Disaster Recovery on a Budget

CIOs are always looking for disaster-recovery options that don’t break the bank. These CIOs share their tactics.

Scenario: Backing Up Core Systems

Tim Barbee, CIO, North Central Texas Council of Governments

Earlier this year, I initiated a project to develop a business-impact analysis and update me on the disaster-recovery requirements for each of the agency’s departments. I did not like what I saw. Based on the sheer number of affected systems, we were looking at a price tag north of $1 million. As you can glean from headlines across the country, state government agencies are in a budget crisis and we’re not in a position to request funds for disaster-recovery capabilities that we hope we never have to use. Even so, it is a critical service we must provide.

One of the big-ticket items in a disaster-recovery plan that meets our requirements is a backup data center, but the budget is not going to allow that. I am interested in creative, cost-effective ways to provision similar capabilities. For example, Microsoft’s cloud business solution, Office 365, includes a hosted email platform we can access from the cloud. Theoretically, all we would need in a disaster would be a laptop and an Internet connection. The service includes data backup and recovery at no additional cost. So what other disaster-recovery approaches exist for things like email, telecommunications and core systems?

Advice: Allocate your backup workspace like TV time slots

Marty Gomberg, SVP and CIO, A&E Television Networks

The idea was simple. My end users need instant access to critical systems, but that does not mean they need access for the full eight-hour workday during a disaster. Rather, key personnel could complete their critical tasks in an assigned block of time. We took the number of seats in a conference room and scheduled each in one-hour blocks on a 24-hour schedule. We then asked the business units to assign slots to key personnel. For example, accounts payable could request three seats for three hours each to complete their priority tasks. These are all scheduled and prioritized.We applied the exact same time-allocation approach to our virtual services. For example, we bought a limited number of Citrix licenses to assign to virtual seats where remote staff could perform critical functions.

Through this combination of rotating physical and virtual access, I have been able to support hundreds of people doing their most critical activities. The model works well to reduce the cost of crisis operations. The advance planning it requires helps to identify which tasks are most important to continue in a crisis and which you can simply put on hold.

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