If there’s one possibility that makes organizations nervous, it’s the idea of downtime. From lost sales to angry customers to an embarrassing ding in your reputation, an outage can be costly in more ways than one. No one wants to be known as unreliable. And no IT team wants to be blamed for lost revenue. We can all name major companies afflicted by outages – Amazon, Dropbox and even Facebook are just a few. As a result, organizations of all sizes often feel insecure about their ability to maintain uptime. The good news is that a strong disaster recovery plan can keep you prepared and accessible even in the face of disaster. Leveraging the agility and elasticity of the cloud, implementing a comprehensive and robust disaster recovery plan is relatively simple and undoubtedly much more cost-efficient than the revenue implications of downtime. It’s just a matter of knowing the protection level you need and configuring your cloud to ensure the continuity of your most critical services.

Typically there are three disaster recovery plans. Choosing the right one depends on your business’s Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and its tolerance level of downtime. Take a look at the practices and benefits of each to identify the optimal solution for your specific needs.

Hot/Cold: This configuration covers the basic needs for continuity in the cloud, but it involves the longest RTO. A typical Hot/Cold solution would be a single server or small number of servers located in a remote data center where file and database backups are shipped and stored on a regular basis. Yes, backups are on hand but the recovery expectation is 24 hours or more. In the event of a disaster, additional services would need to be brought online and updated, with the data from the backups imported to the new environment.

The ideal profile for Hot/Cold is generally small to medium businesses with non-critical applications. The primary criteria here is that an outage won’t have a crippling financial impact on your business – you’ll lose a day of online business, but your reputation and your bottom line will stay intact.

Hot/Warm: This solution provides a medium RTO, which means that a full restoration of services can range from minutes to a few hours, depending on the configuration. During this period, a baseline of limited services will remain available.

Typically a Hot/Warm environment consists of a replicated production environment in terms of server count, but with the resources scaled down to minimal levels. This mirror site is usually hosted at a remote facility with a mechanism to provide active failover, such as with DNS active/failover products. This is especially helpful when your cloud hosting provider has the ability to automatically scale resources on demand, so the server can grab additional resources as needed.

The Hot/Warm option is especially suited to companies that need to keep some services available no matter what, but can accept downtime for others.

Hot/Hot: As you might have guessed, this is the gold standard of disaster prevention. It provides maximum failure resiliency and allows for additional benefits such as higher capacity, Geographical-Load balancing and fault tolerance. A typical infrastructure would include two or more production environments located in isolated data centers, with full data replication from files to databases.

Whether it’s keeping medical data available or financial transactions accessible to customers, this option is a necessity for organizations that can’t afford any downtime at all. It ensures that even in the event of a natural disaster, malicious attack or internal crisis, your site will stay up and available – keeping your customers satisfied and your reputation spotless.

Intelligent disaster prevention is about preparation: taking the right actions now to avoid costly measures later. If recent years have taught us anything, it’s that a catastrophe can happen to any organization. By acting on the criteria above, you can put a smart plan in place now that’s accessible from both a budget and implementation standpoint – and in doing so, safeguard your environment, your revenue and your brand.