templates for each type of cloud DR plan. For example, create cloud DR runbook templates for cross-region active-passive failovers and cross-availability zone recovery.Step-by-step planning process

In cloud disaster recovery, planning is key for preparedness. Here are the steps for a cloud DR planning process: 

  1. Outline and document the comprehensive recovery procedures per application and/or tier
  2. Get key stakeholder and executive alignment and buy-in for the overall recovery process, communication, reporting, etc. 
  3. Standardize recovery processes with recovery runbook templates by each workload/application type 
  4. Outline all tasks, manual and automated, categorized by workstreams
  5. Determine the frequency of reviewing, testing and updating plans

Testing your disaster recovery plan in cloud computingOnce you’ve documented the comprehensive plan for disaster recovery in cloud computing and gained alignment across the business - it’s time to put the plan into action by testing it. Here’s an example of a large-scale cross-region disaster recovery failover including recovery tasks.

Prepare for the failover

Typically, the first step in a cloud DRP runbook will be to notify key people, like SRE and DR teams to start the failover. 

Fail over the application

Next comes the actual application failover actions. Typically, a failover will be comprised of multiple manual and automated tasks. Here’s an example of failover tasks: 

  • Execute the application failover
  • Inform assigned task owners
  • Confirm resources
  • Notify support, if needed
  • Validate authorized resources
  • Validate communications
  • Communicate RTO and track progress
  • Check failover settings
  • Select RPO
  • Validate workloads for the failover
  • Start the failover
  • Validate the failover
  • Workload failover complete

Perform a failback

Once the workload failover is complete, you can fail back the application to its original or primary location. Example of failback disaster recovery plan tasks: 

  • Validate original region is ready for failback
  • Notify failback task owners
  • Prepare for failback
  • Configure failback settings
  • Launch target machines for failed back machines
  • Return to normal operations
  • Notify stakeholders of failback completion

Figure 1: Standardize cloud disaster recovery plans in executable, automated runbooks

Figure 2: Visualize the critical path and identify bottlenecks for your cloud recovery process

Cloud disaster recovery preparation and implementation requires meticulous planning and execution. By utilizing cloud DR runbook templates for region-to-region failover strategies, you can ensure the seamless continuity of operations even in the face of unforeseen challenges. 

Testing and maintaining the cloud disaster recovery plan

Similar to traditional IT disaster recovery plans, cloud DRPs should be regularly reviewed, tested and updated. We recommend reviewing and testing cloud DRPs at least once per year. This helps ensure relevance and accuracy - accounting for any critical business, operational or technical changes.

Cutover’s cloud disaster recovery software and automated runbooks can help you efficiently execute, test and prove cloud DR procedures in a single platform.

Ready to learn more? Book a demo today.

Kimberly Sack
Cloud disaster recovery
IT Disaster Recovery
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