By: Paul Lavery, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Cleo

logo-cleo-1x-compressorAugust marked the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the most devastating storms in recorded history both in terms of cost and loss of life. It seems meaningful to have a discussion on the implications of disasters and the catastrophic impact they can have on an organization’s ability to conduct business because of unexpected downtime and critical data loss.

When Disaster Strikes

In any disaster, the price of infrastructure damage has an immediate impact. Revenue generation is impeded in numerous ways throughout the duration of the disaster and recovery period. Yet, temporary losses to productivity may eventually be outweighed by a shock to the organization in terms of a bruised business reputation, and a limited ability to sell products or provide services to the customer base. These results, while deeply impactful, are exacerbated by any loss of critical business data in an outage. How an organization responds to the recovery matters, but any recovery effort can be negated if that organization loses or is slow to recover data assets.

Disasters of any scope and scale damage property. However, property can be reclaimed, refurbished, or rebuilt. When a disaster crashes exchange systems, data infrastructure, or washes away business information, it is gone for good. Operations and revenue-generating business processes are put at extraordinary risk and the eventual ability to even stay in business is also jeopardized.

So, how should a business plan to disaster-proof its IT architecture? What is the seawall protecting vital business data assets from a potential disaster? And what is the method to rescue key data and deliver it to “DR evacuation centers” ahead of any outage? Right now, a lot of companies are struggling to answer these questions.

Important Steps for Business Continuity

Despite the pending risk, approximately half of US businesses have yet to establish disaster preparedness plans that include adequate business continuity and disaster recovery initiatives related to data in motion. Effective continuity planning is reliant on building tactics for enterprise-wide data preservation that can account for even the worse-than-the-worst disruption threats or unexpected challenges to continuity.

The first step to augmenting the costs of a hypothetical outage is to facilitate business continuity during a natural or manmade disaster. This will of course mitigate data loss, and avoid the unreasonable price tag of long-term impacts to both productivity and profitability. A comprehensive business continuity plan requires a determined strategy that not only involves a sweeping disaster recovery initiative and downtime contingency as backup, but places greater emphasis on regular content replication and reliable data flows to multiple off-site locations.

Creating rapid, system-wide data redundancy requires the capacity for near-instantaneous movement of large volumes of data assets. So, while a DR solution provider may serve as the data compiler and destination backup repository, the company still needs a data movement pipeline to accelerate the migration of mission critical datasets and database snapshots to the distributed disaster recovery centers. Needless to say, the faster and more securely large data can move across business networks, the more evolved a disaster preparedness initiative is, especially as it correlates to creating optimal up-to-the-minute data redundancy.

Whether backups are stored at physical, virtual, or cloud-based systems, availability always requires the stable continuity of service of the data movement solution itself. It will not serve a company in a disaster scenario if applications are working, but IT personnel cannot manage the input and output flows of critical data.  Therefore, in order to minimize the gap between the point of disaster and the point of recovery, data assets need to flow through multiple channels establishing dispersed sources of redundancy.

The Cost of Downtime

Katrina proved 10 years ago that the consolidation of data in one region is a roll of the dice, even when server farms are spread to different cities and nearby states. As the category five storm steered toward the Gulf Coast, companies had a compressed timeframe to begin to generate backup points and migrate key information assets before data infrastructures were subjected to power outages or inundated with flood waters. Businesses that missed the deadline were subjected to prolonged business interruptions resulting in catastrophic losses to productivity and revenue generation capacity. There was extensive damage to physical infrastructure and property, while massive losses to non-recoverable data assets further crippled numerous organizations.

The cost of maintaining uptime throughout a disaster is really about ensuring business survival. Therefore, the cost ratio of continuity versus downtime is actually a measure of the balance between the hard expenses (risk analysis and planning) compared to a business continuity solution. Where operating without an effective solution can expose an organization to an unpredictable size of snowballing soft costs from a downtime event.

Effective business continuity and ensuring systems availability today calls for a solution to enable performance-based data migration and easy maintenance of data in order to rapidly move information to backup centers. Mission critical data needs to ride out the catastrophe far away from the eye of any storm or disaster area. In case all else fails, both IT leaders and end users need the capacity to regularly and reliably move company-wide data offsite and out of region in order to realize real-time redundancy and close the gap between the disaster and the point of recovery. Effectively building out these measures will help the company mitigate the worst effects of critical data loss.

Planning for the Future

At a time when disasters of increasing scope and scale are predicted to be on the rise, the prime objective of promoting business continuity and effective disaster planning should be about looking to the future and anticipating the next inevitable threat to uptime and availability. Implementing a secure integration solution to enable system-wide efficient and reliable data movement ahead of the next Katrina will undoubtedly lessen the challenge of business data preservation. This is really the key to not just ensuring uptime and availability, but possibly the survival of one’s business entirely.