When it comes to disaster recovery, automation isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. An exceptional disaster recovery (DR) plan involves more than just defining the business risks and measuring recovery time objectives (RTOs) - recovery automation eliminates manual processes and reduces the risk of human error.
In this article, we’ll cover why automation is crucial to your DR strategy, how beneficial it is, and how you can utilize it for seamless recovery orchestration.
Why businesses need automation
IT outages have a remarkable impact on revenue. Every second of downtime builds up and could cost you millions. According to Uptime Institute’s 2023 Annual Outage Analysis, the proportion of major outages that cost over $100,000 is increasing every year. That’s why it’s essential to address preventable losses and find effective solutions.
Whether you’re operating with on-premises data centers, on the cloud, or a mix of both, effective disaster recovery is essential to the protection of your business. Automating your DR creates reliable, standardized, and consistent recovery processes that help you recover faster and greatly reduce the risk of data loss when outage events occur.
Key advantages of DR automation
Automated disaster recovery has been a game changer for businesses across the globe. Here are some of the main benefits that automation has to offer.
- Time savings
Traditional disaster recovery methods are often highly manual and require large teams of people to perform an array of actions across different solutions, which can take time and expose your recovery to the risk of human error. Downtime costs become incredibly expensive very quickly, so the longer your recovery takes, the more money it will cost you.
DR automation minimizes outage times and streamlines recovery to get critical systems up and running as soon as possible. Automated systems are highly efficient and more capable of quick and accurate task completion than human operators. For example, integrating the Configuration Management Database (CMDB) with the allocated execution tool ensures that consistent data regarding system configurations, network layouts, and dependencies are readily available in one platform. This helps to speed up the recovery process while providing a robust single source of truth.
- Reduced compliance risk
Certain industries, such as financial services, must comply with strict regulations and prove that they have effective recovery strategies in place to avoid negative effects on their customers. Businesses that fail to prove they can effectively recover and take every precautionary measure to protect their customers from outages are likely to receive large fines on top of the costs associated with downtime.
Automated audit trails are a key example of compliance automation as they offer a detailed record of the actions taken during the recovery process without the need to piece together what happened after the event. This can also be useful for post-event analysis and improvement, which allows businesses to successfully demonstrate their duty of care when it comes to data protection and compliance.
- Measurable analytics
Automation also strengthens the recovery strategy by providing valuable analytics to enhance its efficiency and effectiveness. IT teams can evaluate and assess data after DR testing takes place, including:
- Recovery process performance indicators
- Runbook metrics
- Detailed task and workstream analysis
- Recovery time actuals (RTAs)
With this data, it’s possible to track performance, set realistic recovery goals, and identify areas that require improvement. Being able to refine your DR plan regularly with useful, measurable analytics will help you maintain an optimized, up-to-date recovery strategy.
- Heightened productivity
Not only can automation boost efficiency by seamlessly streamlining complex IT processes, it can also improve productivity for the company. Where automated systems are able to support failover to a secondary data center, your business can still accumulate revenue while your primary systems are down, lessening the impact of downtime.
System outages can have a serious negative effect on customer loyalty and can impact confidence in your company as a result. Your business’ reputation is likely to fracture as stakeholders witness your infrastructure’s fragility at a time when you should remain resilient. However, the ability to automatically shift to a secondary data center enables you to sustain productivity for your employees and clients.
Automated failover allows critical systems to keep running so business flows as normal, greatly reducing the cost associated with outages.
The DR automation tech stack
To prepare for cyberattacks, network outages, and other unplanned incidents, we’ve listed some of the top use cases for automation to test, refine, and strengthen your recovery plan.
- An automated recovery platform
Recovery platforms host various recovery plans which can be executed when a particular scenario occurs. These plans include the automated and manual activities required to enact the recovery of an enterprise’s applications and/or network.
Automated recovery platforms are used to actively orchestrate recoveries. They offer recovery testing capabilities and live disaster simulations to ensure DR systems are actionable and effective. Following a testing event, the platform will gather all data and reveal insights on your plan’s performance, such as RTAs, which provide a key source of truth for your recovery strategy.
These platforms are often triggered by monitoring tools, and can conversely trigger monitoring from recovery plans to determine system health. They are also able to orchestrate when mass communications are sent and integrate with the IT service management (ITSM) platform to address ticketing and updates to the CMDB.
- An ITSM platform
An ITSM platform typically has two components related to the recovery of the technological services that underpin critical business processes:
- The CMDB holds the definitions of which services run on what infrastructure, as well as other important details. For example, if your cloud region failed, the CMDB could be used to quickly identify impacted technology services and organize the recovery of those assets.
- The ticketing system ensures that appropriate governance has been complied with to change the configuration of the organization’s IT assets. For example, when moving an application to a different infrastructure for recovery, the tickets require the necessary approvals for activities to get underway. On closing the ticket, the CMDB should be updated.
- Infrastructure as code
Tools such as Ansible and Terraform are often used to instantiate fresh infrastructure and stand up applications as part of a recovery strategy. To avoid complex sets of configuration problems, infrastructure as code tools work best as modular components when integrated into the executable automated recovery plans. It’s critical to ensure interaction between these tools and the automated recovery platform to avoid delays and mitigate potential revenue loss from system failures
Boost your resilience
Disasters and outages are always possible. That’s why it’s essential to continuously test your strategy for a strong and reliable disaster recovery plan. Automation helps to significantly reduce downtime and keep you in line with governance. To stay ahead of the curve in today’s competitive business environment, make sure to employ automation for optimal resilience.
Ensure your strategy remains up to date and your recovery teams are prepared for any problem that comes their way. Frequent DR testing can be difficult to execute without the proper resources - that’s where Cutover can help.
Be prepared: Cutover’s collaborative automation platform
When it comes to resilience and disaster recovery, every second matters. Optimize your DR systems and processes with Cutover’s Collaborative Automation SaaS platform. By using Cutover as a single platform for your disaster recovery plans, you eliminate the hassle of handling multiple spreadsheets across siloed teams, so you can easily manage the complex demands of today's technological environment.
Using Cutover, you can build automated runbooks that integrate with the rest of your tech stack to map an organized strategy and test disasters efficiently, so you can respond to disasters with confidence. That’s why Cutover is trusted by major banks and enterprises around the world.
By using our DR automation and collaboration platform, our customers have seen benefits such as:
- A 50% reduction in execution time
- The need for 60% less audit preparation time
- A 70% reduction in planning and testing time