A Go-To Guide About DRaaS for Government Agencies

disaster recovery

As we enter a new decade, and naturally a time of reflection on where we have been and where we are headed, it’s impossible to not notice that the last decade was marred by significant natural disasters on a scale we had not yet seen. It is the expectation of citizens and the role of government to oversee disaster relief and assistance during the aftermath. In order to do so, government agencies must ensure that their data is secure and that a disaster recovery plan is in place should their facilities be located at the nexus of a natural disaster. 

In 2020, we saw an increase in the demand for services during the Coronavirus pandemic. It's more clear now than ever that a disaster recovery plan is essential in ensuring services are not interrupted. When coupled with those who’d seek to take advantage of an overwhelmed system and exploit any vulnerabilities, protecting data and ensuring continuity should be focal points of any disaster recovery plan.

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What is Disaster Recovery?

For many years, disaster recovery strategies focused predominantly on the procedures required to ensure that the physical infrastructure of a network or system would remain intact and/or recoverable should there be a disaster, whether natural or caused by humans. However, as technology services have grown and expanded, including the introduction of cloud computing which means physical infrastructure may be off-premises, disaster recovery plans have similarly grown to encompass much more.

In short, disaster recovery includes all plans, procedures, people, and tools needed to ensure that technological systems, both physical and logical networks, that are required to maintain critical infrastructure are capable of either continuing to run or be fully recovered should a disaster strike. 

 

Components of an Effective Disaster Recovery Plan

In creating a disaster recovery plan, it’s essential to include all aspects of what makes your system run, what puts it at risk, and who needs to be involved.

1. Create your disaster recovery team. Identify organizational leaders who have knowledge of both your IT infrastructure as well as government critical systems and processes. While your IT professionals are a critical component of this team, you’ll also want to be sure you include individuals who are skilled at managing teams during a crisis, prioritizing and delegating tasks, effectively communicating next steps and needs, and both identifying and removing obstacles to progress. Further, you want to include someone whose focus is strategic to ensure organizational continuity. And finally, you want to make sure you have enough skilled team members to implement plans.

2. Identify risks in your organization. It’s hard to develop a plan if you don’t know what you’re up against. First, you’ll want to consider potential natural disaster risks; this is especially true if your organization or the data center it partners with is located in a high risk area. However, your plan should also consider potential human-caused disasters as well as catastrophic technology failures. Each potential risk will require different responses and will likely be feasible within different timeframes.

3. Identify top priority systems, data, applications, and resources. The first part of your plan, if continuity of service is possible, is to ensure access to these critical resources remains open so the organization can continue to perform its duties. This is vital for government organizations who, in many cases, must continue to provide services to citizens in need in the case of a widespread disaster. In contrast, if those applications cannot run, the data is not accessible, and systems are not running, it is vital that there be a plan to not only restore their function, but potentially fully recover them as well.

4. Determine data backup procedures. In order to restore and recover, you’ll need to determine the 4 w’s of your critical infrastructure. What gets backed up? By whom? Where? When (how often)?  You’ll want to make sure the appropriate team members have access to this information and that those backup facilities also have a disaster plan in place. Ensuring that this backup process is followed, regardless of how secure a system feels, is vital.

5. Maintain, update, test. A disaster recovery plan is only as effective as an organization’s maintenance of that plan. That means you’ll need to test it to analyze where there are vulnerabilities and gaps in the communication or even the plan itself. Regular reviews and testing will allow your organization to update your plan as needed.

Why Government Agencies Need a Disaster Recovery Plan Now More Than Ever

natural disaster recovery

Rampaging wildfires. Violent hurricanes. Unprecedented flooding. A worldwide pandemic. All of these disasters have happened within the last 5 years, and have been responsible for significant destruction of not just buildings and homes, but entire communities. In fact, from 2015-2018 alone, 15 different disasters resulted in over a billion dollars worth of damage. And FEMA asserts that now is the time for us to take proactive measures. This includes your disaster recovery plan, especially as a government agency upon which many people rely.

While natural disasters can happen anywhere, there are places that are more prone to them, including California, one the United States’ most populous states and home to Silicon Valley, the epicenter of much of America’s technology. While we can predict the likelihood of disasters and are getting better at forecasting risks, 2020’s global pandemic taught us that we are fallible. That in the face of predictions, we were still susceptible and so we must be prepared.

With the economy grinding to a halt, critical health infrastructure on overload, supply chain interruptions, and an increased demand on government agencies overseeing those sectors as well as social safety nets, many caught a glimpse of what load agencies could bear and would need to bear. It was, for many, a quick lesson in what critical organizational needs would need to be part of a comprehensive disaster recovery plan.

But that’s not the only threat out there. The Solarwinds Orion Supply Chain attack demonstrated how vulnerable even government systems can be to hackers and those who seek to disrupt services by a DDoS attack. When coupled with statistics that suggest ransomware attacks increased by 715% in 2020, being prepared for all disasters, natural and manmade, is essential.

What is DRaaS?

Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) is when at least a portion of your disaster recovery is outsourced to a service provider who has considerable expertise in overseeing continuity plans as well as recovery for critical systems and infrastructure. Using a managed cloud infrastructure, your partner ensures essential and valuable tools and resources are replicated in the cloud so, when needed, you can shift your operations to a full backup and keep working through the disaster, when people need you most.

Top 3 Reasons Government Agencies Should Leverage DRaaS

security-it-government-agency

While one of the primary reasons is obvious (having a reliable partner who has expertise in backup and recovery offers peace of mind), there are a few other great reasons for government agencies to use DRaaS to ensure that critical government information and services are able to continue to perform when they’re needed.

1. Reduce Overall IT Costs

It’s no secret that budgets are tight across the board, whether you’re an NGO or government agency, and being able to prioritize funding for the areas that need it most should be mission critical. Therefore, the likely expenditure required to fully replicate your system, in a safe off-site location, is expensive. Further, there’s the maintenance and upkeep of that facility that’s likely a much larger drain on a budget than a monthly service fee charged by a provider, which also moves that budget spend from CAPEX to OPEX.

2. Increase Data Recovery Speeds And Efficiency 

With today’s DRaaS models, organizations can be brought back up and running in no time, to ensure quick data recovery whether facing an attack from malware or Mother Nature. A hosted cloud backup can run continuously, ensuring the integrity and accuracy of your backups. Similarly, when you need to recover, you can do so quickly.

3. Free Up Your Valuable IT Resources

Time is valuable. As noted above, disaster recovery and your disaster recovery plan must be exhaustive and that takes time, effort, and resources, including human resources. It’s likely that your IT team, as well as your leadership team, have other priorities and this frees them up to focus on those. There’s no need to worry about a secondary site, backups, or the infrastructure and expenditures to manage those. Allow your team to prioritize your mission, while your provider prioritizes your disaster recovery.

How DRaaS Can Prevent Government Breaches and DDoS Attacks

prevent cyber breaches and ddos attacks

In talking about disaster recovery, we tend to focus on catastrophic natural events and potential infrastructure events (power outages) that could impact systems and networks. However, one of the biggest threats before any IT department is a malicious actor desirous of taking out or taking down a system. Unfortunately, we’ve learned recently that even adherence to government compliance rules doesn’t secure your data or systems. Malware, ransomware, breaches and DDoS attacks can have the same impact as a natural disaster, costing you valuable time, money, and resources. In fact, more and more security breaches and attacks are being classified as disasters.

For nearly half of the business sector respondents, the service disruption caused by a cyberattack is the biggest impact. So, what’s the best way to prevent this disruption? Having in place a secure, reliable, and efficient backup that moves into service when you need it, regardless of the cause.

Additionally, with DRaaS providers, you get the service, but you also get the expertise of IT professionals who can provide you with security advice, government compliance concerns, and best practices to secure your data. Further, these partners can likely provide data protection as well as looking at your existing environment to help you identify potential vulnerabilities. Further, that backup data is secured and supported by policies, procedures, and network infrastructure that ensure its integrity and safety.

Transform Security in Your Government Agency With DSM's Industry-Leading DRaaS Solutions

The most important element of your disaster recovery strategy, when you choose DRaaS, is knowing that your partner has the expertise to support and advise your team. You want to know that the solutions and services available can be tailored to your needs and still deliver the reliability and efficiency you require.

If the dangers of the modern IT landscape, whether natural, man-made, or malicious, are a concern for your organization, get in touch with us today so we can talk about how to protect your critical data today, tomorrow, and into the future, whatever challenges that might bring.


DRaas: Everything You Need to Know

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