This ISG white paper examines recent developments in DR strategy development, in terms of both the impact of the broader IT market as well as evolving best practices related specifically to disaster recovery.
Safety First - Emerging Trends in IT Disaster Recovery
Emerging Trends in IT Disaster Recovery
By Cindy LaChapelle, Principal Consultant
Against a backdrop of increasingly integrated and interdependent global
service delivery chains, as well as highly publicized business disruptions, an
effective disaster recovery (DR) strategy is becoming a top priority for
enterprises. While the risks posed by catastrophic events and natural
disasters tend to dominate headlines, most business downtime is actually
caused by low-profile factors such as hardware failures, data loss, power and
network outages, security breaches, human error and application failures.
These factors can damage an organization’s long-term performance and
reputation as much as a natural disaster or malicious attack, and must be
addressed in any comprehensive DR plan.
Moreover, IT industry trends such as cloud computing, virtualization and
social media are forcing businesses to fundamentally reevaluate how they
plan, test and execute their DR strategy.
This ISG white paper examines recent developments in DR strategy
development, in terms of both the impact of the broader IT market as well as
evolving best practices related specifically to disaster recovery.
As the adoption of cloud services increases, enterprises
recognize that the cloud can become part of a DR plan.
Rather than buying resources dedicated to disaster
recovery, cloud computing allows companies to pay on a
per-use basis for both long-term data storage as well as
for servers needed for an actual disaster or test.
Cloud-based disaster recovery gives enterprises the
potential for a lower-cost, faster and more flexible
recovery solution for backing up their data. Moreover,
cloud-based DR solutions can provide a small- to
medium-sized business (SMB) with enterprise-level DR
capability at a reasonable cost. At minimum, an SMB can
store critical data sets in the cloud so that in the event of
a disaster critical business systems can be recovered
quickly. Prior to cloud-based solutions, most DR
strategies for SMB organizations were either cost
prohibitive or largely ad hoc. Advances in cloud solutions
allow SMBs to implement DR strategies that provide
Server virtualization has become a key component of DR
planning as it reduces downtime and provides businesses
with greater flexibility with computing resources. With
virtualization, businesses can potentially create an image
of an entire data center that can be quickly activated
when needed, thereby speeding recovery time at a
relatively low cost.
As more and more companies take to virtualization,
disaster recovery as a process becomes much easier and
efficient to deploy, especially with fast and utilitarian
replication software or regular cloud-based or physical
back-ups. Server virtualization, combined with a remote
copy of critical data, can ensure faster Recovery Time
Objectives (RTO) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPO)
aligned to business requirements. SMBs can leverage
virtualized services for both data back-up and servers to
create a viable DR solution for critical business systems
without huge expense.
By giving employees the ability to work remotely and
stay connected in the event of a disaster or business
disruption, increasingly sophisticated mobile devices are
being recognized as a way to facilitate business
continuity, maintain productivity and minimize
downtime. However, as mobility continues to gain
traction, businesses must include employees’ mobile
devices in back-up plans. Indeed, many organizations lack
documented back-up plans for either mobile devices or
desktops and laptops. At a minimum, a cloud solution
should be used to back up mobile device contacts,
calendars and call logs, which allows users and corporate
administrators to restore this data.
As do mobile devices, social networks provide another
avenue for people internal or external to the
organization to stay in contact during or after a disaster.
Social media can be leveraged as an alternative channel
to provide effective, vital crisis management in a disaster,
improving emergency communications and reducing the
risk of dependency on more traditional and vulnerable
methods such as email and cellular telecommunications.
By incorporating social media into crisis communications
plans, enterprises can take a proactive approach to
rapidly disseminate information. A well-organized and
prompt response is crucial, as is identifying appropriate
roles and establishing the organization’s voice and tone.
Failing to do so can pose both operational and public
relations risks. Due to the conversational nature of social
media, a lack of digital presence during a disaster can
quickly create an atmosphere where questions,
accusations and misinformation escalate. Without the
appropriate response at hand, this atmosphere can
compound the adverse situation and detract from
communications and recovery efforts.
MANAGED DISASTER RECOVERY
Enterprises are realizing they cannot rely solely on inhouse IT staff to deliver a repeatable recovery response
in a crisis. As a result, a growing consensus has emerged
that disaster recovery should be managed and delivered
by third-party providers focused entirely on disaster
Managed solutions are emerging as an effective way to
provide highly available, automated DR systems with
data replication for delivering proven recovery. While
businesses have traditionally viewed offsite data back-up
and storage as sufficient to ensure data recovery and
maintenance of operations, well-executed back-up and
restore solutions in and of themselves do not guarantee
a well-defined disaster recovery plan.
Comprehensive disaster recovery requires alignment to
business risk and regular testing, neither of which have
typically been priorities in back-up solutions. In recent
years, events such as the 9/11 attacks and the tsunami in
Japan have caused many organizations to reassess their
overall data protection strategies for data back-up and
recovery, disaster recovery and business continuity as
well as long-term retention and security of their data.
Many organizations are redesigning their DR solutions to
leverage data replication and reduce dependency on
back-ups as the primary DR strategy for recovery. The
higher latency associated with some traditional recovery
solutions such as tape back-up has resulted in the
adoption of more flexible and cost-effective technologies
such as software replication.
As part of this trend, many organizations have migrated
from tape-based DR solutions to disk-based ones and
from tape-based vaulting to electronic-based vaulting
such as software replication, continuous data protection,
back-up to remote libraries, etc.
RECOVERY POINT OBJECTIVES (RPO)
A Recovery Point Objective (RPO) is the point in time to
which data must be recovered as defined by the
business. The RPO represents the target elapsed time
between occurrence of the major incident or failure and
the restoration of the last completed copy being used.
Recovery Time Objective (RTO) refers to the time
required to recover data after a major incident. These
targets should align to targets defined in the DR plan,
and need to be defined based on business need and
criticality. Zero data loss scenarios may be some
combination of the data protection strategies described
The DR plan should also define what systems need to be
in place (and where they should be located) to get key
business applications up and running again. Often, critical
system and application RTOs are shorter than the typical
24-hour interval associated with daily back-ups, so other
data protection technologies and strategies such as
remote replication or mirroring, snapshots or point in
time copies, or continuous data protection technologies
may need to be implemented.
BALANCING COST AND RISK
continuity of business operations remaining high for
organizations worldwide, ISG expects these disaster
recovery trends to accelerate over the next few years.
Businesses should leverage multiple storage technologies
to provide the right level of flexibility and
responsiveness, while balancing cost and complexity.
Virtual Tape Libraries (VTL) and disk-based solutions
provide faster back-ups and faster recovery times for key
systems and applications and frequently used data.
To control costs, while still addressing responsiveness
and compliance requirements, disk-based data can be
migrated to lower-cost tape storage over time. Disk and
VTL solutions also offer deduplication capability, which
can significantly reduce overall storage requirements by
limiting the total amount of data stored. New advances
in tape technologies, such as Linear Tape File System
(LTFS), may provide reasonable alternative approaches to
disk-based technologies for both faster access to back-up
data and for lower performance storage tiers for archive
solutions. LTFS is a self-describing file system that makes
files on tape directly host-readable, enabling tape to be
used in the same fashion as a USB drive.
ONGOING TESTING AND REFRESH
Another imperative is to establish a regular program for
testing and validating back-ups by performing random
restores of files and data sets. Integrating this testing
with DR planning and testing ensures that data can be
recovered from back-ups within the required time
frames. The worst time to discover that back-ups are
failing or are unrecoverable due to media failures or
other corruptions is in the middle of a disaster.
Back-up and disaster recovery solutions should be
revisited and redesigned as the business evolves and
requirements change. Once implemented, these
solutions should not be considered static and expected
to run unmodified forever. Factors such as exponential
growth of structured and unstructured data, new and
changing regulatory and compliance requirements, and a
greater need for faster and more effective disaster
readiness are driving IT organizations to embrace more
complex and adaptable data recovery solutions to
address business needs.
The cost of DR solutions needs to be carefully balanced
against the business risk and cost of downtime. To
address this challenge, many businesses are reviewing
cloud-based back-up and storage options for disaster
recovery. With the need to protect data and maintain