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DR: One size doesn't fit all, but it fits most

Bits & Bytes: The "one size fits all" DR debate continues. This time consultant Kevin Fox weighs in on how to think about establishing a DR plan should you be without one now.

Ed note: This column from Kevin Fox is in reaction to dueling articles from Jon Toigo on "Beware of DR Planning Recipes" and Mike Mitchell's response to that article, "DR lite(er): A "workbook" approach for small companies"

From a consultant's point of view the reality of the DR situation is that nothing is truly 'right' for a given customer once you move outside of pure IT. It would be great if all companies could afford a formal DR plan, storage capacity planning assessment or network infrastructure assessment. In many cases, once you move outside of IT and consider the business aspects of IT, it just isn't feasible. Although the economy is, and will continue to be, the primary whipping post, the fact of the matter is that backup and recovery, DR and designing remote facilities just aren't in the limelight and fall into a category I call 'soft ROI".

"Soft ROI" are measures that don't obviously contribute to the bottom line of your business. For example all insurance policies, just like your automobile insurance. As long as nothing goes wrong, the money is a drain on profit. Traditionally only truly large companies could afford a formally designed and tested process, but that doesn't mean the capability is only for the large.

One area where I break from ranks is the DR approach in large vs. small companies. My view is inverse to most analysts. A large company spends an enormous amount of capital on DR, as well they should. While larger companies may spend a lot dollar-wise on DR, the percentages may be small when compared to the revenue of the entire company. The unaffected business units of this company can (and have) sustain the business as other operations recover.

However, if you run a small business with 300 employees and a centralized set of 4 servers in a small room -- you probably can't afford the manpower for a full-scale DR plan. (Remember the industry metric that 80% of companies that experience an extended outage fail within a year) I would suggest that in most circumstances, smaller companies are in greater need for D.R. than larger ones.

The business rule is to determine just how detailed you need to be. This is NOT an IT decision it is a business decision. Whether this as part of an overall phased-approach or just to identify and eliminate the most common issues isn't important.

Some type of DR plan is critical, and THAT should be the bottom line. For smaller companies, a workbook approach is not only feasible, it is probably the only way you could implement this highly critical part of I.T. The workbook may not be as detailed as a traditional model, and may not address all aspects of DR; it may lack the critical path review and quality checkpoints of a formal process. It is, however, cheaper and more manpower effective for a small company. Everyone needs a DR plan of some type and if consultants aren't in the budget, use the workbook approach to minimize the danger.

Do you want to see more articles or insights from noted industry observers? Visit the complete Bits & Bytes column library.

About Kevin Fox

Kevin Fox is a senior technical specialist for US Logical. He provides technology planning, installation, high-availability services, backup and recovery (including disaster recovery planning), services to our clients. Kevin has been trained by EMC in the latest EDM (EMC Data Manager) backup software and holds various certifications from HP. Kevin has more than 15 year experience designing complex infrastructures. He has completed seven major high-availability and backup/recovery projects in the past two years.

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