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Disaster recovery

Organizations are seeing a radical shift in values that emphasize knowledge over the delivery of products and services. Hence, the change highlights the critical nature of access to an organization’s data assets.

IT (information technology) no longer requires a tremendous stretch of imagination to envision scenarios that can cripple an organization’s technology assets. No matter how unlikely it maybe, every organization must face the near certainty of a business-wide failure of IT systems occurring at a future date.

Preparing an organization for the unexpected events is the domain of business continuity planning (BCP). BCP is a procedure whereby an organization to ensure that essential business processes continue following a disaster strike. The BCP takes into consideration of the need for alternate facilities (offices, warehouses, and retail outlets) if normal business locations become inaccessible. A host of other items are included in the plan, including departmental guidelines detailing how to maintain business operations under extraordinary circumstances.

Disaster Recovery Planning (DRP) is a subset of BCP and focuses solely on the recovery of IT systems. The DR plan, the output of the DRP process, documents procedures for IT staff to follow when re-establishing business systems after an outage. Each business application must be cataloged, its recovery needs assessed and documented, and the importance of the application to the organization quantified to enable the IT staff to prioritize the recovery process.

Disaster recovery planning has categorized the datacenters into hot-site, warm-site and cold-site. The specific characteristics of sites may vary between organizations.

  • A DR hot-site provides fully operational computing environment that includes servers, storage, and networking equipment. Applications and data at the hot-site are closely synchronized with the primary data center. In a disaster, operational support of IT systems can be quickly switched from the primary site to the hot-site. The prompt failover of applications to a hot-site minimizes the impact of an outage on the business.

  • A warm-site generally refers to a data center facility with all the necessary hardware and communications equipment needed to run a business; however, the systems are not kept in a constant state of operational readiness. When a disaster strikes, applications and data must be recovered at the warm-site to provide support for ongoing business operations.

  • A cold-site facility has no hardware, but it provides power, communications access, and an environment for hosting a computer infrastructure. Following a disaster, IT staff must recreate the data center from scratch, and some considerable work is needed before the facility can host business applications.

Before a DR site could be concluded, most organizations will perform a business impact analysis (BIA). BIA quantifies the impact of an outage to each business systems, in which determines what the consequences of the loss of a specific IT systems. For example, a failure disrupting the accounts payable system may have affected cash flow, customer retention and credit rating. Most BIA result produces two key metrics that measures a business systemís ability to tolerate lost data and downtime Ė recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO).

  • RPO represents the amount of data an application can lose before an organization begin to suffer.

  • RTO indicates how much time the IT staff can take to bring the application back online after a disaster occurs.

The unit of measure for both RPO and RTO is time, with values ranging from seconds to days / weeks / months. The closer an application RTO and RPO values are to zero, the greater the organizationís dependence on that particular process, and consequently the higher the priority when recovering the systems after a disaster.