BT outage highlights need for Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR)

The Telecity data centre 'outage' that knocked 10 per cent of BT Internet subscribers offline in the UK recently (20/07/16) stands as a stark reminder of how vulnerable our systems are, and how important it is to have a solid Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) solution in place.

As data continues to grow in volume and value, businesses are increasingly turning to the cloud to meet their data storage and management needs. But backing up and storing data in the cloud presents its own challenges – data is typically a company’s greatest asset, and requires protection from disasters, loss or theft. It must also be easily accessible – to approved personnel – for employees to be productive and better serve customers as part of today’s highly digital global business landscape.

The danger here of course is that any downtime can be disastrous. And as the Telecity outage shows, this downtime can come from anywhere, whether that is someone spilling a cup of coffee over a server, a hacker attacking a company’s website or a data centre suffering a power failure; right the way up to earthquakes, floods and hurricanes.

And businesses can’t dismiss these outages as minor inconveniences. The average cost of an infrastructure failure is $100,000 (£68,000) per hour, with critical application failures coming in at anywhere between $500,000 (£340,000) and $1 million (£680,000) hourly, according to a report from market research company IDC.

IDC also highlighted that the average total cost of unplanned application downtime per year for the Fortune 1000 companies is $1.25 billion (£850 million) to $2.5 billion (£1.7 billion).

BDR is a business imperative

At the same time, companies are expected to be able to process data and protect data all the time. Customers (whether consumers or business users) are quick to vent their anger on social media when websites are offline or e-tailers suffer data breaches. It’s not just a matter of a company losing money during any unplanned downtime; there is also the fact that you may be sued by customers for any losses your failure may have caused, plus the potential reputational damage amongst end users of your products.

This means BDR planning is not a ‘nice-to-have’ – it is a business imperative.

Despite this, it’s remarkable how difficult it can be to convince executives that investing in BDR services for your systems and data makes absolute financial sense.

The problem is, they look at it as a cost, not an investment. It’s very difficult for them to see the value of something not happening. It works better if you present it as an insurance policy, which is, to be honest, what it is. After all, like insurance, it’s there to protect your business – you hope you’ll never have to use it, but you have to be protected against disasters that can happen at any moment.

As with any insurance policy, there are costs involved, like premiums, and it is important to make a strong business case for an investment. Does it make sense for you to get a disaster recovery solution? What is the best deployment option? How does the cloud impact today’s BDR solutions? How do you get your executive team to accept that insuring corporate data with a BDR solution is necessary?

The best way is to demonstrate that disaster recovery is not a cost, but an investment with a positive ROI.

IT departments seldom justify their purchases using ROI – often using operational needs, costs savings or productivity enhancements as the key arguments. However, for a BDR solution, an ROI analysis provides the most effective and objective argument for investment.

Remind your executive team of the worst-case scenario – without a BDR solution in place, the company is at risk.

And remind them that the downside is not just the purely financial impact, but also the potential damage to customer happiness and brand image, not to mention the possibility of law suits and financial sanctions imposed by regulators for breaching compliance rules.

Seven things to keep in mind when planning and building your BDR solution

1. Plan ahead and document

Well-documented action plans in cases of planned or unplanned service interruption must be available so your IT personnel can respond efficiently. The plans should include detailed recovery procedures and BDR vendor engagement rules, as well as means of communication and transportation options.

2. Replicate applications

Data backup is fundamental to BDR, but, by itself, it cannot ensure continuity of your operations. Without functioning servers, data is useless. Rebuilding hardware/software and loading the data can take a while. Having a secondary site with all applications and data replicated is one possible solution, but it may not be financially viable for small to midsize businesses.

3. Establish on- and off-site protection

Modern BDR technology offers both on-site and remote protection. Each option has its advantages. Protecting locally allows easier access to your data and a generally faster recovery rate. Local replication, however, only works when your primary environment is still accessible. In cases of major disaster or
 for long-term data retention, you need to protect your data and applications off-site, preferably in a geographically distant location that will be unaffected by any local event.

4. Automate recovery procedures

Your IT staff may be the best in the world, but in case of disaster you may
not want to rely on their flawless execution of complex processes; the probability of human error is especially high under the pressure and uncertainty of a disaster. A 'push of a button', process-driven disaster recovery approach offers higher ROI, especially in environments with limited IT resources and expertise.

5. Test regularly

Experience tells us: test well, test often. A disaster recovery solution is
only worth the cost if you know that it will actually work; otherwise it is a wasted investment.

6. Secure your backed-up environment

Security is always a concern, and BDR is not an exception. For locally hosted BDR solutions, the security is the same as what you’ve already established for your primary data and applications. Trusting the cloud with your BDR needs, however, has its challenges. The data centres used by the DRaaS (disaster recovery as a service) providers must demonstrate the highest levels of security by themselves. Additionally, a data encryption option should be available to protect data locally, in transmission, and at rest in remote storage facilities, with the proper key management and administration.

7. Select your BDR partner wisely

It is important to stick to someone who understands, and has a deep installed base in your industry.
That way you know your questions and issues will not be new to them, and will not require a lot of research in the midst of a situation requiring quick response.

Nick Morse, Business Development EMEA, Acronis

Photo Credit: Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock