IT disaster recovery, cloud computing and information security news

DNS failover: keeping brands online when a crisis strikes

In a business world where everything is dependent on applications and digital data, connectivity becomes even more crucial to maintain in the face of potential IT failures, human error and malicious attacks. By now, most business owners have heard the perils of a website outage and its impact on revenue, and therefore solutions that enable continuous uptime become essential.

The Domain Name System (DNS) is the service that underpins the Internet, providing human-readable website addresses for everyday use. DNS servers work by translating IP addresses into domain names, and without it, every system’s IP address would need to be memorised. For something as fundamental to the Internet as DNS has become, most users have little or no comprehension of how it works or why it’s needed – that is, until it stops working. Like any system, DNS is vulnerable to security issues that threaten its availability, and subsequently the websites it is designed to support.

Put simply, any organization that relies on its website as well as DNS – which at this point, is every organization – should invest in methods of disaster recovery in order to keep key web-based applications up and running in a crisis, as well as to maintain continuity for customers.

There are services on the market that are designed to maintain connectivity at all times, and specialists that have the expertise to implement them as part of a company’s wider IT management. With this in mind, what solutions can organizations expect from managed service providers to guarantee the availability of websites in the event of a DNS outage?

If a company has aspirations for website high availability, then a ‘no single point of failure design’, implemented with DNS failover, is key. DNS failover works by continuously monitoring servers to check for the availability of a website, often at minute intervals. This technology can detect an outage, and re-route traffic to an alternative IP in a separate, specified location to maintain uptime. Once the primary server is back up and running and the issue rectified, traffic is automatically directed towards its original IP address.

The recent surge in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on web servers has made infrastructure security ever more important as, more often than not, mitigation is the only method of overcoming these attacks. Distinct from other forms of malicious attack because of its ability to bypass conventional methods of detection, DDoS attacks can appear like organic traffic, therefore evading existing firewalls and, without adequate protection, take websites offline for hours at a time. In the event of a DDoS attack, DNS failover can work as the first step in a disaster recovery plan by redirecting traffic to a separate IP. This failover allows customers and prospects to continue to access a company’s website while the IT team is hard at work implementing the rest of the disaster recovery strategy.

If a company chooses to outsource the running of its DNS to a managed service provider, it is vital that the contract with the third party reflects the high level of expectation for availability. Many providers will offer 100 percent uptime, but this needs to be backed up by a solid service level agreement (SLA).

There is certainly a business case for every organization to implement DNS failover as part of its disaster recovery plan. Web server uptime is mission critical to most organizations as it affects all areas of activity – whether it be advertising, communication, e-commerce, or any other aspect of business. Working with a managed service provider adds a level of skill and insight that ensures failover processes are automated through a smooth transition and that end users notice no difference. DNS failover is the best solution to retain the accessibility of a company’s website through any potential downtime, while preserving reputation and revenue stream in the process.

The author

Jake Madders is a director of Hyve Managed Hosting.


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