Disaster Recovery, a Priority for Business Continuity

Vijay Prakash, Head of IT Infra and Cloud, Kellton Tech Solutions | Monday, 06 February 2017, 10:19 IST

Disaster Recovery has never been such a high priority for enterprises than in the recent years. The high frequency of disasters, whether man-made, infrastructural, or natural, has forced enterprises to think about an effective disaster recovery plan for better business continuity. High level of dependence on digital assets requires enterprises to have a robust Disaster Recovery Plan in place.

Redeveloping Company Infrastructure
The terms ‘business continuity planning’ and ‘disaster recovery’ are often misinterpreted. In reality, disaster recovery is an element of the overall business continuity plan. It helps in saving data with the sole purpose of recovering business critical information when a disaster strikes. IT disasters may be minor: loss of business critical datasets, or major: loss of entire data centre. Recovering corporate databases is similar to redevelopment of a company infrastructure.

Protecting your digital assets from such disasters helps achieve outcomes like improved business operations, reduced disruptions, reduced business losses, and so on.

Measuring the State of DR and BC
A recent survey by NFIB reported that 30 percent of the businesses have been affected by natural disasters, while 10 percent of them are affected by man-made disasters. Power outages can put the entire business at risk. The University of Texas also reported that only 6 percent of enterprises have been able to survive a catastrophic data loss whereas, 43 percent businesses were shut down immediately and 51 percent of them closed operations within two years. Gartner estimates that today only 35 percent of SMBs have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan in place. International Data Corp. estimates that enterprises lose an average of $84,000 for every hour of downtime.

While it is expensive to eliminate a single failure in your IT infrastructure, a DRP assures that the failure does not disturb your operations or result in data loss. Hardware is replaceable, while data is not. 

An IT disaster is devastating for a business since you lose customer’s trust. It is evident when customers lose thousands of dollars per minute of downtime, which is not rare in some industries. 

Defining the Parameters of DRP 
RPO (Recovery Point Objective) is a well-defined parameter of the DRP, which determines which files are to be backed up and at what frequency. For example, you are hosting an e-commerce website, reporting one transaction every three hours. Managing the loss of one transaction is possible; however four missed transactions will result in an emergency. 

In the case of large corporations, 1000 transactions are reported on an hourly basis. This increases the RPO as you cannot afford to lose data even for a single minute. Thus, you should leverage continuous replication of data in different seismic and availability zones. 

Another parameter, RTO (Recovery Time Objective) is the defined timeframe within which a system must be restored after a disaster without affecting the business continuity. Being offline means higher risk of bad publicity, angry customers, and loss of revenue.

It remains no secret that disaster recovery is featuring in every company’s business continuity plan. Gartner states that by 2020, 30% of the global businesses will leverage data backup, slightly up from less than 10 percent at the beginning of 2016.

By 2018, 70 percent of enterprises will control their data protection services, compared to 30 percent today; and by 2020, above 40 percent of enterprises will replace long-term backup with archiving systems — as compared to 20 percent in 2015. Hence, data and operational uptime is critical. 

Following an Active DRP 
Communication is essential when a disaster strikes. Documents having updated contact information of employees is must. Employees must clearly understand about their role after the disaster. For instance, set up workstations, assess damage, redirect phones, etc. 

Data backup is essential to maintain business continuity. Placing the backup on an external hard drive is an additional measure. Having a detailed inventory of workstations; taking photos of individual inventory items and equipments actively used by employees will be an essential step. 

Disaster recovery is another reason to move towards server-based computing. Leveraging cloud based technologies (AWS, Azure, etc.), remote machine interfaces, and VDI are essential to move important machinery offsite. You can choose either active-active disaster recovery, i.e. both infrastructures are simultaneously active, or active-passive i.e. one infrastructure becomes active when the other is inactive, or choose a model where the infrastructure is situated in a remote server with specified RPO and RTO. 

Several organizations wonder about the right approach to plan a disaster recovery audit program. Regular audits are essential, due to technological upgrades or manpower churn in your enterprise. 

Disaster Recovery is the best insurance for your data and digital assets as you can get monetary compensation by buying insurance for your business disruption, physical, and digital damages but you cannot get that valuable and vital data back.

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