Azure Site Recovery: Mitigate disasters and minimize outages

The phenomenal growth of e-commerce and online services has augured well for companies, individuals, and the society at large. But with every great opportunity comes significant risks as well. One of the biggest nightmares of every company with an online presence is downtime, as it results in the loss of millions of dollars and reputation and is most times expensive to fix.

To give you an idea, a 2020 report by the Uptime Institute shows that four in 10 outages cost anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million while one in about every six outages costs more than $1 million. These numbers have seen a constant rise in the last couple of years due to greater reliance on online networks and systems exacerbated by the pandemic and the resultant remote working culture.

It also explains the growing concerns among the senior management about outages and their impact on the finances and reputation of companies.

azure site recovery
Uptime Institute

All these numbers lead to the big question — what can you do to minimize outages and mitigate their impact?

While many strategies have been discussed, a central aspect of all of them is a robust disaster recovery system because it may be hard to eliminate outages. Still, you can reduce their impact on the organization.

One such disaster recovery service we’ll talk about in this article is Azure Site Recovery.

What is Azure Site Recovery?

Azure Site Recovery is disaster-recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) from Microsoft that can be easily deployed on multicloud and hybrid environments. Despite being a cloud-native service, it also works well for on-prem environments to replicate data and mitigate the impact of outages. In 2019, Gartner named Azure Site Recovery as an industry leader due to its versatility and scalability.

It offers two comprehensive services — site recovery and backup.

Features of Azure Site Recovery

Here’s a look at some of the salient features of Azure Site Recovery.

  • Provides a constant replication process that ensures that all your data are in sync always.
  • Replicates physical servers to Azure.
  • Supports the replication of virtual machines to a secondary site.
  • Offers a pay-as-you-go model to help with budgets and planning.
  • Compresses the data that is being transferred to bring down bandwidth usage. It has an average compression ratio of 50 percent and this brings down the storage costs as well.
  • Entails no additional investments such as storage, infrastructure, and rentals, thereby saving huge money for the company.
  • Stores a minimum of three copies of data to protect from loss in the event of a data center outage or failure.
  • Offers a geo-redundant storage (GRS) option to protect data from regional outages.
  • Works well on Windows and Linux workloads, on-prem physical servers, VMs, Hyper-V, VMware, and more.
  • Makes it easy to execute maintenance tasks.
  • Provides a unified view of the replication status to help make quicker and better decisions.
  • Captures in-memory data, disk data, and transactions to ensure that recovery points are consistent across applications.
  • Seamlessly integrates with popular business continuity and disaster recovery applications, so integrating Azure Site Recovery to the existing infrastructure is simple and easy.
  • Tests disaster recovery plans end-to-end without impacting application performance.
  • Can be customized to meet your specific KPIs for Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO).
  • Easy to set up, deploy, and manage through the Azure portal.
  • Sequences the order of multitier applications running on many virtual machines.
  • Ensures compliance with leading standards.

Moving on, let’s delve deep into Azure Site Recovery’s backup and recovery services.

Site recovery services

azure site recovery

The site recovery services keep the apps and services running even during an outage, ensuring business continuity. You can use it for replicating Azure virtual machines between Azure regions and replicating physical servers and on-prem VMs.

Azure Site Recovery enables you to do the following:

Replication

Near-constant replication of resources and data is a key feature of this DRaaS. You can replicate Azure VMs from a primary to a secondary region and VMware and on-prem VMs to Azure to reduce the costs of running a secondary data center.

Azure Site Recovery’s replication process is more secure and resilient when compared to configuration servers.

Simple and resilient

Azure Site Recovery stores data in its storage and when a failover occurs, it creates Azure VMs using the replicated data. Also, it orchestrates the entire replication without interfering with the working of applications and their data.

It also stores application-consistent snapshots, so you can use the recovery points to replicate data during a failover.

Similarly, Azure Site Recovery helps run disaster recovery drills and planned outages with no data loss whatsoever.

Further, you can manage replications and failover through the Azure Portal dashboard.

Meets targets

You can configure Azure Site Recovery to meet your RTO and RPO targets. Also, you can customize the sequence of your recovery and failover plans for multitier applications running on different VMs.

So, use Azure Site Recovery to group the machines in a recovery plan, add manual actions, include scripts, and just about anything else to meet your organization’s disaster recovery targets.

Finally, Azure Site Recovery ensures your organization complies with all major standards.

Integration and automation

Azure Site Recovery integrates with many popular BCDR tools and technologies, and through these integrations, extends its usability across different application stacks in your organization. It also has native support for SQL Server AlwaysOn to manage failovers.

It integrates well with your network infrastructure to configure load balancers, reserve IP addresses, and more for improved efficiency. At the same time, its automation library comes with many scripts for automating regular tasks.

Also, you can manage it all from a single location, such as the Azure Site Recovery dashboard.

These capabilities enable you to replicate VMs, servers, AWS Windows instances, and even server workloads.

Azure Backup

Azure Backup is a cost-effective and simple solution to back up all your data to Microsoft Azure Cloud. You can back up any data such as on-prem files and folders, applications, Azure VMs, managed disks, Azure databases, blobs, and more.

azure site recovery
Microsoft

Using Azure Site Recovery

Now that you know the components, let’s briefly talk about using Azure Site Recovery.

Check your environment

As a first step, check if your environment is suitable for disaster recovery to Azure. For on-prem virtualization, it supports vCenter Server and vSphere hosts version 7.0. Also, they must be located in the same network as the process server.

It supports Windows Server 2019, Windows Server 2016 64-bit, Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2, and Windows Server 2008 with SP1 and SP2. It also works on Windows 10, 8.1, and 7 with SP1 operating systems. However, all of it has to be 64-bit.

Linux also supports only 64-bit systems, and every server must have the Linux Integration Services (LIS) component.

Verify your Azure account

Once your environment is ready, check if your Azure account supports site recovery. Also, your account requires permission to create VMs in Azure and an Azure network for VMs to join. You also need an Azure Recovery Service vault to deploy, orchestrate, and manage your Azure Site Recovery deployment.

On-premises setup

If you plan to replicate physical servers in an on-prem environment, follow these steps:

  • Create an account for Azure to access vSphere or vCenter hosts so it can automatically discover VMs.
  • Install the Site Recovery Mobility service on every physical server you want to replicate.
  • Check the compatibility of VMs before replicating them.
  • Verify if you can connect to Azure VMs during a mock failover.

Set up disaster recovery

Once you have everything in place, set up your disaster recovery using these steps:

  • Set up your replicate source environment where you specify what servers to replicate and where.
  • Next, set up a configuration server in your on-prem environment to coordinate communication between your on-prem servers and Azure.
  • Create a replication appliance in your on-prem environment.
  • Specify your Azure subscription and required configurations in the target environment.
  • Create a replication policy that entails the frequency and other aspects.
  • Activate the accounts to start replication.
  • Finally, run a disaster recovery drill to ensure everything works fine.

Thus, this is how you set up Azure Site Recovery for your on-prem environment.

Azure Site Recovery is a leading DRaaS that comes with advanced features and capabilities to reduce data, financial, and reputational loss in the event of an outage. Since the data is replicated and stored on Microsoft’s servers, it is reliable and secure. You can access them at any time for seamless continuity of your applications.

Have you tried Azure Site Recovery? What do you think of it?

Featured image: Shutterstock

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