Most organizations understand the importance of keeping critical data safe from both manual and natural disasters. It is surprising, however, to hear just how many companies are not prepared for the day their system goes down and data is lost. And yes, the day will come that data is lost, usually due to a manual user error. Beyond the compromised data, the loss of productivity can immobilize an entire business for hours or even days. Even with the best-laid plans, disaster can strike. Those who are prepared suffer the least.
The current backup and disaster recovery environment is leaning toward solutions that offer integrated and simplified next-generation approaches. These include faster recovery times, easier rebuilds, hardware-independent recovery, bootable backups and bare-metal restore. Successful solutions will require integration with legacy and current data, scale to handle big data, span virtualized and cloud environments, and implement automation while integrating the functions of backup protection and disaster recovery. As priority grows for these solutions, so should IT budgets.
The current landscape for data backup and disaster recovery is seeing rapid evolution. Its progression leaves many IT professionals pondering what solutions will stand up to today’s environment while also adapting to meet next-generation challenges. In a recent study, a stunning 81 percent of companies admit to not having a regularly tested disaster recovery plan for their business. In an age where a business’s livelihood can depend on its data, one would think that the ability to get critical data systems up and running quickly (should they fail) would be a much higher priority. At a minimum, data failure threatens the overall well-being of a business and its ability to operate efficiently.
Yet still a small proportion of IT capital and operating costs are assigned to disaster recovery or business continuity. A higher proportion of budgets goes to the more “sexy” IT strategies such as virtualization, business intelligence, consolidation, hardware, software and cloud computing. Disaster recovery spending as a percentage of total IT budget has remained relatively flat and in the background of IT’s growing needs.
Businesses of every size should implement a regularly tested disaster recovery plan for their entire business infrastructure. The plan should include consideration for all servers and workstations despite their nature, a method for automatically replicating data offsite, a solution to provide robust backup status metrics, monitoring and failsafe alert notifications.
Many companies I have seen rely solely on onsite backup storage despite the fact that any disaster that threatens the business is also likely to affect the ability to access on-site data backups. Others rely on manual disaster recovery processes. Administrators must be mindful that a backup plan is only as good as their ability to retrieve and restore data. And a plan that only includes storage of backup data at the same location as the originating data could prove to be nothing less than a very bad plan. Some administrators delay the decision to send data offsite owing to concerns about security. Yet today the security of offsite data has been proven to be exceptionally sound, and the risk to a business that does not have offsite replication has only been further demonstrated and proven with recent data-loss issues. Delaying the decision to automatically replicate offsite is also a decision to risk the future of the business.
Administrators should be constantly thinking about what needs to be in their backup and disaster recovery plan and working with solutions that can best fulfill those needs. Too often, backups fail without properly notifying administrators. Successful backup and disaster recovery solutions must provide robust backup status metrics such as “backups in progress” and “successful backups completed,” along with failsafe alerts to indicate a completed or failed cycle, that are delivered using a highly reliable method such as dashboards or dedicated monitoring systems, not left to chance with emails or other alert methods that can be lost on delivery or drowned in email in-boxes.
Treating all data as equal and trying to back up everything can mean overblown storage costs and difficulty in restoring what’s really important to the business. Another key element that must be a part of your disaster recovery plan is the idea of “tiering” the data to be recovered on the basis of its overall business importance. This approach allows resources to be correctly proportioned with the budget requirements and business impact.
The business would be just fine without an Excel spreadsheet that was working data for someone in marketing, for example, but a spreadsheet from the finance department could contain business-critical data. Databases containing transactional data may just be point-in-time information that the business can live without, or it could contain live customer orders that are critical to the business. Understanding the business relevance of data is crucial to the success of a disaster recovery plan.
At a basic level, data can be tiered by categories relevant to the type of business such as customer facing, business transaction, operational data, personnel, and contracts and records, with each tier having data associated with it that reflects the business requirement and in turn creates obvious recovery-point and recovery-time objectives.
By tiering data according to its relevance to the business and recognizing its operational value, it becomes simpler to decide where the focus on data protection should lie, as well as what data and supporting systems are the most important to be able to recover in the event of disaster. Aligning the business value of the data to the overall disaster recovery plan ensures the highest chance of success at protecting the data that is most valuable to the business, as well as the ability to restore data on the basis of its relevance to overall business continuity.
Disaster recovery needs are changing at the speed of business. Business needs, however, have not kept pace with IT’s ability to protect the rapid data growth of data and to deliver a quick, repeatable response in a disaster. Having a competent disaster recovery strategy is critical if data loss is to be prevented in unfavorable times.
Leading article photo courtesy of Al Jazeera English
About the Author
With more than 25 years of software marketing and executive management experience, Bob Davis oversees Kaseya’s global marketing efforts. Davis applies significant experience from marketing network and system-management solutions to directing Kaseya’s strategy, product marketing, branding, public relations, design and social-networking functions. One of the company’s founders, Davis returned to Kaseya in 2010.