Since the release of the Cloud First mandate in 2011, the Federal government has been pushing agencies to modernize legacy technology and migrate to the cloud. While Cloud First evolved into Cloud Smart, agencies have historically taken a measured approach to cloud migration. On the most recent FITARA scorecard, only three agencies scored an A in the Modernizing Government Technology category. Eleven agencies scored a C or below.

Building backup and effective disaster recovery solutions in an on-premises environment can be expensive – so much so that many organizations across the public and private sectors don’t have working disaster recovery plans. After all, disasters were historically rare events like earthquakes or hurricanes that made it harder to justify the expense of a full disaster recovery solution, which involves significant investments in physical space, HVAC systems, technology hardware and software, and ongoing maintenance.

The exponential rise in ransomware attacks along with the Biden administration’s recent Cybersecurity Executive Order has changed the modernization conversation. Ransomware is a disaster that isn’t rare. The 2021 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report found a 158 percent increase in ransomware attacks in North America in 2020. Agencies that may have been slow to migrate to the cloud are now looking to the cloud as a cost-effective backup and disaster recovery solution to protect Federal systems against cyberattacks and data loss, and for good reason.

“The cloud reduces cost and complexity for agencies trying to simplify and automate their backups and disaster recovery plans,” said Sean Phuphanich, senior solutions architect at Amazon Web Services (AWS). “But it isn’t as simple as just running your workloads in the cloud and thinking you’re now protected. You still have to click the right buttons or use the right software.”

Phuphanich notes that there are some key things that CIOs should consider as they turn to the cloud for backup and disaster recovery.

  • Cloud provides all the right ingredients, but you still need a cook. The cloud offers on demand compute and storage, pay as you go pricing, support for commercial and public sector compliance standards, security, and encryption – all ready for agencies to use. Managing and orchestrating these features and functionalities takes planning or smart software tools that simplify decisions and operations.
  • Understand the cloud shared responsibility model. The Truth in Cloud Report from Veritas Technologies found that 84 percent of cloud architects and administrators believe the cloud service provider backs up cloud data. This is a common misunderstanding that can be remedied by understanding the cloud shared responsibility model. AWS as a cloud provider is responsible for operational security, which includes virtual infrastructure components like virtual machines, disks, and networks and physical security. The customer/agency is responsible for ensuring its applications and data in the cloud are backed up effectively in a way that accounts for dependencies, are tested regularly, and are in a recoverable state using cloud native or 3rd party tools.
  • General cloud storage is not application aware. Technology teams migrating to the cloud often start with a lift and shift strategy for workloads running on EC2 compute and EBS block storage. Native EBS snapshots are not application aware – they are crash consistent backups. With databases for example, using an application specific tool or backup software that supports your specific application can be critical. Alternatively, solutions that use a managed service like Relational Database Service (RDS) will have native support for tighter backup integration and can create application consistent backups for the managed service.
  • Backups and disaster recovery plans should cover the entire enterprise. Many Federal agencies operate in a hybrid cloud environment using both cloud and their own datacenters. It becomes more challenging for technology teams to have a robust backup and recovery plan with different tools for every environment. To ensure quick restore or recovery in day-to-day events or in case of a full-blown disaster, look for tools designed to support hybrid cloud environments. They should provide visibility across the cloud and datacenter and can support true disaster recovery. Cloud can provide a durable, secure, and cost-effective place for datacenter backups as well as host disaster recovery of entire datacenters.

Reduce Cost and Complexity With a Holistic Approach to Backups

All Federal agencies are somewhere on the path to cloud migration as they work to modernize their infrastructures and meet Federal requirements. Agencies can’t lose sight of their backups in the process though, nor can they operate with the idea that a disaster isn’t going to happen to them.

“Increasingly disparate environments are complex to monitor and maintain, and that’s before adding backups to protect against unforeseen issues,” said John Hink, senior principal product manager – NetBackup at Veritas. “Agencies are under pressure to migrate to the cloud, but the backup box can’t be checked just because the workload sits in the cloud. Customers need a solid data protection strategy for the cloud. A backup plan is only as good as the last test, and teams often don’t have the bandwidth to create and maintain the backup and perform those required ongoing tests on all their backups across all of their environments.”

To reduce the cost and complexity associated with creating, testing, and maintaining backups across environments, agencies should look for a backup solution that has built-in disaster recovery and offers a single pane of glass view of cloud and on-premises backups and their associated testing policies and recovery procedures.

Veritas’s NetBackup is a good example. Along with broad workload support and automation capabilities, NetBackup utilizes object storage to dramatically reduce the size requirements of backup storage in the cloud and drive down costs, whether writing from on-premises or from services in the cloud. Every backup copy that is created is stored in a space optimized, portable format, allowing replication from on-prem to cloud and across regions while optimizing for performance and cost. The backups are stored in immutable object storage across both performance archive tiers. In addition, a backup in object storage is self-descriptive and can quickly be recovered by on demand services in the cloud.

A key driver to moving to the cloud is cost savings. Reducing the compute costs and the size of backups stored in cloud environments helps agencies realize that savings. With a view across environments, NetBackup also uncovers where agencies can save on cloud costs. The solution offers unified data protection that takes into account inter-dependencies to ensure the workload is in a true recoverable state.

“Optimized storage capability, resiliency orchestration, and just-in-time image recovery also supports the development of application resiliency in cloud workloads, giving technology teams the ability to quickly get back online in the cloud or across regions when disaster strikes,” said Hink.

Backups and disaster resiliency plans often follow two different procedures with different testing protocols. NetBackup simplifies that complexity by integrating these protocols. Agencies get day-to-day backup along with the more complex disaster recovery backup in one solution. Testing and certifying resiliency automations is as simple as a single button click.

NetBackup is a purpose-built backup protection solution that greatly reduces cloud storage needs. Agencies can take advantage of all the benefits of cloud migration and meet Federal mandates while having a full disaster recovery plan and backup solution that protects against cyberattacks. NetBackup simplifies and automates disaster recovery and ensures backup data is optimized, stored efficiently to save costs, and quickly recoverable, allowing technology teams to worry less about creating and maintaining backups and enterprise-wide disaster recovery solutions so they can focus more on achieving mission outcomes.

Learn more about NetBackup.

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MeriTalk Staff