Planning for a data disaster

Complications and high costs have prevented many businesses from creating their own data disaster relief plan. But the advent of cloud services tailored towards data recovery are now set to make planning for the worst a lot easier.

As Australia experiences record breaking temperatures and the threat of bushfires becomes a reality for some, now is the time to ask if your organisation is prepared for potential disaster this year.

Just like how a bushfire survival plan is an essential for residents in bushfire prone areas, so too is a disaster recovery (DR) plan for an organisation or business. Unlike a bushfire survival plan, which mainly tackles a fire threat, a disaster recovery plan tackles multiple threats that could incur an outage to business services including fire, floods, earthquakes, electricity outages, system failures and so on. More importantly, a DR plan looks at the ‘what if?’ scenarios and plans for these various would-be situations.

The start of the new year is a good time to review and update your DR plan. When was the last time your organisation looked at its DR plan? How well does the DR plan map to the recovery timen objective (RTO) or recovery point objective (RPO) requirements for business services? In the event of an outage, are you confident that business services will come back online quickly? All these are important questions to ask about your DR plan.

Most organisations haven’t prioritised DR as traditional plans have been costly to develop and implement. However, a cloud hosted solution offers a more viable alternative for many organisations.

With cost as a main inhibitor for many organisations, DR in the cloud or more commonly known as recovery as a service (RaaS), is a cost effective option as it eliminates significant hardware and maintenance costs; cutting out large upfront capital expenses.

With RaaS, an organisation doesn’t need to implement its own comprehensive disaster recovery plan. Instead, the organisation can use a cloud service provider which offers multisite availability and fast recovery times at less cost than traditional disaster recovery. Whether an organisation can take advantage of RaaS will depend on it taking a look at its DR needs and matching them to a service that fits.

Analyst firm Gartner predicts that by 2014, over 30 per cent of midsize companies will have adopted DR in the cloud or RaaS. According to Gartner, RaaS addresses well-recognised 'pain points' in IT disaster recovery management, including the need for frequent recovery-readiness testing and the cost of dedicated recovery floor space and facilities.

Having your DR solution hosted in the cloud becomes a flexible, pay-as-you-go operating expense, where organisations only pay for the capacity they consume, and can fine-tune or terminate services altogether on demand.

While there are advantages to RaaS, two key inhibitors are a fast and reliable bandwidth and stringent security and privacy laws of data. With RaaS, organisations are essentially replicating their entire server workload (comprising of data, applications and operating system) into the cloud so high bandwidth speed with low latency is critical – especially for very large server workloads.

The rollout of the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network (NBN) will help overcome these challenges and speed up the adoption of RaaS. When it comes to recovery, reliability of bandwidth plays a mission critical role as the workload needs to be available and accessible by the users.

The topic of DR and business continuity is always elevated on the agenda of organisations and government in the wake of a disaster. We saw this in the recent earthquake disasters in Christchurch and Japan, where many have struggled to rebuild their businesses.

Sadly, for organisations that haven’t suffered loss, DR discussions are generally placed in the ‘non- urgent’ folder. Organisations naturally tend to focus on the projects that deliver a measurable return on investment and provide business benefits around efficiency and cost reduction.

Organisations that suffer loss in these disasters are more likely to recognise the need for better protection, have a solid DR plan and look at ways that RaaS can fit into those plans. 

So if you want your organisation to bounce back quickly should disaster strike this year, keeping ‘down-time’ and costs down to a minimum, have a look at your DR plan today. Can you afford not to?

Steve Stavridis is NetIQ’s disaster recovery expert for the Asia-Pacific

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