Take “Create DR Plan” OFF of Your 2020 Project Goals

If disaster strikes, the purpose of a disaster recovery plan (DRP) is to guide the available IT personnel through the process of recovering the data center, either at an alternate site owned by the company or a facility owned by a cloud service provider (CSP). The reality is, though, that if disaster strikes it in 2020, most organizations will not count on or even open their DR plan. Instead, IT professionals will go into panic mode, trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat or in this case, recovery from the jaws of disaster.

The Threats Are Higher Than Ever

Despite the reality that disasters are more frequent and more impactful, there is a sharp decline in the number of organizations that have a formal DR plan in place. Disasters are no longer limited to the headline-grabbing natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, fires, and earthquakes. Although natural disasters seem to be on the rise, the more significant threat is no longer geographically specific. The most common disasters are isolated to a single organization and come in the form of ransomware, rogue users, and bad actors. There are also minor disasters through which organizations need to make sure they can navigate successfully. For example, a storage system that supports a big cluster like VMware can cause massive disruption in user productivity if there is an outage.

The Impact is Greater Than Ever

Not only is the potential for a disaster higher than ever, but the impact of a disaster is also more significant than ever. Organizations count on near-continuous access to data. For most organizations, there are no manual systems to fall back on, no hard copies to reference. Imagine not being able to access customer information or application code for even a few hours. The loss in productivity and potential revenue can be significant.

Where Have All The Disaster Recovery Plans Gone?

With all these threats and the more significant potential for serious impact on the organization, why is the number of well-maintained disaster recovery plans at an all-time low? The primary reason is the data center within most organizations is growing too fast. With limited budgets and staff, IT is doing its best to even keep pace with that growth. Disaster Recovery Planning, because the danger isn’t clear and present, is something that seems easier to put off than to do right now. IT also perceives the DRP process as a time-consuming ordeal that, once completed, is instantly out of date. There is minimal glamor associated with spearheading a DRP project… until there is a disaster.

Consequently, DR Plans have then been replaced by a “best efforts” recovery strategy. While not a formal procedure, it occupies the space of a formal DR plan. A best-effort recovery plan is reactionary. IT responds to the disaster, as it happens with whatever resources are available at that moment. The chances of elongated recoveries, incorrect recoveries, and data loss are incredibly high.

Yes! – You Need a Formal Disaster Recovery Plan

Organizations need a formal disaster recovery plan. While replication, backup, and recovery technology continue to improve, those new capabilities won’t do the organization much good if they are not implemented correctly for the right application. A DR plan creates a roadmap for the organization, so it understands what its most critical applications are and in which order IT needs to restore them in the event of a disaster. If IT designs the plan correctly, it is executable by almost anyone in the organization and doesn’t count on available resources.

A DR Plan, in almost every case, saves IT budget dollars. A significant downside to a best efforts recovery strategy is most organizations try to replace planning with over-provisioning of recovery resources. The intent is to recover all applications instantly, which is almost impossible to achieve and financially foolish to attempt.

In 2020 Most Successful Disaster Recoveries Will Be Done By a Machine

The end game is for a machine to execute the DR plan, eliminating the human variable. A significant trend in backup and recovery toward the end of 2019 is orchestration, specifically DR orchestration. Major data protection vendors are delivering to their customers the ability to pre-program what needs to happen in the event of a disaster. The programming is generally done by IT interacting with a visual interface element that enables them to “flowchart” their recovery strategy. These tools would allow organizations to prioritize application recovery orders and establish recovery dependencies. For example, application “A” may need service “B” to be up and running before its recovery. The tools can also automate where the recovery occurs, in the cloud or on-premises, based on conditions.

Once programmed, these DR orchestration tools can automatically run the DR process both in the event of an actual disaster and for testing purposes. Some applications can continuously monitor the time required to execute the orchestration and inform IT when it might miss recovery point and recovery time objectives. The visual tool makes updating the plan straightforward and more rewarding (which means it will get done). IT can make changes or additions to the automated plan, and they can test the impact of those changes without impacting production.

DR Automation still requires an understanding of recovery priorities and recovery capabilities, but it makes the process less cumbersome and more verifiable, thanks to automated testing.

StorageSwiss Take

Today, IT doesn’t have the time to create a traditional disaster recovery plan, much less keep it up to date. IT is struggling just to keep up with day-to-day operations. It is almost comical to think that something will change in the environment that will suddenly allow IT to start preparing DR plans once again in 2020. As a result, IT needs to take “Create DR Plan” off of the 2020 project list and replace it with “Implement DR Automation.”

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Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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