Data Protection and System Recovery

By | September 12, 2006

Nothing tests an enterprise quite as thoroughly as a full-blown IT disaster. Cut off from its vital information, a company faces a dire situation almost immediately. After all, everything about a company—its product development, sales, relationship management, marketing, competitive analysis, investor relations, finance, and human resources—is managed through that information.

It´s no surprise, then, that disaster recovery planning plays an increasingly vital role in keeping corporate information both secure and available. However, given the exponential growth rate of data volumes, shrinking backup windows, the demand for more effective change management, and the need for fast, reliable recovery, IT departments are finding themselves seriously tested in their disaster recovery efforts. Increasingly, today´s enterprises are coming to the realization that they need to embrace solutions offering both best-of-breed data protection and best-of-breed system recovery.

The prohibitive cost of downtime

Just how much is at stake when critical business information is unavailable? Precise estimates vary. A 2005 study of 80 large organizations by Infonetics Research found that overall downtime costs averaged an astounding 3.6% of annual revenue. In another study, Forrester Research estimated the average cost of downtime for e-commerce sites at $8,000 per hour; at larger sites, such as eBay and Amazon, the costs soar to hundreds of thousands of dollars per hour. According to Contingency Planning Research, system downtime costs anywhere between $14,000 and $6,450,000 per hour.

And recent events leave little doubt about the consequences of such outages. The cancellation of 1,100 Christmas Day flights in 2004 by Comair because of a computer meltdown prompted its president to resign shortly thereafter. An eight-day system outage at Sunoco´s Haverhill, Ohio, plant reduced its 2005 fourth-quarter results by approximately $2 million.

According to IDC, hardware failure, application-related failure, and human error are the leading causes of IT downtime, not natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes. While the latter grab the headlines, everyday occurrences put business at risk.

In any event, the conclusion is unavoidable: extended downtime has potentially disastrous consequences for a business.

Continuous data protection

Traditionally, tape has dominated as the backup and recovery medium of choice. But as the cost of disk-to-disk backup decreases and the need to restore rapidly becomes ever more important, disk is increasingly finding its place in what IDC calls the “backup hierarchy.”

That´s due in part to the impact of today´s regulatory climate. To give just one example, Section 409 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act explicitly requires companies to make “rapid and current” disclosures concerning “material changes” to their financial conditions. A number of industry observers have interpreted “rapid and current” to mean 48 hours, noting that rapid recovery will be used increasingly as a measurement of the soundness of a company´s records management.

Thanks to advances in disk-based backup technology, enterprises can transcend the limitations of traditional backup and recovery practices to take advantage of the following benefits:

Speed In most cases, backing up to and restoring from disk is faster than using tape. Also, because disks are random-access devices, the drives can instantly start to transfer files, whereas tape drives require that the tape be loaded, accessed, and sequentially written.

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