December 01, 2022

Beyond Backup: The Role of Azure Site Recovery in Business Continuity

Joel Neff
Azure Solution Specialist
In the first of our Azure Backup blog series, we discussed the value of data, and the critical importance of protecting that key business asset. While backup is the first priority, the story doesn’t end there. Not only do you need to keep your data safe, in order for your business to continue its operations, you need your apps and workloads online when outages occur.

There’s no end to the potential causes of outages. While the focus tends to fall on cyberattacks, the damage from natural disasters, equipment failure and human error can also cause plenty of disruption. Whatever the cause, the important thing is to continue to meet the needs of users and customers while minimising interruption. That’s where Microsoft Azure Site Recovery comes in.

What is Azure Site Recovery and why would you use it?

Put simply, Site Recovery enables you to have standby infrastructure in a different location, so that during planned or unplanned outages, your organisation can keep working. When an outage occurs at your primary location, you fail over to the secondary location and access apps from there, then fail back to the primary location when the issue is resolved. So, while Azure Backup ensures you have your data available no matter what, Azure Site Recovery gives you the environment to work with that data. So, how does it work?

Using Site Recovery, you establish and manage replication, failover and fail back from your Azure portal. You can protect physical servers and virtual machines, hosted on platforms such as Hyper-V or VMware, or even other hyperscale cloud platforms like AWS or GCP. You can set up disaster recovery of Azure VMs from a primary to a secondary region, and replicate VMs to Azure using the included site recovery tool. On-premises VMs and physical servers can also be replicated to Azure, or where appropriate, to a secondary data centre. You define a recovery plan to dictate how you will fail over resources and then fail them back. It is always recommended to review and map your workloads, identifying the best location for each to reside. Drawing on the expertise of an Azure backup and recovery specialist at the start of your journey can save a lot of missteps later.

When you replicate to Azure, your data is stored in Azure storage, and that offers an impressive level of resilience through configurable options such as geo-replication. In the event of failover, Azure VMs are created based on the replicated data, and most users are able to carry on working, oblivious to the challenges being met by the IT team.

Another scenario that can now be addressed with Site Recovery is zonal disaster recovery, where it is possible to orchestrate the failover of applications not just between sites but across Azure Availability Zones within a region. Availability Zones are typically used for high availability, providing redundant cooling, power and networking to create fault-isolated locations within an Azure region. Microsoft currently operates three Australian Azure regions in New South Wales, Victoria, and Canberra.

The importance of RPO and RTO

How quickly can you recover? As part of the overall process, it is important to identify recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO) that are in line with your organisation’s needs. What is fine for a school may not be fine for a 24/7 online retailer, and could be nightmarish for a bank, for example. Azure and VMware VMs can be continuously replicated, while Hyper-V can enjoy a frequency as low as every 30 seconds. Understanding the impact of recovery time on each part of your organisation positions you to make decisions that will give the optimum cost/time balance.

Test your disaster recovery plan

There’s another important element that should never be ignored when it comes to recovery plans: test, test, and test again. Azure Site Recovery lets you run disaster recovery drills into an isolated environment without affecting ongoing replication, so conducting regular testing happens without risk. You can customise and sequence failover and recovery of multi-tier applications, group together machines for recovery, and prioritise according to business need. However, you choose to customise, the ease of running tests will give you the confidence that you have the setup that best aligns with your business continuity plan.

Want to learn more about how Azure Backup and Azure Site Recovery can combine to boost your business continuity? Do you already have an Azure investment and want to make sure that you are aligned to Microsoft best practices? Do you want to explore Azure Backup as a Service? Data#3 is Australia’s largest Microsoft partner and a certified Azure Expert MSP – talk to one of our Azure experts about your needs or booking in an Azure Well-Architected Framework review today.