Disaster recovery in a Kubernetes system: Best practices and solutions

Kubernetes has changed the way organizations handle their workloads forever. The efficiency this container orchestration tool offers is unparalleled. Over the last couple of years, organizations of varied sizes have adopted Kubernetes. There are several testimonials and blog posts by organizations that have leveraged Kubernetes to address challenges faced by them. Kubernetes is backed by a huge community of developers who are constantly helping to improve it. This makes Kubernetes a no-brainer. Kubernetes, despite all its incredible perks, has its shortcomings. One of these is complexity. Ironically, the tool that helps make application development and deployment easier also leads to increased complexity. With a distributed, containerized architecture, the idea is to have the smallest possible independent service hosted on a single container. This is done to reduce the chances of failure and to have increased portability when needed. However, Kubernetes workloads can have hundreds of containers and can easily fluster your DevOps teams. The biggest challenge this complexity poses is backup and recovery, so having a Kubernetes disaster recovery plan is crucial.

Every mission-critical application needs to have a foolproof disaster recovery strategy. To ensure the high availability of any application, it’s key to ensure that backups are maintained and the recovery is done as quickly as possible. A disaster can be a human error, a cyberattack, a natural disaster, or an outage. Digitization doesn’t eliminate the risk of loss of application data. Kubernetes-based applications are still vulnerable. However, backing up and restoring workloads with a myriad of containers can be extremely complicated. Let’s take a look at some disaster recovery best practices.

Best practices for Kubernetes disaster recovery

Kubernetes workloads should not be backed up using a traditional approach. To make sure that the backup and recovery are seamless, organizations should keep following things in mind.

1. Spend enough time to study your backup requirements

Backups can be complicated with traditional, monolithic workloads. However, backing up Kubernetes bases applications is a whole other ballgame. With so many components (clusters, pods, containers, etc.), creating backups can be hell. Organizations should invest time in researching the best possible backup approach. Backups can be created manually or they can be automated. For manual backups, developers can easily procure extensive documentation on how to create backups and or how to write backup scripts. To automate the whole process, organizations can invest in solutions that can help ease the burden. Luckily, there are hundreds of Kubernetes backup solutions available in the market.

The idea, when creating backups of K8s-based workloads, is to not only store application data but to also store persistent volumes that hold critical business data. Organizations should also be clear on where they want to store these backups to avoid confusion in the later stages.

2. Have a restore plan

A restore plan should be chalked out before organizations move ahead with creating backups. The point of the backups is to restore them when the need arises. Organizations should be clear about where the backups are to be stored and where they will be restored. For manual restore, updates in component configurations should be documented clearly. This will avoid any hiccups when bringing your system back online in case of a disaster. Of course, organizations can choose from a number of solutions that take care of all these configurations for you and help avoid human intervention, thereby leaving no room for human error.

3. Application-aware backups

Kubernetes’ portability is a double-edged sword. While it makes it easy to build new applications using existing services and helps ease migration to different environments, it makes backing up workloads a bumpy ride. As many workloads running on the k8s platform are stateless, it’s important to have application-aware backups that provide context to the backup and different components involved in it. This can be done with the help of a Kubernetes backup solution. Organizations can automate the entire backup and recovery process to avoid any failures. These solutions also provide options to deploy the backups in various locations and help to make restoring to a brand-new environment a breeze.

4. Security is key

We need to protect our backups from any attackers. Organizations can make the mistake of slacking on the backup security. However, your application is as secure as your backup. To avoid unwarranted access to backups, organizations should employ identity access management (IAM) or role-based access control (RBAC). Only the members who are assigned to monitor or verify backups should be given access rights. Another important measure that can be taken to curb any attacks is data encryption. Organizations can invest in a disaster recovery solution that takes care of backup security for them.

Disaster recovery in a Kubernetes system

Best Kubernetes backup solutions

Let’s take a look at some of the popular Kubernetes disaster recovery solutions available in the market.

1. TrilioVault by Trilio

TrilioVault allows organizations to create platform-agnostic backups that can be restored with a single click. The backups schema holds application data as well as configurations and Kubernetes objects providing a quick backup and restore. Based on your organization’s requirement, you can choose to schedule incremental or policy-based backups. TrilioVaults also lets users selectively restore components of an application to save time when an entire restore is not needed. TrilioVault leverages K8s APIs and container storage interface framework to seamlessly manage and deploy backup and restore. TrilioVault also lets you monitor your backups using monitoring and logging tools like Prometheus and Grafana.

2. Portworx by Pure Storage

Portworx allows organizations to take application-consistent backups that can be fully automated to reduce Recovery Time Objective. Applications can be recovered in various environments and can be deployed to different namespaces. Portworx also allows organizations to store backups in a secondary location via WAN to ensure data recovery isn’t interrupted due to an outage. Portworx abstracts storage in different environments into a single container-native storage fabric.

3. Velero

Velero is an open-source tool that provides efficient application-aware backups that can be stored in any environment and can be restored to a new environment. Velero has a bustling community of developers who are constantly innovating. Velero helps organizations schedule backup jobs as well as allows provision for ad-hoc backups whenever necessary. Velero has a server process that is deployed in your Kubernetes server and provides a CLI to perform various backup and recovery-related operations.

Disaster recovery in a Kubernetes system: Do it right

Kubernetes disaster recovery is not an easy job. Kubernetes workloads cannot be backed up in a traditional manner. The only right way to back up your Kubernetes workloads is to take application-aware, cloud-native backups that don’t hold you back from migrating to a new infrastructure. Manual backup and restore are possible, and there’s a lot of documentation available on forums that organizations can use to perform effective manual disaster recovery. However, with bigger workloads, manually backing up application data and reconfiguring different components at the time of recovery can become daunting. With several disaster recovery solutions at your disposal, all you need to do is identify your specific requirements and pick a tool that works best for you. In essence, these disaster recovery solutions extend Kubernetes’ most celebrated feature — data portability.

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