Here are considerations ranging from risk profiles to redundancy in building a disaster-recovery plan.

January 31, 2019

6 Min Read
Best Practices


Arcserve’s Oussama El-Hilali

By Oussama El-Hilali, VP of products, Arcserve

Every part of the country experiences different forms of severe weather that can lead to unplanned, extended downtime. Hurricanes ravage the Southern coast, tornadoes and subzero temperatures run rampant across the Midwest, earthquakes shake the West, and Nor’easters leave New England residents buried under piles of snow. It’s critical that managed service providers help their customers safeguard business operations when severe weather is approaching, especially since a hiccup in operations could cost organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars.

According to results from an Arcserve-commissioned survey of 759 IT decision-makers, nearly half revealed they have less than an hour to recover business-critical systems before it starts affecting revenue, despite only 26 percent being extremely confident in their ability to do so. This highlights how important it is for businesses to have an effective disaster recovery plan in place. Even more important is the need for MSPs to be ready for the unexpected, and have systems in place that can anticipate when emergency measures need to be taken. For example, predictive analytics can be used to indicate when a system might fail so it can be backed up in advance of the expected failure to avoid extended downtime or data loss.

Preventive Measures Keep Customer Data Safe

To keep data out of harm’s way, MSPs need to educate their customers about the steps they need to take to implement a proper recovery plan.

  • The first step for any organization is to create a risk profile. Understanding how severe weather can affect the organization can help business continuity managers know which systems, applications and workloads are the most important to recover to keep business operations intact.

  • Once the most important systems are identified, MSPs then need to help customers determine adequate recovery point and time objectives (RPOs/RTOs) that align with business needs. An organization’s RTOs refer to speed of recovery, whereas RPOs refer to the amount of business activity lost when an outage occurs. For example, if there’s a daily backup, then your business is essentially willing to tolerate a loss of up to 24 hours of data. Helping customers understand these metrics is critical to substantiating the high costs they may incur if they don’t invest in, and refine, their BCDR plans.

  • It’s also important for customers to ensure there’s redundancy in the data they’re storing. Good disaster recovery architectures need to consider the physical distance between primary and secondary data. In cases of severe weather, it’s especially important to make sure that customers are storing a second copy that is located in a geography that’s not likely to be impacted by the impending weather event. Providing customers with cloud backup and recovery options can be one way to achieve this.

Take a Predictive Approach

While today’s disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) solutions allow most enterprise customers to continue accessing business-critical applications with minimal disruptions, the future of BCDR is looking even brighter, especially with new technologies being introduced into the market. Predictive analytics, for instance, could be used to help businesses work in a smarter way by identifying when a system might fail ahead of time. Artificial intelligence-based algorithms will use predetermined internal and external data sources to inform these predictions, which can help prevent extended downtime or data loss.

For example, knowing an earthquake is about to hit before it happens could allow organizations to …

… pre-emptively move their data to another location that isn’t at risk so they can fully avoid the physical disaster and its potential financial ramifications. Essentially, businesses will be able to proactively and seamlessly migrate workloads around potential threats, rather than reacting to disasters after-the-fact.

MSPs that offer data protection services should consider seeking vendors who are preparing for the future of BCDR with new technologies such as these. Not only will these services help them better prepare for impending natural disasters, but there’s also the potential for it to be used to schedule backups in a way that prevents system slowdowns, predicts storage consumption and determines which data is most critical to the business based on how often it is accessed by employees.

Routine Testing Is Key

The final thing for MSPs to remember is that once they have provided a solid plan that clearly states the type of recovery or continuity they will provide the customer, they should routinely review the plan with them to determine if it is still adequate or needs to be updated based on changing business needs. For example, a customer might review its systems and determine the need for high availability to protect a specific system or application that is critical to the viability of the organization. Or, they might identify the need to take a more proactive approach and integrate a predictive solution.

Once the proper services are selected to meet customer needs, the plan also needs to be continuously tested as IT environments and business needs evolve over time. If companies fail to routinely test their plans, it leaves them vulnerable to a number of missteps when they need to execute it, increasing their chances for data loss.

MSPs can help their customers prepare for natural disasters by making sure they understand the ins and outs of BCDR planning, the metrics for measuring the success of plans, and how to test plans routinely. Taking these steps can guide customers into choosing the right data protection services to keep their data safe. What’s exciting is that predictive analytics and AI are powerful tools that are transforming IT and computing in general. As the technology matures, it will enable businesses to not only foresee, but forecast, certain events that could cause a disruption. This will have a tremendous effect on keeping company data safe and ensuring business continuity.

Oussama El-Hilali is the vice president of products at Arcserve. He has nearly 25 years of IT and R&D experience in product strategy, acquisition of new technology and development of strategic business partnerships in both Fortune 100 and emerging companies. Prior to joining Arcserve, he held senior executive positions at EMC, Carbonite and Symantec, where he led global engineering organizations and accelerated growth through harnessing innovative ideas, technology, and organic and inorganic product portfolio enhancements. He also is the co-author of “Digital Data Integrity: The Evolution from Passive Protection to Active Management” (Wiley; 2007), which examines data protection and management and highlights the shift from backup and recovery to total data management, and helps guide IT managers on how to plan cost-effective strategies for their data centers. Follow @Arcserve on Twitter and Oussama on LinkedIn.

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