Editorial

UKCloud Launches New Disaster Recovery Service for the UK Public Sector

‘For far too many organisations, DR – which is really a necessity – has become a bit of a luxury: a costly insurance premium many are reluctant, or simply unable, to afford.’ Is that about to finally change?

Posted 5 June 2017 by

Leading cloud provider for the government and UK public sector UKCloud has just announced a new Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) offering, based on technology from new DR partner Zerto [http://www.zerto.com]. We sat down with the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Simon Hansford, to try and understand what’s going on.

Why is a company like UKCloud interested in DR?

Easy – we see DR and Business Continuity as a critical element in any customer solution. We have a number of solutions available for customers that have workloads on the UKCloud Cloud platform where DR is delivered as standard, for example.

So it’s already offered? What is the new news here?

What we are doing is extending a helping hand to those public sector organisations – local councils, Trusts, and so on – who do not have cloud and who are currently hosting their own IT, on-premise in their data centre or computer room.

Why would they want what you have to offer, Simon?

Because they are just too often finding the setting up and running of a physical DR solution too expensive. That’s because it has to include a mirror site, usually, with the same or equivalent hardware, software, storage and networking. That can be a significant investment, and it’s not an investment you take lightly at a time of budget concerns. That unfortunately means that for far too many organisations, DR – which is really a necessity – has become a bit of a luxury: a costly insurance premium many are reluctant, or simply unable, to afford.

I see. That’s a serious issue?

You only have to look at the headlines to see just why; the BA IT crisis [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/31/british-airways-crisis-mystery-energy-suppliers-say-no-power/] seems to ultimately come down to a lack of testing of existing physical DR and power back-up, with experts speculating that’s because it just hadn’t been tested or run for too long. We’ve all seen the severe impact that’s had on BA, which is a major global corporation and should really have been better prepared. It’s actually a wake up call for all of us, especially public sector customers who’ve neglected this for far too long.

So what are you doing for me?

It’s a new protection option to allow anyone not on cloud, either with us or another cloud provider like Microsoft, to have a cost-effective DR solution, on a trusted cloud platform that can be easily implemented. I should also say that a really key advantage – back to BA again – is that it’s also one you can much more easily test than with a physical DR contract, too.

I believe you, but isn’t DR a really expensive solution that’s really only for big enterprises or government Departments? Even in the cloud?

Not at all; there are many different ways to implement a DR solution, from protecting data and applications through to hardware and entire sites/offices. There are also cost-effective DR solutions available to organisations of all sizes and budgets. What’s new and important to grasp with what we’re doing at UKCloud is that this is a really quick and cheap way for public sector customers that’s reliable, quick and easy to implement, has a low opex (operational expenditure), and which can scale without the need for additional on-site resources and expertise. A cloud-based solution using a trusted technology with an easy to use portal is basically the perfect solution, we think, and for organisations of all sizes.

Why is cloud technically a good way to do DR, ‘though – apart from cost?

 Physical DR and BC solutions are all resource hungry and can have a long RTO (Recovery Time Objective), while hardware failure can create significant delays in recovering your service. These traditional solutions have a low ROI, as we’ve said, as there are high and ongoing costs with a low chance of you actually ever needing to invoke them. That’s why a cloud solution that utilises a separate platform and that can scale as required and can be instantly provisioned, is significantly less expensive than you creating your own solution.

As it’s in the cloud, that also means your data is available at a location that is often far from the original workload. In addition, you may require the service to be available via multiple government networks including the N3/HSCN and the PSN-P with the option of separate security for sensitive data.

Finally, it’s worth noting that as it is a cloud solution, costs are shared by all customers using the service, meaning there is low or limited cost associated with having cloud-delivered DR as your insurance policy.

 Tell me about your specific offering, then.

UKCloud has created a cloud-based DR solution which allows customers with either Hyper-V or VMware-based virtual machines to protect their workloads and data via the Internet or government networks by replicating specific virtual machines or/and data onto the UKCloud platform.

What could happen if I DON’T do DRaaS?

Without DR, there is likely to be a long time to recover from hardware failures, bad software updates, viruses, ransomware or natural disasters. The actual result of this for public sector organisations could be fines, loss of contracts and also loss of confidence by users and citizens. As more and more critical services are becoming digitally available, users are becoming reliant on them being available, too – and this means DR and BC policies and processes are essential to ensure they are available.

It is therefore just good common sense for the British public sector to investigate what plans and processes it might need in the case of a disaster. This should at the very least cover hardware failures, bad software updates, your vulnerability to ransomware, especially in the wake of the NHS WannaCry attack, and loss of data in general.

It is important to analyse what could happen to you if disaster struck, how you’d recover, how long would it take and are there any single points of failure. We’ve actually just created a range of resources such as webinars, landing pages and factsheets to assist public sector CIOs in this area.

So the bottom line is…?

Traditional DR tends to be expensive as opposed to cloud DR solutions which is significantly less expensive and will scale as required. This is therefore cheaper and better than what you have now, or plan to try and have, if you are not yet in the cloud, I’d say.

Fascinating stuff, Simon. Thanks for your time, and good luck with the service!

If you’d like to know more about UKCloud’s new DRaaS option, go to this part of the UKCloud website for more information, a full product factsheet – and in the very near future, a special explanatory video, we’re told.