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Is your data recoverable?

by Mike Dickson

Did you know that 50% of companies who lose access to their data for more than 10 days file for bankruptcy immediately, and that 93% of them are out of business within one year?

Studies have shown that 34% of companies fail to test their backed-up data and backup systems, and of the 66% that do, 77% have found tape back-up failures.  Doing the math (77% of 66%) reveals that approximately 50% of data archived on tape may not be recoverable. There are numerous credible sources that publish similar statistics including Gartner Group.  The good news is that since 2002 the cost of disk back-up has been equal to or less than the cost of tape solutions.  If you are still using tape, you may be paying too much for backup, and you may be at risk if you’re not periodically testing it.

Most IT managers recognize the need for having disaster recovery plans and I’m a strong advocate for having and testing them; but while the high impact of a disaster increases the probability of data loss, the likelihood of a site-destroying disaster is relatively small.  As a result, statistics for data losses attributed directly to disasters is a relatively small percentage.  Most data loss is caused by hardware failure and/or human error (over 80%).

Generally data (or systems) need to be recovered for one of three reasons; each with a different associated required timeframe:

  1. Quick file recovery because a user inadvertently deleted a file – systems should provide for a quick recovery by IT within minutes of such a request
  2. Quick recovery of a failed server – within hours of the failure
  3. Recovery of an entire site – within hours or days depending on established recovery time objectives established for critical applications

Each of these recovery requirements are best served by different technologies.  For example real time redundancy or periodic snapshots of production data on network attached storage (NAS) devices are ideal for recovering recent files.  However, the data back-ups on the NAS are not always suitable for quickly bringing up a failed server or recovering a destroyed site.  Concepts and technologies you should be familiar within include Server Virtualization and Bare Metal Restore so that servers and sites can be restored quickly, without reinstallation and reconfiguration of your operating and application systems from original system media.

The cost of lost data is very high and includes not only the cost of technical support, lost productivity, and costs to recreate data, but also includes potential greater costs associated with lost contracts or projects, or a failure to meet customer demands.  All of these could result in potentially long term damage to your reputation.

The Business Technology professionals at GBQ recommend you:

  1. Understand and document your data, server, and site recovery time objectives.  This is best determined with a Business Impact Assessment, which identifies alternative procedures that can be performed to maintain critical business processes while information systems are not available.
  2. Understand and implement technologies that enable for timely recovery of data, servers and your entire site within the established recovery time objectives.
  3. Periodically test each of the recovery scenarios at least annually to ensure they are working as intended.

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