15 Jun 2012

Keeping your business online in the event of a disaster

Until recently, truly comprehensive disaster recovery (DR) solutions have largely been the preserve of the big end of town.With the emergence of disaster recovery to the cloud however, this is quickly changing.Cloud technology makes DR solutions both more efficient and less costly. (One business we recently helped to move to the cloud, for example, cut their DR budget in half.)Expect to see DR to the cloud becoming the status quo for DR solutions in Australia, especially for SMEs.The question that many businesses will be asking is what criteria should they use to assess disaster recovery alternatives, and which is the right choice for them?

Thinking more deeply about disasters

Before assessing individual solutions, it’s important to pause to consider exactly what a DR solution is.Its primary goal is an obvious one: returning your business to normal operations as quickly as possible in the event of a disaster.Flood and fire are obvious situations where DR will be critical. But a “disaster” can also be defined as any event that prevents normal operations from taking place, including an IT failure, accidentally-cut power or communications cables, or storm damage.
  • What is the chance that a disaster will happen to your business?
Research suggests that 20% of businesses will suffer some form of disaster event in any given five-year period.
  • What effect will it have?
KPMG researchers estimate that 40% of businesses who experience a disaster and don’t have a plan will go out of businesses within the next two years.

What to look for in a solution

From security to data location to your existing investments, there are many things to consider when evaluating a new DR solution.For most businesses, perhaps the most important will be recovery speed.

Recovery speed

The recovery speed your DR system allows will play a large role in determining the ultimate effect of a disaster on your business.Two measures are important:
  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO): This measures how long it will take for your most recent data to be available to you.
  • Recovery Time Objective (RTO): This measures how long it will take for your business systems to be accessible again.
Of course, the lower these two times, the better. A lot will depend on the nature of your systems and your DR regime. If you’re using physical machines, it might take around 24 hours for both. If you’re using virtualisation and a cloud infrastructure, you could achieve an RPO of 15 minutes and an RTO of only an hour.What to look for in a DR providerThere are a few minimum standards to expect from any DR to the cloud provider:
  •  99.95% guaranteed server and network availability: The higher the SLA you can find; the better.
  •  On-shore data centres: For confidence and compliance.
  • Scalability and flexibility: With today’s near-exponential data growth, the provider must be able to support and adapt to your needs.
  • Financial stability: As with any cloud project, the stability of your provider is an important concern.

Summing up

Demand for DR solutions is increasing for a number of reasons, including an increasing reliance on IT systems as well as regulatory and data governance concerns.For SMEs, the evolution of DR into the cloud has arrived at a good time. The solution is a powerful option for businesses looking to improve their resilience – especially if, like some businesses, you’re yet to put a disaster recovery plan in place.Dave Stevens is MD, Brennan IT.(This blog post was first published on the SmartCompany website on June 14 2012)
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