Informed CIO: Business Continuity

May 07, 2010


Business Continuity: From Disaster Recovery to Continuous Data Protection

With the critical importance of IT operations to most organizations, it isn’t surprising that disaster recovery and business continuity plans and systems are high up on the priority list of most well-performing IT organizations. Thirty-six percent of companies have implemented and regularly test disaster recovery and business continuity plans, InformationWeek Analytics' 2010 State of Enterprise Storage report finds, up from 28% in the prior year. That’s a notable increase, especially given that the past year wasn’t exactly a boom time for IT spending.

As businesses invest in disaster recovery, there is an evolution of companies moving away from traditional tape- or even disk-based backups, which can come with recovery times measured by a calendar instead of a stopwatch. Instead, more companies are turning to data replication and continuous data protection that let companies bounce back from a disaster in hours or, in some cases, minutes. Replicating data locally or across the WAN to a disaster recovery site in real time isn’t new in concept—companies with the big bucks to implement it have been using it for years.

What has changed in the last few years is that this higher level of protection is increasingly affordable and accessible to more companies, now well within the reach of small and medium-sized businesses. Lower initial costs for hardware, software, and services are making continuous data protection more affordable, but so are technologies and services that significantly lower ongoing monthly recurring charges—everything that makes it more efficient to send data across the wire, such as compression, deduplication, and WAN optimization. Technologies such as compression and deduplication systems can reduce data traffic and significantly reduce bandwidth requirements and overall associated costs.

While deduplication and other compression approaches allow more efficient use of available bandwidth, bandwidth itself also is becoming cheaper—yet another driver in increasing the affordability of these options. Better and cheaper WAN acceleration products and technologies are also playing a role by allowing much more efficient use of available bandwidth. That enables replication across a smaller and lower cost link. It also may allow faster recovery from a problem.

But replication has a dark side, as well. If you have corruption in data at your primary site—due to hardware or software problems, user error or other problems—you might replicate that corruption to the secondary copy as well. That’s not what you’re looking for from a disaster recovery system. You need something that protects against that corruption, and that’s where continuous data protection (CDP) comes in. CDP is the gold standard—the most comprehensive and advanced data protection. However, “near CDP” technologies such as snapshots at regular intervals can deliver enough protection for many companies with less complexity and cost.

The bottom line for companies with more modest IT budgets is that, all along this spectrum from continuous to snapshots, there are disaster recovery and business continuity technologies and services considered exotic and prohibitively expensive just a few years ago that are now within reach. With proper expectations and the right disaster recovery plan, most companies can implement something far more effective than conventional tape-based backups.

Research Report