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Planning for and surviving a data disaster

Do you have a plan for surviving a data disaster in your business? If not, Kroll Ontrack’s Adrian Briscoe has this advice.

Business continuity was originally conceived as a solution to protect mainframe computer systems and early data centres.  The profession was originally called “disaster recovery” and consisted of project planning and support from equipment vendors. As the profession matured, disaster recovery planning became a subset of an organisation’s business continuity plan.

Today, the business continuity plan has become the umbrella-like policy that ensures all of a business’ operations can operate successfully with minimal or limited impact during a disruptive event. Organisational disaster recovery plans and emergency response procedures all fall under the business continuity plan. What started as a formal procedure to protect expensive computer equipment has crossed over to protect all elements of a business organisation.

However, business continuity experts and data recovery service providers consistently report that companies aren’t completely testing their business continuity or disaster recovery plans. Indeed, the victims of IT disasters have little or no basic documentation of failed storage systems.

At the same time, as storage and data increases in size, there is an ever-increasing need to prepare for business disruptions and data loss. IT projects are getting bigger, planning is taking longer, and enterprise data is closing in on the petabyte range. Backups don’t provide enough coverage, and data loss events have a devastating impact on companies in competitive markets.

Successful organisations realise that any disruption, regardless of how small, will have an impact on the business as a whole. This has led managers and business continuity planners to proactively include data recovery services in their contingency plans

Indeed, data recovery service providers report that organisations are doing better with business continuity planning but have observed that the choice of a data recovery service is rarely a formal part of the disaster recovery plan. If selected during the midst of a disaster, the criteria used to evaluate a data recovery service provider will be less robust than the criteria for choosing which coffee maker to install in the tea room.

These days, professional data recovery providers can provide education and procedural help before a data disasters strikes, making the initial response of IT staff more effective and timely.  Indeed, our own First Responder Program allows IT professionals to learn data loss prevention and recovery best practices, evaluate their organisation’s data loss preparedness state and obtain a customised report with steps on remedying data protection vulnerabilities.

Here are five criteria for evaluating data recovery providers:

• Identify companies that have the technology and resources to solve a wide array of data loss challenges. A data disaster may affect several platforms. For example, a disruption may affect UNIX, Linux, and Windows®-based systems that are all running on one virtual server.

• Identify companies that provide data recovery solutions to fit your specific needs

• Identify companies that will provide you with the information required to make an educated purchase decision

• Identify companies that offer professional customer service whenever and wherever you need it

• Identify companies that have well documented and established procedures for maintaining the security and confidentiality  of your data. Few data recovery providers have submitted themselves to and passed an IT security compliance audit. If it is critical that your data remains secure, find a company that has passed a third-party security audit.

One thing is for certain, it is vitally important to include data recovery processes within a company’s business continuity plan. Choosing a data recovery service vendor before a disaster occurs prepares the IT team for a successful survival of a business disruption.

– Adrian Briscoe is the General Manager – APAC of Kroll Ontrack.