Plan for Disaster Recovery (DR) - Reliability Pillar

Plan for Disaster Recovery (DR)

Having backups and redundant workload components in place is the start of your DR strategy. RTO and RPO are your objectives for restoration of your workload. Set these based on business needs. Implement a strategy to meet these objectives, considering locations and function of workload resources and data. The probability of disruption and cost of recovery are also key factors that help to inform the business value of providing disaster recovery for a workload.

Both Availability and Disaster Recovery rely on the same best practices such as monitoring for failures, deploying to multiple locations, and automatic failover. However Availability focuses on components of the workload, while Disaster Recovery focuses on discrete copies of the entire workload. Disaster Recovery has different objectives from Availability, focusing on time to recovery after a disaster.

Define recovery objectives for downtime and data loss: The workload has a recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO).

Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is defined by the organization. RTO is the maximum acceptable delay between the interruption of service and restoration of service. This determines what is considered an acceptable time window when service is unavailable.

Recovery Point Objective (RPO) is defined by the organization. RPO is the maximum acceptable amount of time since the last data recovery point. This determines what is considered an acceptable loss of data between the last recovery point and the interruption of service.

Use defined recovery strategies to meet the recovery objectives: A disaster recovery (DR) strategy has been defined to meet objectives. Choose a strategy such as: backup and restore, active/passive (pilot light or warm standby), or active/active.

When architecting a multi-region disaster recovery strategy for your workload, you should choose one of the following multi-region strategies. They are listed in increasing order of complexity, and decreasing order of RTO and RPO. DR Region refers to an AWS Region other than the one primary used for your workload (or any AWS Region if your workload is on premises).

Some workloads have regulatory data residency requirements. If this applies to your workload in a locality that currently has only one AWS region, then you can use the Availability Zones within that region as discrete locations instead of AWS regions.

  • Backup and restore (RPO in hours, RTO in 24 hours or less): Back up your data and applications using point-in-time backups into the DR Region. Restore this data when necessary to recover from a disaster.

  • Pilot light (RPO in minutes, RTO in hours): Replicate your data from one region to another and provision a copy of your core workload infrastructure. Resources required to support data replication and backup such as databases and object storage are always on. Other elements such as application servers are loaded with application code and configurations, but are switched off and are only used during testing or when Disaster Recovery failover is invoked.

  • Warm standby (RPO in seconds, RTO in minutes): Maintain a scaled-down but fully functional version of your workload always running in the DR Region. Business-critical systems are fully duplicated and are always on, but with a scaled down fleet. When the time comes for recovery, the system is scaled up quickly to handle the production load. The more scaled-up the Warm Standby is, the lower RTO and control plane reliance will be. When scaled up to full scale this is known as a Hot Standby.

  • Multi-region (multi-site) active-active (RPO near zero, RTO potentially zero): Your workload is deployed to, and actively serving traffic from, multiple AWS Regions. This strategy requires you to synchronize data across Regions. Possible conflicts caused by writes to the same record in two different regional replicas must be avoided or handled. Data replication is useful for data synchronization and will protect you against some types of disaster, but it will not protect you against data corruption or destruction unless your solution also includes options for point-in-time recovery. Use services like Amazon Route 53 or AWS Global Accelerator to route your user traffic to where your workload is healthy. For more details on AWS services you can use for active-active architectures see the AWS Regions section of Use Fault Isolation to Protect Your Workload.

The difference between Pilot Light and Warm Standby can sometimes be difficult to understand. Both include an environment in your DR Region with copies of your primary region assets. The distinction is that Pilot Light cannot process requests without additional action taken first, while Warm Standby can handle traffic (at reduced capacity levels) immediately. Pilot Light will require you to turn on servers, possibly deploy additional (non-core) infrastructure, and scale up, while Warm Standby only requires you to scale up (everything is already deployed and running). Choose between these based on your RTO and RPO needs.

Test disaster recovery implementation to validate the implementation: Regularly test failover to DR to ensure that RTO and RPO are met.

A pattern to avoid is developing recovery paths that are rarely executed. For example, you might have a secondary data store that is used for read-only queries. When you write to a data store and the primary fails, you might want to fail over to the secondary data store. If you don’t frequently test this failover, you might find that your assumptions about the capabilities of the secondary data store are incorrect. The capacity of the secondary, which might have been sufficient when you last tested, may be no longer be able to tolerate the load under this scenario. Our experience has shown that the only error recovery that works is the path you test frequently. This is why having a small number of recovery paths is best. You can establish recovery patterns and regularly test them. If you have a complex or critical recovery path, you still need to regularly execute that failure in production to convince yourself that the recovery path works. In the example we just discussed, you should fail over to the standby regularly, regardless of need.

Manage configuration drift at the DR site or region: Ensure that your infrastructure, data, and configuration are as needed at the DR site or region. For example, check that AMIs and service quotas are up to date.

AWS Config continuously monitors and records your AWS resource configurations. It can detect drift and trigger AWS Systems Manager Automation to fix it and raise alarms. AWS CloudFormation can additionally detect drift in stacks you have deployed.

Automate recovery: Use AWS or third-party tools to automate system recovery and route traffic to the DR site or region.

Based on configured health checks, AWS services, such as Elastic Load Balancing and AWS Auto Scaling, can distribute load to healthy Availability Zones while services, such as Amazon Route 53 and AWS Global Accelerator, can route load to healthy AWS Regions.

For workloads on existing physical or virtual data centers or private clouds CloudEndure Disaster Recovery, available through AWS Marketplace, enables organizations to set up an automated disaster recovery strategy to AWS. CloudEndure also supports cross-region / cross-AZ disaster recovery in AWS.