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Disaster recovery planning process still a hit-or-miss affair

Nearly half of the companies we recently surveyed still don't have a disaster recovery planning process in place.

Nearly half of the companies we recently surveyed still don't have a disaster recovery planning process in place. Those that do are generally confident their plans will work if needed, with 63% expressing "moderate" confidence and 20% saying their confidence level is "high."

But our data protection survey also reveals that testing of disaster recovery (DR) readiness is spotty at best, with half of the respondents reporting that they either don't have a set testing schedule (10%) or test just once a year (40%). Most (60%) say their DR planning process covers only mission-critical applications.

Looking under the hood of companies' DR plans, we find that 60% use some form of disk-based backup, 47% use remote replication and 40% still rely on good old tape. Thirty-seven percent send tapes off site to a vaulting or storage service. And while there's been plenty of talk about DR being the new killer app for cloud storage and computing services, it's apparently taking a while to catch on, as only a handful of respondents use online vaulting (10%) or cloud backup services (7%) as part of their DR planning scenarios. But 29% say they plan to purchase outsourced DR services within the next 12 months, which presumably would include cloud-based DR as well as online vaulting. Those who are considering cloud-based DR purchases have high standards; for them, the most important factors when evaluating these products and services are:

  • Price (71%)
  • Promised recovery time (71%)
  • Reputation/reliability of the vendor (65%)
  • Ease of use (65%)
  • Autonomy/control of their company's data (59%)
  • Compatibility with existing backup/storage infrastructure (41%)
  • Ability to outsource tasks/responsibilities (29%)

When shopping for tape, disk or cloud technologies for disaster recovery, the top priority is that the product or service can meet current and future capacity requirements (83%). Price is important, too, with 79% saying the cost of a solution is a key concern. Sixty-two percent first consider whether a product or service can meet their RTO/RPO requirements, while the main consideration for 59% of those surveyed is that the DR technology is compatible with their firm's existing infrastructure.

DR plan in place
DR plan testing
DR plan confidence
DR technologies used
DR purchase plans

About the author:
Rich Castagna is TechTarget's VP of Editorial/Storage Media Group.

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It’s interesting to see how we compare with other companies in the industry. While we do perform quarterly tests of our DR systems, we are in the 60% whose DR planning process covers only the mission-critical systems, and firmly ensconced with the majority of companies using disk-based backups and remote replication. I think that one potential obstacle to cloud-based DR is simply the how DR ranks within the organization compared to other high-priority issues. I’ve often seen DR processes take a back seat when more pressing or high-profile issues or initiatives pop-up.
You are not alone!

As far as using cloud resources for DR, many companies that we've talked to have found they can save money with cloud DR--and often, they can recover much more quickly as well. The main impediment is the same one that typically causes hesitation about committing operations to cloud services--the concerns about shipping company data offsite.
In my experience disaster recovery only gets serious when an organization chases something like an ISO quality standard, until then often just untested processes.
Or, sadly, when disaster (large or small) actually strikes. One of the (short-lived) eye-openers that we experienced was when one of our systems that was housed on-site at one of our locations became compromised by a water leak a floor above that flooded our “server room.” The pain involved in restoring the system, recovering what data we could from backup, and then manually re-entering the missing data proved to be a huge (although short-lived) shot in the arm for our DR processes. One excellent benefit that we were able to capitalize on, and continue to do so despite the fall of DR back by the way side, was in storing company data offsite in cloud-based services. I think that truly helped establish an attitude of cloud tolerance, and we’ve done our best to take advantage of that.
For a lot of companies, cloud DR is the only feasible alternative for getting data offsite--they may not have multiple sites, the budget to afford a colo or the tape infrastructure that is surprisingly still a key part of many DR plans. Selling DR as a company investment is always tough--like selling insurance. But cloud DR should be an easier sell given that it costs so much less than most alternatives and it can typically provide RTOs and RPOs that simply can't be matched with other methods.
Plan for the worst and hope for the best. It's true in business and data security too. If you don't have a plan in place, you're going to be scrambling when someone finally cracks your firewall or facility data center. I revert to my cry of "have some common sense, people!"
Great advice, Jeff. I think the best argument for DR planning is considering what it could cost a company if it took days--or even weeks--to recover from an outage.
Any real DR test has to practice not only taking out systems, but electricity, HVAC, and people too. What happens if there's a disaster and your IT guy, who's the only one with the passwords, can't get to the office for one reason or another and can't be reached?

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