Disaster Recovery: An Executive Priority

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Imagine it’s the Monday after Thanksgiving. Renovations on the first floor of a historic building in a major U.S. city are just resuming after the long weekend. Suddenly, a crash as the backhoe backs into a column, knocking it to the floor amid sparks from electric and communications cables. To everyone’s relief, nothing catches fire and the immediate situation for the construction crew is quickly brought under control.

But another emergency is just starting for a busy logistics company on the seventh floor. The cables dislodged by the collapsing column supplied them with power and Internet. Hundreds of employees are cut off from their customers, their drivers, and the critical packages for which they had guaranteed a safe and on-time delivery. It’s quite a busy season for them. With millions of dollars in shipments hanging in the balance, every second counts in getting the company's systems back up and running.

Unfortunately, variations of this scenario play out more frequently than we’d like to imagine. And too often, companies find themselves lacking a disaster recovery plan that can get them back in business quickly enough to avoid serious losses. One reason for this is that disaster recovery planning is often left to mid- or low-level managers, technicians, or advisors, making it all too easy for crucial details and updates to fall through the cracks.

With physical nuisances (like backhoes) and sophisticated hackers posing bigger threats to company data each day, many organizations are beginning to see disaster recovery as less of an afterthought and more of a top level business priority. The company’s data is imperative to its daily operations, and as such, warrants the attention of an executive sponsor to champion a comprehensive and reliable strategy that ensures its availability and safety. The CIO should be hands-on with his or her IT team here if anywhere, and take ownership of this essential initiative.

The Cost of Downtime

 In the information economy, data is the fuel that keeps our engines running, and its loss is expensive. Gartner estimates a cost of $300,000 for every hour of computer system downtime for the average enterprise. Other estimates range from $100,000 to $500,000. Because of the crucial role of data in any organization, protecting that data and its ability to continue generating customer value has come to the forefront in executive concerns.

The CIO role is rapidly evolving to accommodate this. It is now necessary for him or her to take the brunt of the responsibility for ensuring data continuity, a job historically often left to network engineers. This requires in-depth operational input and regular attention from the CIO, even though high-level strategic initiatives, like vetting and integrating new technology, also place huge demands on their time.

According to the 2016 State of the CIO survey, there has been a sharp uptick in CIOs who are focused on functional activities, such as security management, from 2015 to 2016. Disaster recovery is an important piece of that larger picture. And although three out of five CIOs may prefer to focus on high level strategy, it should be within their purview to lay the foundation of a solid disaster recovery plan in order to ensure that their growth efforts spring from solid ground.

Planning is Paramount

A robust disaster recovery plan undertaken by the CIO must take into consideration all possible types of disaster, and it needs to consider all of a business’s locations. It should also consider the length of disruption. A Gartner survey revealed that nearly 60% of organizations plan for their longest outage to be seven days. What happens if an outage stretches into eight days, or two weeks?

Testing the plan regularly is equally important. Consider for a moment the number of upgrades a typical company experiences over the course of a year—hardware, software, server upgrades, patch installs, database upgrades, and more. Routine testing, adjustments, and re-testing are a must if a plan is to provide the assurance that today’s businesses require.

Going into the power outage, the leadership of the logistics firm in our hypothetical scenario was comfortable in the knowledge that a disaster recovery plan was in place. But no one ever tested it. In that, unfortunately, the company is not alone. According to Gartner, 61% of survey participants reported that they did not pass their last disaster recovery test.

Sure enough, the logistics company’s recovery plan has some glitches. By the time the team has worked through them all and gotten the failover system up and running, the company has been out of commission for over six hours. The CEO estimates that the company will lose upwards of $2.7 million during the outage, not to mention the trust of hundreds of customers.

And so the company’s leadership has to learn a crucial lesson: A CIO can no longer afford be hands-off and simply trust that disaster recovery is being taken care of by a company’s IT team as part of routine business planning. He or she must ensure that proper budget is allocated and resources are directed accordingly to make disaster recovery an executive priority.

Effective Execution

Fortunately, a best-in-class disaster recovery service, such as that offered by Acronis, can help. Imagine a disaster recovery plan that documents itself. It’s possible with Acronis. Such services also include automated backups and automated testing. No more handwritten recovery plans, and no more ad hoc testing that may not take into account the latest changes to a company’s systems.

These services come with a high degree of automation, but also with outstanding support. Technicians are available 24x7x365 to assist with failover and failback. A secure and easy-to-use online portal provides recovery access from wherever managers might be. Seamless integration between local files and cloud-based storage keeps everything in sync. And whether managers need to recover a file, a database, a server or an entire site, recovery can be initiated with a simple push of a button.

With the right disaster recovery plan and service in place—supported by close CIO involvement—the logistics company could have sailed through its power outage. Fortunately, you don’t have to learn this lesson the hard way. Ensure that your business is protected with a comprehensive disaster recovery plan—one that can stand up to outages, whether they are caused by natural disaster, security breach, accidental or malicious data destruction, or even an errant backhoe. Your customers and your employees will thank you.

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