While the impact on a business of loss of data and communications infrastructure are widely understood, smaller businesses have been slower to develop business continuity plans compared to larger organisations.
There also remains a general lack of understanding over the key difference of Data Backup as opposed to Business Continuity. Although overlapping, these terms represent uniquely different mind sets when it comes to data protection.
Data Backup answers the questions: is my data safe? Can I get it back in case of a failure? Business Continuity, on the other hand, involves thinking about the business at a higher level, and asks: how quickly can I get my business operating again in case of system failure?
Thinking about Data Backup is a good first step. But in case of failure, you have to get that data back and restore it quickly enough so your business doesn’t suffer.
For example, if your Server dies – and remember, hardware failure is the number one cause of lost data – you wouldn’t be able to quickly get back to work if you only had your data backed up.
For you to start working again your Server would need to be replaced, all software re-installed, data re-installed and then the whole system would need to be configured with your settings and preferences. This process could take hours or even days—and in the meantime, your employees can’t get their jobs done.
PLANNING FOR BUSINESS CONTINUITY
If you’ve planned for Business Continuity, however, you’ve thought of all these things. You will have thought in terms of two key metrics that underpin effective business continuity: Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO). These sound technical but are in fact quite straight-forward to understand:
RPO (Recovery Point Objective) is the maximum tolerable period of time in which an Organisation can afford to lose data due to a disaster.
RTO (Recovery Time Objective) is the duration of time within which a business must be restored after a disaster to avoid unacceptable consequences associated with a break in Business Continuity.
By calculating your desired RTO, you have determined the maximum time that you can be without your data before your business gets into serious trouble. Additionally, by specifying the RPO, you know how often you need to perform backups because you know how much data you can afford to lose without damaging your business.
For example, you may have an RTO of a day and an RPO of one hour. Or your RTO might be measured in hours and your RPO in minutes. It’s all up to you and what your business requires. But calculating these numbers will help you understand what type of data backup solution you need.
COST OF DISRUPTION
Once you determine your RPO and RTO, you can then calculate how much any downtime and lost data will actually cost you. To get an approximate value, answer the following questions:
- How many employees would be affected if critical data were unavailable?
- What is the average wage of the affected employee (per hour)?
- What is the per-hour overhead cost of the affected employees?
- How much revenue would be lost per hour as a result of the unavailability of data?
Simply add up the average per-hour wage, the per-hour overhead, and the per-hour revenue numbers and you have how much a data loss will cost you.
Given that funding and budget constraints can be the top challenge (43 percent) for a business to implement a business continuity solution, calculating your RTO will give you the financial validation needed to justify its purchase and maintenance.
In addition, calculating the real costs associated with data loss (RPO) gives a clearer understanding of the risks relating to business failure and thinking about your business in these terms puts your backup solution into perspective. The ‘it-won’t-happen-to me’ mind-set simply doesn’t wash.
ACHIEVING YOUR DESIRED RPO AND RTO
Using local backup for Business Continuity works well for quick restores. Because the data is right there, it’s fast and easy to restore back to its original location. But what happens if the power goes out or if the device fails? You might then think the Cloud looks more attractive for all these reasons. But cloud-only backup is risky because you can’t control the bandwidth. Restores tend to be difficult and time-consuming.
The answer? A hybrid solution. The way this works is that your data is first copied and stored on a local device. That way, if something happens, you can do a fast and easy restore from that device. But then your data is also replicated in the Cloud. So if anything happens to that device, you’ve got offsite cloud copies of your data—without having to worry about moving copies of your data physically off-site.
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