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Why you should use DaaS for desktop DR in the cloud

Using DaaS to power your disaster recovery plan can save money and resources by outsourcing the provisioning and maintenance of dormant PCs.

When a rogue employee shuts down the power at John Hammond's amusement park in the film Jurassic Park, the computer systems go down and the technicians can't get anything back online. Clearly, Hammond didn't have disaster recovery in mind when he designed his dinosaur adventure land -- but IT administrators won't make that same mistake if they adopt DaaS for DR.

A traditional disaster recovery (DR) plan, which features a set of pre-staged servers and desktops at a secondary location, could have helped Jurassic Park avoid that disaster. But some companies simply can't afford to maintain and patch duplicates of every critical server and PC. That's where desktop as a service (DaaS) comes in. Organizations can implement DaaS specifically for the purposes of disaster recovery, or they might use existing cloud-hosted virtual desktops for DR when a disaster strikes.

Find out why DaaS is a good fit for desktop DR, how it saves money and why it might lead to full-scale DaaS.

Why should I use DaaS for disaster recovery?

Old-fashioned disaster recovery plans introduce a host of dead PCs nobody is using, which can slow down the network. Plus, keeping an entire set of servers and PCs ready just in case of an emergency consumes a lot of IT's time and budget.

You don't have to waste time and money updating hardware or patching desktops you might never actually need.

With desktop DR in the cloud, IT shops don't have to waste time and money updating hardware or patching desktops they might never actually need. Instead, the DaaS provider takes care of those tasks, not to mention back-end infrastructure management, which includes keeping track of host servers, storage and network connectivity. When a disaster happens, IT can quickly provision cloud-hosted desktops that are set and ready to go to users, allowing them to access business-critical applications immediately.

Using DaaS for DR essentially amounts to uptime insurance. DaaS providers build resiliency into their infrastructure and set up data centers in a variety of locations. So if a storm impairs one location, for example, the other data centers are not affected.  

Why can't I just use VDI for DR?

You can, but you will still have to expend time and resources to replicate your VDI somewhere off site. DaaS offers a greater degree of cost flexibility, with a pay-as-you-go model, which is priced depending on the devices, storage and media your users need. With this payment approach, you can easily adjust the number of desktops you need based on the changing number of users.

The pay-as-you-go model is made possible by the scalability of DaaS, which makes it easy to add or subtract desktops. On the back end, the DaaS provider takes care of any capacity issues by adding resources as needed.

If you want to go the VDI route, there are a variety of ways to approach DR. You can replicate a VDI environment to a DR site, boot Windows from a USB with Windows to Go, use storage replication or run offline virtual desktops. With the distributed virtualization method, admins need to ensure that the right data goes to the right users. 

What are other ways to back up virtual desktops in the cloud?

If you're backing up your virtual desktops, whether you're using a DaaS provider or another type of cloud service, you probably want to know how cloud backup works.

You can do a file-level or image-level backup of your host VMs to a cloud storage service, for instance. With a file-level backup, the cloud service uses an agent in the guest OS to select and back up individual files. Image-level backups store an entire VM, so you can restore the whole VM, without having to pick and choose each file.

Unfortunately, the background script you have to run to back up an entire image can be very slow and waste resources. The best move is to take an initial snapshot of the VM image and make changes to blocks of the image, as it becomes necessary. By doing so, you eliminate the high cost of running the script, and make it much easier to back up and restore entire VMs.  

What about using full-scale DaaS?

Using DaaS for disaster recovery is a pathway to full-scale DaaS. If you're leaning toward desktop DR in the cloud, you should at least evaluate the merits of a full-scale DaaS deployment. You still have to do all the work that comes with desktop as a service when you set up DaaS for DR, including data replication, authentication integration and accessibility to back-end services from users' desktops.

Basically, you'll have DaaS in place if you choose cloud-based DR. So, you might as well consider using DaaS for something more than only a contingency plan. Just remember to do a full cost analysis and vet a variety of providers. DaaS does come with security and reliability concerns, as well as potentially steep subscription fees.

Next Steps

Cloud-based DR gains steam with AWS

How to implement cloud disaster recovery

When moving to cloud DR, caution advised

This was last published in October 2015

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What method do you use for desktop disaster recovery?
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The other contingency to keep in mind is what you're going to do if your cloud provider goes out.
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