Commvault Vice President APJ Rachel Ler offers her perspective on disaster recovery and argues that a whole-of-business strategy is the best approach.
By Rachel Ler
A key part of any business continuity plan is disaster recovery. Many business operations in Asia are located in geographies that are prone to natural disasters. According to the World Economic Forum, environmental risks are the leading concerns for doing business across East Asia and the Pacific with natural disasters ranking first and extreme weather events ranking fifth. Meanwhile, cyberattacks rank second in WEF’s report on the top 10 risks for doing business in this region.
The current global pandemic may not be considered a disaster in the traditional sense, but it has managed to wreak havoc on the global economy, forcing companies across the world to re-think their continuity strategies in light of lockdown and work-from-home orders.
These are unprecedented times, and many businesses say they’re still not prepared for the worst. A recent survey conducted by Gartner revealed that only 12 percent of 1,500 respondents believe that their businesses are highly prepared for the impact of COVID-19. The study also found that while organisations have policies in place to deal with most risks, they do not activate (or even test) them until it is too late.
Business disruptions can be costly. Minor downtime can quickly snowball into an expensive lesson as costs can quickly add up. The average total cost of downtime per hour is estimated as being between USD301,000 and USD400,000, with lost productivity, trust and reputation aggravating the blow.
As the world gets increasingly digitalised and businesses become more data-driven, business leaders are prioritising data protection and recovery in their business continuity planning. Whether it is a natural disaster, a hardware failure, data breach or ransomware attack, it is of utmost importance for businesses to be able to recover their data.
The Business Research Company projected that global disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) market will grow to USD11.71 billion in 2022 from only US3.16 billion in 2018.
Much of the concern that businesses have in disaster recovery is also driven by accelerated digital transformation, cloud-first strategies, and of course, more digital native businesses. The digitalisation of everything translates to more online transactions and more mission critical work being done digitally.
With such high stakes, business and technology leaders are also realising that stock disaster recovery plans are no longer cutting it. They understand that disaster recovery must exist within the larger business continuity strategy and needs to take a front seat when digital transformation plans are discussed.
Taking a ‘business-centric’ view of disaster recovery is a useful starting point. At the very least, the approach draws business managers from across functions into a conversation about the mission of disaster recovery in relation to the core businesses. This will then allow business objectives to drive the key priorities and expectations of a disaster recovery plan.
Disaster recovery planning has historically been complicated, costly and inflexible. However, thanks to technological advancements, it is no longer the case. Disaster recovery can be efficient, flexible, versatile, and simple.
The key is to set out a clear framework based on business needs and invest the time in formulating a plan that works. Being ready to protect and recover data is worth the investment in resource and time, but this does not mean businesses need to invest heavily on it.
Most importantly, businesses need their data recovered quickly, with as little disruption as possible, when hit with a disaster. Here are a few best practice tips for disaster recovery planning:
Set appropriate protection for different data sets to be cost-effective – All business data needs some form of backup, but do it cost effectively. However, not all application and workloads need maximum availability. Businesses must set data priorities and align data sets to the appropriate protection methods. Put in place different tiers for data protection and allocate data sets to the protection they need accordingly.
Look to cloud for protecting and recovering data – Cloud offers cost effective support for disaster recovery as it offers IT teams the ability to quickly deploy and scale storage and compute when needed. Cloud also enables IT to restore lost data at a different location, when the original location may be compromised in a disaster scenario.
Automate disaster recovery processes – Cut down on manual intervention in disaster recovery. As much as possible, put in place automated steps to ensure that tasks like failover will take place on their own without having a person to activate them. Safeguard processes with checks in place at each stage of the recovery so that IT can be sure it is progressing as planned. It sounds logical and simple but many businesses continue to rely heavily on someone taking specific actions to ensure disaster recovery goes through.
Say ‘no’ to data silos – Businesses need to be able to see, move and recover their data readily. Not just during a disaster. IT solutions implemented over time can mean that data sets are collected in different ways and stored in different locations. Disaster recovery planning, in these cases, need to offer a view into all the data across the entire business.
Organisations should aim to have native application programming interface integration across applications, cloud platforms, databases, hypervisors, storage arrays and so on. This helps IT to gain visibility into where all the data lives and allows for faster recovery when needed.
Disaster recovery has come a long way. Nonetheless, the need for strategic and robust planning has not changed, neither has the capability to act decisively and swiftly when disaster hits. As business environments continue to evolve and cybercriminals become more sophisticated, unique challenges for disaster recovery will crop up.
The good news is that disaster recovery is more cost-effective and less complex now compared to just a few years ago. That said, the key to strengthening disaster readiness and recovery is adopting a business-centric mindset. Disaster recovery planning is about businesses getting as prepared as they can be for the worst-case scenario and celebrating when they do not need to put these plans into actual action at all.
(Ed. Featured image by Photographer Roger Brown.)