The disaster recovery as a service market is booming, driven by anxious customers looking to protect their prized digital assets in an increasingly vulnerable and uncertain world. Yet, as DRaaS providers pick up new customers at an accelerating pace, the industry as a whole is facing some serious challenges that could potentially lead to problems in the not-too-distant future.
Before the current crisis, the biggest challenge disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) providers faced was building a compelling business case to justify investment in a platform that will reliably protect an organization's business data and help it quickly restore normal IT operations in the event of an IT failure.
"The need to maintain business continuity is only heightened, given the current situation with COVID-19," said Greg Smith, vice president of product marketing at cloud services provider Nutanix.
The COVID-19 situation proves that it's not always a natural disaster, cyberattack or human-related error that IT managers need to prepare for, observed Jamie Zajac, senior director of product management at DRaaS provider Carbonite. "Having a solid cyber-resiliency plan in place is an essential business requirement, [and] early planning ensures that the business will continue to operate normally, regardless of external incidents," she said.
Greg SmithVice president of product marketing, Nutanix
Although COVID-19 has escalated the demand for DRaaS technology, many providers are now wondering if they can keep pace with the needs of a rapidly growing number of customers. "With a sudden increase in demand for cloud-based DR services, providers are asking themselves whether their infrastructure capacity can expand to handle more workloads and more tenants, and can they add capacity quickly without jeopardizing customer service-level agreements (SLAs)," Smith said.
DRaaS providers aren't only struggling to keep pace with a rapidly growing customer base, but also with an explosion of data and increased recovery requirements, observed Mike Sanders, general manager of Unitrends, Kaseya's backup and disaster recovery business unit. "Keeping up with the demand while also operating in a stressed environment is pressuring many DRaaS providers," he said.
Larger forces are also at work. "As a service provider, we're seeing a market shift in terms of technology, market dynamics and client expectations of data protection and recovery," said Pat Corcoran, global strategy executive at IBM Business Resiliency Services. He noted that providers must also address various client issues and pain points by offering new services and capabilities that enable seamless recovery across complex, multiplatform, hybrid-IT environments.
Value and security concerns
On the economics front, a top challenge for DRaaS providers is ensuring that the overall total cost of ownership model they offer meets customers' needs and projections. "If the DRaaS can't show that they are saving a company money -- or is at least cost-neutral, at worst -- then it becomes a difficult sale, especially as a [customer] expands its DR requirements," said Victor Simon, presales solutions architect for IT consulting services provider Anexinet.
Cost issues aside, security is shaping up as one of the biggest challenges facing DRaaS providers and customers, said Jeff DeVerter, CTO for products and services at cloud computing services provider Rackspace. "It's paramount for businesses to maintain the disaster recovery site at equal or higher level of security than the primary site," he said.
Simon noted that DRaaS providers must offer their customers multilayer cybersecurity, complete with testing and audit services. "Customers are becoming more aware of the importance of minimizing the threat surface and neutralizing as many threat vectors as possible," Simon said. "DRaaS companies will have to prove to their customers that, along with financial sense, their solution makes sense from a security perspective."
Making the right choice
For DRaaS customers, one of the biggest challenges is selecting the right provider in a rapidly expanding market. "Every provider is unique, including technologies leveraged, SLAs provided and supporting services available," said Kyle Smith, enterprise architect at data center operator Markley Group. "If a customer ends up with a provider that doesn't suit their business needs, they may be forced to alter their requirements or change the functionality of their environment to fit into the provider's model, which is never ideal."
Although DRaaS providers are eager to differentiate their services and offer customers a wide range of plans and options, Sanders claimed that DRaaS users are facing far too many choices. "Different protection technologies, different cloud infrastructures and self-service versus managed DRaaS -- it makes it difficult to choose the one that is right for them," he said.
Corcoran noted that DRaaS providers will need to stay nimble throughout 2020 and beyond. "The evolution of DR technology and providers must be agile to understand today's new threats in order to help clients act fast, respond and recover their business operations," he said.