The four steps to efficient disaster recovery

The true cost of downtime for a business can't be simply quantified in dollars and complacency with DR is asking for trouble.

Organisations and CIOs need to be prepared for disaster, and there is a lot of talk in the industry around making effective use of technology for Disaster Recovery (DR) solutions. But for all the talk, and all the promises from your technology partners, are you truly prepared for disaster?

The cost of downtime can run into the tens of thousands of dollars per hour, making it one of the most critical risks that CIOs and IT Managers need to manage. Despite this, many organisations are unsure how prepared they really are should downtime hit; whether that be because their DR solution isn’t comprehensive enough, or perhaps that it’s so complex that only a limited number of staff are able to respond if an event hits.

CIOs need to still think about their DR strategy, even if they have one in place. If you’re asked the following questions, how comfortable are you with the answers?

Is your company able to work after or during a disaster?

It sounds so simple, but it’s amazing how few organisations are truly prepared for the worst. Take storage for instance; many organisations have backup, however, recovering from a standard backup solution can take days. Tapes (yes, many still use tapes as the primary backup) need to be shipped and environments need to be rebuilt and it is clear that this is not a process built for your mission-critical data at all.

The question CIOs need to be asking themselves is if they have a hardware-agnostic solution that delivers consistent recovery with reduced operation costs. Assuming that a basic DR solution is going to be sufficient to cover all disasters not preparing for disaster at all.

Have you got the skills in your team to cover the multiple DR solutions you need?

If your organisation does have the multiple recovery solutions in place to ensure uptime, it’s important to make sure the staff know how to administer it. Multiple solutions cause confusion and configuration complexity during an actual disaster event, so your organisation needs to guarantee that the right administrators need to be available with different specialties and with multiple DR tools.

If the solution is not so simple that anyone can use it and whoever is available can execute the failover, then there is the potential for the DR solution to still fail.

Is recovery possible at the application level?

DR solutions for storage and data are not enough and regardless of how robust your data DR is, if your applications are not restored as well then the DR strategy has failed. Application groups ensure that all the virtual machines (VMs) supporting the mission-critical application are protected consistently.

If the DR solution cannot effectively support application groups, ad hoc groupings must be leveraged which can cause errors, especially in high pressure situations.

How long would it take to restore everything to working order?

Being able to get everything into working order is only part of an effective DR solution. Getting all the systems back up and running in a timely fashion is the holygrail, and the key here is preparedness. Have you prepared your people and tested the solution? The technical disaster recovery component is a difficult operation that requires testing and coordination. If you’re working with partners you’ll need to make sure that the collaboration between your organisation, and theirs, is efficient and prepared as well.

Complacency with DR is asking for trouble, and it is important for the technology decision makers within an organisation to keep checking, testing, and innovating within their DR solutions and strategies to ensure that the impact of downtime does not become a horror story in the press.

Andrew Thomas is the chief executive officer for Thomas Dureya Consuting.

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