It’s a disservice to businesses everywhere that disaster recovery and business continuity have been so simplified by vendors offering DR solutions. Of course, it isn’t a problem that more and more businesses are evaluating processes and procedures to recover from an unfortunate event – that’s a good thing! The problem comes from the fact that this simplification obfuscates some truths about disaster recovery and business continuity that simply must be understood. Working with a vendor that promises to get your business back on track in the event of a catastrophe is a positive sign…so long as you understand what “back on track” actually means.
The confusion comes when businesses fail to realize that disaster recovery isn’t usually as simple as flipping a switch and pretending the problem never happened in the first place. That would certainly be a great DR solution! Reality is that disaster recovery, when done correctly, is a custom set of processes and applications that address a complex set of problems. And the first thing that any business or enterprise needs to understand when considering the implementation of a disaster recovery plan is the difference between the recovery time and the restore point.
Recovery time is how long your business has been impacted by the incident. Every minute that passes after an event has a cost. From lost revenue and wasted employee time to customer dissatisfaction, not being fully functional is a serious issue. The time it takes to return to fully operational status is your “recovery time.”
Recovery point is the place in the past to which you are recovering. Perhaps you are an accounting firm and need to recover to the moment before the disaster happened so that each transaction or journal entry is preserved. In another example, imagine you publish an online magazine that produces new content on the first day of each month. In the event of a disaster, it may be acceptable to recover back to the point at which new content was most recently published. Restoring to the moment right before a disaster (as with the accounting firm) might yield some web-traffic metrics or some comments posted by visitors on each article, but neither of those things might be core to your business.
Recovery time is how long it takes to get your business back to the recovery point
When working with an IT services provider or in-house resources on disaster planning, it is essential that the recovery point is well-defined. Without such clarity, it will be impossible for a recovery time estimate to be produced. Stated again: any DR solution or IT vendor that does not have an explicit understanding of your desired recovery point will not be able to provide a valid and honest SLA (service level agreement). With regard to disaster recovery planning, your Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO, sometimes called Restore Point Objective) are equally important when scoping out expected service and results for your disaster recovery solution.
So what does this have to do with business continuity?
The other most common point of confusion when discussing disaster recovery solutions hinges on a fundamental misunderstanding of business continuity. Many DR solutions and discussions make the mistake of thinking that business continuity is part of their disaster recovery solution. In fact, business continuity processes should work in tandem with your DR solution. Business continuity is the set of processes and procedures in place to keep your business running as well as possible while your disaster recovery solution is restoring your business back to the recovery point.
For example, let’s presume your VOIP system goes offline. Your disaster recovery solution in this instance might include rebooting the phones and calling the service provider to register a support and service ticket. Your business continuity solution would be to configure your VOIP numbers to forward to your cell phone if the primary service is interrupted. Disaster recovery is about getting the phones back to working the way they should. Business continuity is about making sure you are able to answer customer and client calls while the recovery is taking place. Many business continuity processes can be automated to activate automatically if a problem is detected within the network.
When it comes time to discuss disaster recovery solutions, take great care to make sure RTO, RPO, and business continuity each play a part in the discussion. Simply being told that the proposed disaster recovery solution or plan is “comprehensive” or “holistic” isn’t good enough. Proper expectation setting of RTO and RPO are essential in the process. Separating out business continuity processes and procedures is of equal importance. The best DR solution providers won’t need any prompting; they will bring these issues up as part of their exploratory conversation about your business needs.
If you are still unsure of how to proceed with disaster recovery planning, the team at Infiniti Consulting Group can help. Click here to learn more about Infiniti Consulting Group’s disaster recovery and business continuity solutions.