12 Disaster Recovery Solutions for Small and Medium Businesses [2023]

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As a small business owner, you devote endless energy to making your business a success. But disasters happen – between cyberattacks, natural disasters, and other crises, SMBs face an average of 7 disruptions per year resulting in days of downtime. Without comprehensive disaster recovery (DR) planning, these outages can completely derail your business.

Trust me, I‘ve been there. Back in 2018, a bad storm led to a power surge that fried our servers. We lacked proper surge protection and backups. In the end, we lost weeks of data and thousands in revenue getting back online.

I don‘t want the same happening to you. Take the time now to build a robust DR strategy tailored to your business. This guide will explore 12 key solutions and considerations to properly protect your operations. Just one bad outage can seriously hurt your business; preparation and planning makes all the difference.

Why Disaster Recovery Matters

Unplanned downtime is exponentially more expensive for smaller businesses. According to recent data, the average cost of downtime for small businesses is a staggering $8,581 per hour. For medium businesses, that cost skyrockets to $74,595 per hour.

The impacts stretch far beyond immediate lost revenue:

  • 44% of SMBs take a day or longer to resume operations after a disaster. Prolonged disruptions can permanently damage customer trust and your brand reputation.

  • 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10+ days due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year. Lacking backups can make recovery impossible.

  • The average SMB experiences 7 disruptions per year, with hours to days of downtime from each. Whether it‘s storms, fires, human errors or cyberattacks, you need to anticipate and prepare for disasters.

Having a solid disaster recovery plan outlines exactly how you‘ll respond to disruptions to minimize costs, data loss, and time spent offline. Here are some key elements effective DR plans address:

  • Backing up and securing critical data both onsite and in the cloud
  • Building redundancies into infrastructure wherever feasible
  • Identifying and training staff on response procedures
  • Enabling rapid failover to alternate sites or cloud solutions
  • Automating system and data restores to accelerate recovery
  • Regularly testing plans through drills and exercises

Without DR planning, your business‘s survival truly hangs in the balance when disaster strikes. But properly prepared, even severe disruptions can be mere speed bumps.

12 Key DR Solutions for Your Business

There are many technologies and strategies to build a disaster recovery plan tailored to your technical environment, budget and recovery goals. Based on my experience, these 12 options offer a great starting point for most SMBs:

1. Local Backups

Backing up locally to onsite storage like NAS devices, external drives and tape is a tried and tested first line of defense. Disk imaging solutions like Macrium Reflect can quickly restore entire systems from a recent image. Ongoing incremental backups capture changes between images.

I recommend SMBs implement:

  • Daily incremental file backups
  • Weekly full system images
  • Monthly tape archives stored offsite

For most SMBs, a good local backup solution can be implemented for under $500 in hardware costs plus ongoing media expenses and subscriptions. This is an indispensable first layer to any DR strategy.

Average RTO: 2-24 hours

Average RPO: 1 hour+

2. Cloud Backup

Storing backups in the cloud provides cost-effective offsite protection if local stores are compromised. It‘s scalable to accommodate data growth. Leading solutions like Backblaze B2 offer low storage costs, multi-threaded uploads to speed backups, and web restore interfaces.

I suggest configuring cloud backups to:

  • Run nightly after local backups complete
  • Maintain at least 4 weekly versions online
  • Encrypt data in transit and at rest

Budget around $70+ per terabyte per month for storage and data transfer fees. For efficiency, back up locally first then save only encrypted deltas to the cloud.

Average RTO: 6-48 hours for data restores

Average RPO: 24 hours

3. High Availability (HA)

Building redundancies like failover clustering and load balancing into application architecture helps avoid downtime from hardware failures. If one system fails, traffic is automatically routed to another.

Though more complex, open source tools like Linux-HA and HAProxy bring basic HA capabilities within reach of SMBs. A scalable cloud infrastructure also supports resilient designs more affordably today.

Average RTO: Instant failover

Average RPO: Near zero

4. Backup Power

Uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and generators provide backup power to ride out blackouts. Surveys show 90% of businesses experience power issues annually. Generators run $500+ and enterprise-grade UPS units start around $1,500+.

For servers, a UPS is mandatory, along with:

  • Monitoring UPS health and alerts
  • Periodically load testing units
  • Extension cords to relocate units during floods

Even brief power loss can corrupt data. Backup power is cheap insurance against possibly lengthy outages.

Average RTO: Instant failover to backup power

Average RPO: Zero

5. Alternate Processing Sites

Hot, warm and cold sites provide temporary infrastructure you can fail over to in case your primary site is unavailable. They offer workspaces, servers, and networks to continue operations.

  • Hot sites are constantly online mirror sites you can immediately fail over to. Costs start around $500 per month.

  • Warm sites have equipment but may need some provisioning. Average RTO is 4-72 hours. Costs around $250 per month.

  • Cold sites are empty facilities you must fully outfit. RTO can be several days. Costs start around $50 per month.

Hot sites provide the fastest recovery but have high fixed costs. Assess the RTO you need and associated budget tradeoffs.

Average RTO: Minutes to days depending on site type

6. Data Replication

Syncing data to remote disaster recovery (DR) sites in near real-time ensures an up-to-date copy is available for recovery. Storage snapshots and tools like Double Take automate continuous or scheduled replication.

With replication, if your primary site fails:

  1. Redirect users to the DR site
  2. Restore apps from replicated data
  3. Failback once the primary site is restored

Make sure your network bandwidth can support replication traffic which can eat up bandwidth.

Average RTO: Minutes to hours

Average RPO: Minutes

7. Virtualization

Virtual machines (VMs) fully encapsulate systems into portable files easing backup and recovery. Physical hosts abstract compute resources into pools that can be failed over across if one host crashes.

Hypervisors like VMware and Proxmox make server virtualization accessible for SMBs. With properly configured shared storage, VMs can automatically move between hosts.

Average RTO: Minutes to hours

Average RPO: Last replication

8. Containers

Containers virtualize server applications into isolated user-space instances that run from images. This makes spinning workloads up and down trivial. Kubernetes simplifies container management and scaling.

Tools like VMware‘s Project Photon let admins containerize traditional apps without changes. Containers shine for microservices and cloud-native applications.

Average RTO: Minutes

Average RPO: Zero (Stateless)

9. Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

DRaaS offerings from major cloud providers like AWS and Azure provide on-demand access to compute, storage, networking and other infrastructure required for failover. This pay-as-you-go model avoids large fixed costs.

AWS‘s Elastic Disaster Recovery automates failover orchestration leveraging cloud infrastructure. Costs scale based on actual usage.

Evaluate cloud DR options but budget at least $125 per month per server for a basic package.

Average RTO: Minutes to hours to fully activate cloud resources

Average RPO: Minutes

10. Automated Failover

Orchestration and automation solutions like Vembu help streamline failover processes with click-button simplicity. This minimizes human errors when recovering under pressure.

Runbooks encapsulate tasks like shutting down production systems, activating backups, rerouting users to DR assets, etc. Dashboards centralize monitoring and control during outages.

Look for solutions purpose-built for DR automation with predefined workflows. Popular options include Zerto and Recovery Point Objective (RPO).

Average RTO: Near instant automated failover

11. Failover Testing

No DR plan is complete without regular failover testing. Full-scale tests validate your strategy and team‘s ability to execute failover processes when stressed. Start by discussing a tabletop exercise on paper.

Next, run a simulated test triggering automated actions but without human intervention. Finally, execute a live test during maintenance windows to confirm systems correctly activate.

Initially test critical applications, then expand scope over time. Refine plans based on lessons learned.

Benefits: Confidence and expertise in DR execution.

12. Cyber Insurance

While not a replacement for DR planning, cyber insurance can offset costs of recovery, lost revenue and legal liabilities from cyber incidents. Policies start around $100 monthly.

To qualify, insurers typically require clients meet minimum DR standards like:

  • Documented response plans
  • Regular backups and testing
  • Business continuity planning
  • Incident response preparation
  • Secure network architectures

Consider insurance another motivation for robust DR practices. Just be sure to read the fine print on coverage limits and exclusions.

Key Factors When Evaluating DR Solutions

With many options on the table, keep these key criteria in mind as you assess disaster recovery solutions:

Recovery Time Objective (RTO): The time until systems and operations are fully restored after an outage. The lower the RTO, the less downtime and data loss.

Recovery Point Objective (RPO): The maximum data loss or point of recoverability. Look for solutions with minimal RPO.

Complexity: Choose options that won‘t overburden your IT staff. Seek solutions that simplify DR processes.

Costs: Balance protection with budget realities. Prioritize solutions for critical systems first.

Compliance: Consider regulations like HIPAA that mandate data backups, encryption and other DR requirements.

Security: Carefully evaluate any new risks (like data leaks) introduced by DR tools or processes.

Support: Look for responsive vendor support and local partnerships for quick issue resolution.

Pulling It All Together

Modernizing your DR strategy is a journey. Start by identifying must-have solutions for your most critical systems and data. Over time, expand protection and testing processes across less essential assets.

While outages are always unsettling, proper diligence in disaster preparedness will ensure your business weathers the storm. Stay focused on solutions that balance costs, complexity and speed of recovery.

With a sound DR plan in place, you have every reason to feel confident if crisis strikes. Your business will stay online serving customers when competitors stumble. Personally, I now sleep much easier at night knowing we are prepared.

Stay resilient out there – your success depends on it. Let me know if you have any other questions!

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