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Defining Disaster Recovery: The Foundation for Business Continuity

By Aaron Shelley, Cloud Architect, Zayo

In today’s IT world, there is a lot of confusion surrounding the components of business continuity. Terms like Disaster recovery, Backup, Continuous Data Protection, and Replication are often muddled together and assumed to be equivalent. It’s a real challenge for today’s CIO to clearly differentiate these areas to their teams and the other decision makers in the business.

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Here’s how you should think of it. Each of the above terms can be considered part of Business Continuity—which represents the planning, process and execution of a complete risk mitigation strategy (inclusive of personnel, processes, etc…not just IT) designed to keep business running in the event of a catastrophic event. Disaster Recovery is one component of Business Continuity and relates directly to the IT assets of the business, including systems and data. Terms such as Backup, Continuous Data Protection and Replication are all potential solutions that can be leveraged to meet the objectives of disaster recovery but may also be implemented outside of a disaster recovery plan.

So what are the objectives of disaster recovery?

These are typically defined in the amount of data that may be lost in the event of a catastrophe (recovery point objective or RPO) and the amount of time the systems may be unavailable to users (recovery time objective or RTO). Both of these objectives are usually measured in minutes, hours or days.

But how does the everyday CIO know what these values should be for the business?Cloud-DataCenter-Zayo That depends entirely on the cost of downtime. Whether downtime is measured by lost income, opportunity cost, fines, breached contractual obligations, loss of productivity or damage to company reputation—or any combination thereof—it must be quantified in terms of currency.

Making assumptions can be dangerous as it is important to gather input from all business units to accurately calculate the cost of downtime. This is typically done by conducting a “business impact analysis” (BIA) for each distinct IT system. Once accurately determined, the BIA provides critical perspective when budgeting for the appropriate disaster recovery solution. For example, if your cost of downtime is $100 per hour, a risk mitigation strategy that costs $10,000 per month may not make sense.

Understanding the terms and how they relate to one another is the first step to developing a sound business continuity plan. See how it works in our DR 101 Guide. As G.I. Joe once said, “Knowing is half the battle …”

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