An effective disaster recovery plan takes into consideration the following:
1. The safety of company employees and their ability perform the necessary recovery work.
2. Backing up existing data and information in alignment with business deliverables.
3. Successfully returning key company data and information to its original state.
4. Completing recovery work within the amount of downtime allowed (as defined by business needs).
5. Performing scheduled plan testing to validate line items 1 through 4.
6. Defining and practicing ongoing DRP training for new and existing employees.
Businesses with a DRP in place should either review the plan or have it audited to ensure that these key components are covered.
Data Backup Falls Short
Many companies have some form of data backup system and/or process in place. Unfortunately, business owners and executives assume their IT department’s current unidirectional data backup process is capable of supporting key business functions when a disaster strikes. Nothing could be further from the truth. A recent study from The University of Texas found the following when companies face catastrophic data loss:
• Only 6 percent of companies experiencing catastrophic data loss survive
• 43 percent never reopen after the disaster
• Another 51 percent close down less than two years due to business redirection or misdirection
With one-way backup systems in place, a company’s ability to effectively resolve the information availability problem quickly diminishes. It’s imperative that all disaster recover plans specify, in orderly detail, how, where and when to back up data and information.
In addition, an effective DRP should identify and functionally support the process for restoring this data and information within the timeframe(s) stipulated by the business. This timeframe is the recovery time objective (RTO).
By definition, the RTO is the maximum allowable downtime placed against computing systems that support business functions. Because every business is unique, the metrics defining the RTO are different for each one. Examples would be an e-commerce enterprise that requires virtually zero downtime, while a manufacturer may survive with up to 24 hours downtime. In either scenario, the RTO is defined by business metrics supported through enabling technologies.
The Money Pit
Businesses today are faced with ever-increasing pressure to increase sales while decreasing their cost of operations. Adding to this pressure, data backup and storage systems with their supporting infrastructure can increase capital expenditures and may require technical expertise currently not supported inside the business. An efficient DRP supports backup, storage and retrieval of data and information by differentiating between vital, critical, and less-important data.
A recent study by Computer Network Technologies (CNT) states, “Research shows that up to 60 percent of server data backed up is “non-production” which magnifies cost to operations.”
By differentiating between vital, critical and less important data, the DRP helps increase operational efficiencies while reducing operating costs. Decreasing the amount of electronic or physical data and information being transferred or stored positively impacts the business RTO while reducing IT expense and infrastructure costs.
Inside businesses today, many continuation of business servers already exist and are underutilized. Two questions to ask are:
1. How many servers in your environment are used for non-production services?
2. Is your telecommunications infrastructure/bandwidth underutilized?
A properly developed and effectively tested disaster recovery plan should directly support the answers to these questions. Businesses can no longer afford to spend excessive amounts of money on technological systems without qualifying and quantifying a valid return on investment. Proper planning and testing of the company’s disaster recovery criteria can directly support the return on investment requirement(s).
Businesses desiring to build and implement a DRP should do so with the intention of integrating the DRP into their existing and future strategic operating model. No company should operate without an effective and efficient disaster recovery plan.
James Myers is president of Contingency Now, a professional services company. Myers can be reached at (913) 484-5317 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.