Richard Dolewksi

Trends in Disaster Recovery: Is Your Organization Prepared?

Five major trends are changing the delivery of disaster recovery, and will impact organizations worldwide in the coming years. Learn what to do today to be ready.

by Richard Dolewksi, January 2013

What happens when a worst-case scenario becomes a very real crisis situation? Your business has experienced a true disaster. Can you rely on past emergency practices and processes?

Using the common framework for disaster recovery (DR) to manage risk is a classic mistake that will cost your organization both reputation and profit. The IT industry remains stunned from the business-threatening effects of super storm Sandy on the east coast of the United States. This wakeup call is driving a need to examine the people, technology, and geography as critical points of failure for delivering successful (and repeatable) disaster recovery results. The failed efforts and wasted dollars on today’s monolithic disaster recovery implementations are the primary reason for the backlash and decline in a CIO’s credibility for recovery in a disaster.

Five major trends are changing the delivery of disaster recovery, and will impact organizations worldwide in the coming years.

1. Managed disaster recovery will become the industry standard

Business leaders are realizing they can’t rely solely on in-house IT staff to deliver a repeatable recovery response in a crisis. Instead, there is growing acknowledgement that disaster recovery should be managed and delivered by professionals entirely focused on disaster recovery. A managed solution, delivered on behalf of an organization, must utilize a repeatable DR methodology for delivering proven recovery. Re-directing investment towards a managed DR solution removes the uncertainty of staff and infrastructure availability during a regional disaster. This trend will certainly put facilities-only providers at risk. It will also change the approach of organizations that have attempted to manage DR on their own.

2. Social media is the vehicle for disaster-related communications

Social media as a ubiquitous medium will provide vital crisis management to your DR solution, improving communications and eliminating the risk of dependency on less reliable traditional methods like email and cellular telecommunications. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are already becoming a go-to source for status updates from government officials and news outlets. We will see a move in this direction for inter-staff communications. Participants in the disaster want hyper-local information. They already know there is an outage. What they want to know is when the business will be operational. Information sharing with the affected community during the disaster about services, recovery times, and systems availability will be invaluable. This information is best provided by the disaster recovery team for the user community. Short, text-based messages are viable in a regional disaster for quickly and effectively getting information out to your staff through groups and distribution lists.

3. Geographic separation for disaster recovery will re-enter the conversation

In the United States, the impact of 2012’s super storm Sandy has reinforced the need for businesses to implement geographic solution-planning on a regional scale. Businesses will reassess solution planning as they realize they are unable to assume availability of their recovery solution provider if both their primary facility and internally managed hot site/external solution provider are located in the same region. We will see businesses enforce multiple region separation from their primary facility. Coupled with a managed disaster recovery model, geographic separation protects an organization from the impact of a regional emergency.

4. Electronic vaulting will replace tape backup for disaster recovery

Traditional tape backup and recovery solutions are simply not feasible in a regional disaster. The challenge and risk with this approach is the accompanying latency between when the data was protected and when the loss occurs, ever-increasing restore times driven by data growth, and off-site storage for continuity protection—typically managed within the same geographic region. Business leaders are realizing they can no longer afford permanent unrecoverable data loss due to tape backup, which has a recovery point objective (RPO) of 24 hours. There is a significant trend toward more flexible and cost-effective technologies such as software replication including failover and continuous data protection. We will start to see business data vaulted in servers outside of the local geographic region so it is available for data restoration to maintain business resiliency.

5. Recovery times will be measured in hours rather than days

Smart leaders will align their data protection schemes operationally and strategically with their goals for disaster recovery and business continuity. The need has become greater for stakeholders to protect data—the most valuable business asset. The cost of permanently lost data is high and includes the cost of lost revenue, loss of business value, and the cost to recreate it. Data protection and high availability are related, but still distinctly different objectives. Maintaining continuous application availability is becoming essential to overall business continuity efforts. Businesses should set measurable goals for their systems and data recovery based upon the capabilities of staff and current technologies and procedures.

Disaster recovery needs are changing at the speed of business. However, business needs 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. The vulnerabilities remain constant. When your staff is faced with a choice between recovering business in a regional disaster or taking care of their family and homes, the choice is obvious. Traditional syndicated hot-site provider solutions located in the same region are no longer viable. These trends will clearly change the delivery of disaster recovery.

Richard Dolewksi is vice president of Business Continuity Services for Velocity Technology Solutions and the author of the book System I Disaster Recovery Planning.