How Disaster Recovery Planning Adds Value

According to the US Archives and Records Administration, 93% of the companies that lost their entire data for 10 days or more filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster and 50% of businesses that found themselves without data management for this same period of time filed for bankruptcy immediately.

With words like “entire” and “bankruptcy” these are scary statistics!  Maybe they are just a little too scary.  According to one recent psychological study, we are biologically wired to ignore the implications of doom and gloom statistics like these.[1],[2]  We all believe that a “disaster” is something that happens to someone else and you know what?  The odds are on our side!  The term “disaster” may be a little too melodramatic in the precise world of data and computers.  It is, however, a concise way of describing the disruption to business caused by inability to access critical data or systems.

Causes of severe data losscauses_of_data_loss

According to a 2011 Aberdeen study[3], only 5% of small and 9% of mid-sized business reported data loss from a natural disaster. However, let’s get a little more realistic and expand the concept of a data disaster to any data related event that disrupts your ability to run your business for a period of time.  Take a look at the chart to the right[4] for some of the typical causes of data “disasters”.

Disaster Recovery Planning – Where do we begin?

Disaster recovery planning does not need to be expensive or disruptive to your normal operations.  However, it does require you to answer some potentially difficult questions like:

  • Where is your data stored? Any critical spreadsheets kept on a client computer only?
  • What data and systems do you depend on?
  • How will you test the recovery part of your disaster recovery plan? Do you have the ability to test restore a whole system?  How often?
  • How long can you really go without critical and noncritical data and services?
  • How much data can you afford to lose or have to recreate?
  • How much does downtime really cost you?

Disaster Recovery Planning – Benefits

A backup is only as good as its last successful restore.  Now, while you have more than one good copy of your data, is the perfect time to find out that the backup does not quite restore as expected or is missing that new database that has quickly become a critical system.  Implementing the requirements of the resulting Disaster Recovery Plan also often results in more streamlined processes and procedures and the elimination of complexity and waste.  Did someone say Lean?

The following list of general recommendations will not only simplify the process of implementing a disaster recovery plan, they will deliver immediate benefits to the business by eliminating wasted time, greatly reducing the risk of downtime and shrinking recovery and problem diagnosis times.

Extend management technologies that automate the process of asset management, system configuration, and software distribution. IDC found that time associated with backup and recovery procedures could be reduced by 85% to 90% when automation and new technologies were applied.[5] How many of these technologies have you heard of and how many do you use on your network?

  • Active Directory
  • Group Policy
  • PowerShell
  • Hyper-V
  • Cloud Managed Antivirus
  • Remote Monitoring and Management

Constrain your environment to a finite number of standard programs, operating systems and database products, making the whole system easier to maintain and update.
Use appropriate software. If you are running multi-user environments (e.g. MYOB, Reckon Accounts, Inventory Control, Practice Management) on a desktop operating system move to a server and server operating system.  Servers and server operating systems can be relatively inexpensive and they enable many of the technologies required to streamline much of your system maintenance workload.
Standardize IT practices, especially management of settings and configurations. For example, use Group Policy to manage settings and software on your computers.

Keep your software up to date.  Yes, occasionally an update will cause an old piece of software to hiccup but this is far less insidious than a slow death by bugs patched long ago.  Even if you are running antivirus software, keeping Windows up to date is required as your antivirus software may not sufficiently protect you from Windows security issues.  It is good practice to install updates automatically especially on client computers.  When you install updates you are in control of your systems rather than risking ceding control to malware-toting criminals.  Occasionally you also get a few new features as a bonus.  If you haven’t updated to windows 8.1 yet do so now and stop torturing yourself with that Metro interface!
Keep up with hardware technology, sensibly, especially when it comes to the hardware you use for data storage and backup. Hard disc storage is cheap and usually easy to add.  Unfortunately, the transfer speed in and out of your data storage often lags behind (see the graph opposite).  Still running 100Mbps Ethernet?  1Gbps Ethernet is ten times faster.  In reality, other components come into play but you will still see a speed increase of between 5 and 10 times.  The difference between 20 minutes and around 3 hours to transfer 100GB of data!  A 1 Gbps network card will cost around $15.

[1] “Why You Need Backup and Disaster Recovery Whitepaper”,  https://secure.n-able.com/signup/asset/why_you_need_backup_wp.pdf, Feb 2015

[2] Annalee Newitz. “Your brain won’t allow you to believe the apocalypse could actually happen.” io9.com, 14 October, 2011.

[3] “Small vs. Large Enterprise Data Backup; Same Concept, Very Different Process.” Aberdeen Group, June 2011

[4] The Cost of Lost Data, The importance of investing in that “ounce of prevention”, DAVID M. SMITH, PHD, Graziadio Business Review, 2003 Volume 6 Issue 3

[5] Randy Perry, Jean S. Bozman, and Raymond Boggs. “Business Risk and the Midsize Firm: What Can Be Done to Minimize Disruptions?” IDC, June 2010.