While most organisations are highly effective on the disaster recovery (DR) planning side, fewer seem to be entirely successful at executing on those plans. One reason why DR is so difficult to execute is because keeping the backup environment in lock-step with the production environment is difficult to achieve in any cost-effective way.
Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) solutions can make it easier.
The dynamic nature of an SD-WAN makes it ideal for an unpredictable environment such as running in DR mode. The goal for a disaster recovery plan isn’t to replicate the production environment identically, but to ensure that all critical applications and services are available to the users who need it, ideally without a degraded experience.
The network plays a key role in DR as it enables remote sites to connect, data to be backed up and replicated, and workers to access critical applications. An SD-WAN addresses all these issues far better than legacy WANs.
With many DR plans, application performance is often sacrificed as the required level of network resources are not available. The thinking is that if the company is in DR mode, then any level of application performance should be sufficient. While this might have been satisfactory in the past, in today’s highly competitive digital world, customer experience means everything. Any kind of degraded experience means lost productivity and possibly lost customers.
Cost savings + performance agility
The most obvious and basic benefit of SD-WANs is their far lower cost than traditional network services like MPLS, so creating comparable broadband network connections for the backup environment is no longer cost prohibitive.
While cost is important, it is not the most critical factor. SD-WANs are dynamic and adaptable to the different applications that flow across them, allowing businesses to set and maintain compliance with policies across an SD-WAN to ensure that mission critical and real time applications, like VoIP are performing well.
Organisations can categorise applications by priority across virtual overlays and provide dedicated bandwidth to the applications that matter most and allot remaining resources to the others. If there are changes in the environment an SD-WAN can adapt quickly, sometimes without human intervention. The same cannot be said for legacy telecom connections that often require long lead times to make changes.
SD-WAN solutions that integrate WAN optimisation enable organisations to place DR facilities in areas of lower costs with cheaper power, with no concerns about the distance between data centres.
One of the reasons why WAN optimisation grew as fast as it did was because it gave businesses local area network (LAN)-like performance over the wide area network. Customers often assert that the long distance sites where WAN optimisation is deployed offer better performance than closer branch sites that were not optimised.
So why not use this benefit to strategically locate backup and replication locations?
Another consideration is storage replication. Some SD-WAN providers have strong data centre-to-data centre replication capabilities. Data continues to grow at an unprecedented rate and while many businesses are pushing this content to the public cloud, there is an equal volume of growth in private clouds.
Given the continued growth in data over the next few years, businesses cannot use traditional backup techniques to copy data between locations. Advanced replication acceleration solutions can replicate faster over long distances and shrink recovery point objects down to times that can meet the demands of digital organisations.
As businesses become more reliant on their technology infrastructure, disaster recovery planning will increase in importance. IT leaders should look to SD-WAN to increase the level of network agility, enable applications to perform better and enable faster backup and replication all at a lower cost.
Article by Graham Schultz, sales director for Australia and New Zealand at Silver Peak