DR Gets a Life

Mary E. Shacklett, President, Transworld Data | 12/2/2011 | 6 comments

Mary E. Shacklett
Nothing is more important than your disaster recovery (DR) and business continuation plan when you really need it -- but the odds are pretty high that you never will. Hardly anyone ever says this out loud, but there is an unspoken understanding in IT and elsewhere in the business that disaster recovery planning and testing can always take a back seat when there are other revenue-enhancing and cost-cutting projects screaming to get done.

All this is starting to change, however, as DR begins an ascent on the CIO’s “to do” list. This isn’t because of recent memories of Hurricane Katrina, the volcano in Iceland, or the tsunami in Japan. Instead, the sudden leapfrogging of disaster recovery to the front page of IT strategic plans is integrally tied to the idea of cloud-based services that can be provisioned to users instantaneously. These services are accompanied by rigorous sets of SLAs (service level agreements) that commit IT to 24/7 processing and five nines uptime for internal users, as well as for external customers if you are providing a commercial cloud offering.

You can hear the new DR refrain begin to echo out of CIO offices around the world. In Italy, a payment processor’s CIO recently revealed that it will now accept nothing short of 100 percent uptime for payment processing operations. It has spent the past three years consolidating datacenter operations, implementing cloud-based technologies, and investing heavily in multiple communications channels between datacenters. It has also invested in complex data mirroring scenarios and failover mechanisms that allow computers in two datacenters to parallel process transactions with complete transparency for end users should any production problem or disaster strike.

Across the Atlantic, a large Midwest manufacturer has implemented “follow the sun” IT services and computing to guarantee any of the company’s 200,000 worldwide employees can get an IT expert at any time, day or night, in any time zone to resolve a potential production problem or failover scenario. On the East Coast, a major hospitality industry company now shards its database in datacenters around the world. That way, its premium transaction processing is unaffected by the political and physical slowdowns of Internet communications between countries that can render the company less competitive and even inoperable in locales far from the central office.

In every case, disaster recovery and business continuation becomes a vital ingredient of the ultimate business solution. Even the best executed of services can be interrupted by disaster, and in an IT environment that is nonstop and intensely competitive, taking a “time out” to recover from an unexpected situation simply isn’t tolerated anymore.

The trick for CIOs now is to figure out how to design disaster recovery thinking into everyday thinking, so that a new generation of tough SLAs can be met. Doing this is a near impossible task if you approach disaster recovery planning and testing the old-fashioned way -- as a separate project. This is why it makes sense strategically and operationally to include DR planning and testing for each new application and/or system you incorporate into your IT infrastructure. If DR and business continuation are added to the project task list and the project is not cleared to be implemented until the DR plan is written and tested, you have the necessary insurance that DR gets done.

Many CIOs are not sold on this approach to DR. But as more businesses are understanding the implications of a nonstop global market, CIOs are likewise beginning to understand it -- and it is getting easier for them to sell their directors and other C-level executives on the idea.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Mary E. Shacklett   DR Gets a Life   12/4/2011 11:14:58 AM
Re: Good Cloud Result
It is, indeed, very far from the truth, Curtis--and companies should start by  asking themselves what they are going to do if their cloud services provider gets hit with a disaster, or merges or goes out of  business.
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Mary E. Shacklett   DR Gets a Life   12/4/2011 11:12:59 AM
Re: well when you put it that way...
I think the reason DR is left off the project list when projects get done is that there are so many more projects waiting to get done--and the psychological urge is to move on and not document or do DR or anything else that IT is likely to consider as ancillary.

I don't believe (with the demands now on the data center) that DR should be  considered as ancillary anymore--but I also know I am a minority opinion on this.

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Hammad Masood   DR Gets a Life   12/3/2011 8:17:01 PM
Quite true ! The organizations should be ready for a disaster and should have the backup plan before hand. This can assist them for the future and the intensity of disaster can be cut down !
David Wagner   DR Gets a Life   12/2/2011 5:56:51 PM
Re: Good Cloud Result
@Mary- Thanks for the article. It is really nice to CIOs taking this seriously. What is interesting, though, is that I get the sense from your article that DR is still the second reason people are doing this. It seems like people are going to the cloud for business reasons and almost finding their DR plan in the process. Is that an accurate assessment?
CurtisFranklin   DR Gets a Life   12/2/2011 5:46:28 PM
Good Cloud Result
Mary, you wrote, "...the sudden leapfrogging of disaster recovery to the front page of IT strategic plans is integrally tied to the idea of cloud-based services..." I I'm pleased to know that this is spurring CIOs to think about DR rather than convincing them that DR isn't necessary. One of my worries about cloud computing is that there will be people who think that it makes business continuity plans unnecessary. That's the farthest thing from the truth, and the sorting of thinking that could have catastrophic consequences for those who indulge!
Sara Peters   DR Gets a Life   12/2/2011 5:23:27 PM
well when you put it that way...
As you say Mary: This is why it makes sense strategically and operationally to include DR planning and testing for each new application and/or system you incorporate into your IT infrastructure. If DR and business continuation are added to the project task list and the project is not cleared to be implemented until the DR plan is written and tested, you have the necessary insurance that DR gets done.

It makes so much sense. Your DR plan will be so much more complete and granular -- but not overly so -- if you just do it a little bit at a time with every project. It's the same method I'm supposed to use when cleaning my house. If I'd just do a little bit every day I wouldn't spend my whole weekend on it.

Any theories on why this wasn't always the way DR was done? Is it simply a matter of we'll-probably-never-need-it prioritization? I mean, as soon as you buy a car, you buy car insurance. As soon as you buy a house you get home-owners insurance. It's a bit strange that we don't apply the same principal to entire businesses.

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