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Best Practices: Foolproof DR is still a moving target

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  1. Define and tier application recovery services. When business executives hear IT people talking DR strategy, they're thinking cost. DR represents insurance and because no one wants to buy too much insurance, efficiency is vital. While there are significant fixed costs inherent to DR--a recovery site, for example--there are also a substantial number of variable costs that can be controlled. The key is to realize that not every application requires a two-hour recovery time. Establishing a catalog of services based on BIA requirements that provide several levels of recovery and then aligning applications appropriately is one way to contain costs. With multilevel recovery services, applications can be prioritized according to importance. Among the business attributes that should be defined within the service catalog are risk (usually expressed in terms of RTO and RPO), quality of service (including performance and consistency levels) and cost.
  2. Implement a comprehensive cost model. While the BIA determines the impact of downtime to a line of business, and tiered recovery services provide a catalog of services that align with business requirements, there also needs to be a method to determine and allocate the cost of those services. Corporate governance may help set thresholds for recovery and imply minimum levels of

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  1. protection, but the service level is greatly influenced by cost. The cost model should calculate the per-unit total cost of ownership that would be charged to the business for any given service offering. Among the items included in such a cost model are personnel, facilities, hardware and software, maintenance and support. Having this data available helps significantly in aligning "want" with "need," and is a critical success factor in delivering these services efficiently.
  2. Design an effective DR infrastructure. The DR infrastructure must support the BIA requirements and service-level targets. While DR is an extension of operational recovery capability, factors such as distance and bandwidth also come into play. The good news is that the number of remote recovery options available to architects and designers has increased dramatically over the past few years. Traditional storage mirroring and replication are more broadly available on a wide range of systems, and compression and deduplication technologies can reduce bandwidth requirements. In addition, technologies like server virtualization can dramatically improve remote recoverability.
  3. Select the right target recovery site. DR site selection often presents a challenge. Organizations with multiple data centers can develop cross-site recovery capabilities; if you don't have that option, selecting a DR site can easily become the biggest challenge in getting DR off the ground.

    Key concerns include the levels of protection needed, and whether to own or outsource (and to what degree). The two chief (and often competing) factors to consider are risk and convenience. Planning for protection against a regional disaster means that many DR sites get pushed far away from headquarters, where most of the IT staff is housed. Service recovery levels will determine whether the site is a "hot," "warm" or "cold" site. This is a critical designation because there's a substantial difference in the fixed cost of each. Generally, RTOs of less than a day require a hot site. The question of outsourcing depends on the desired degree of control, guarantees of infrastructure availability at a given location and, of course, cost.

This was first published in March 2008

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