Disaster Recovery Extra: 10 hidden perils of DR planning


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3. There's a mismatch between business needs and IT's priorities.

Storage departments tend to focus on systems that are hard to back up. For example, a backup and recovery specialist spends a significant amount of time ensuring that the data warehouse is successfully backed up. The specialist justifies the time spent on the system because it's the largest one in the environment and, therefore, the most problematic. Right next to that system is a customer database that consistently backs up without skipping a beat.

If someone from the company's business side was asked which system should get more attention, they would surely say the customer database. While recovering the data warehouse after a disaster is important, the business users are likely to say that it's the last system that needs to be recovered, so a two- or four-week recovery time objective (RTO) is perfectly acceptable. However, they'll expect the customer database to be up and available within minutes of a disaster.

Because of this mismatch between business and IT, the customer database is being backed up in a way that gives it a recovery point objective (RPO) of 24 hours and an RTO of eight hours—not the minutes its users expect. DR priorities, and the infrastructure and processes underlying them, must be aligned to meet business needs. And someone must be responsible for ensuring that those priorities are at the core of the firm's DR plan.


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There's a mismatch between requirements and reality.

The person responsible for defining business requirements also has to understand that not all things are technically possible. Most business people would ask for an RTO and RPO of zero seconds or, if they were in a good mood, a few minutes. They want all data accessible immediately after a disaster, and they can't afford to lose any data along the way. While this is actually possible with some technologies, the chief financial officer might not agree that the cost of these technologies makes it viable to use them on every computer in the data center.

Therefore, while it's important to ensure that business needs are met, it's also important to ensure that the requirements are realistic. Gaining consensus on this issue requires negotiations between business users and IT. The conversation typically goes something like this:

User: "We need an RTO and RPO of one minute."

IT person, while placing his pinkie next to his mouth like Dr. Evil in an Austin Powers movie: "That's possible. But it'll cost $1 million."

User: "That's too much money. What about a four-hour RTO and RPO?"

IT: "We can do that for $10,000."

User: "It's a deal."

If conversations like this aren't occurring on a regular basis in your company, then your DR plan is almost certainly mismatched with the requirements of the business units.

This was first published in May 2006

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