Getting the most out of backup and recovery

CIO spoke to Don Williams, VP Asia Pacific Japan at Veeam about calculating the cost of downtime, automating backup and recovery, and moving disaster recovery services into the cloud.

CIO: Downtime in Australia is costing organisations, on average, $1.6 million per incident. Has the acceptable amount of downtime across organisations changed, particularly as more services are moved online?

Williams: I find it interesting that often organisations don’t truly know the cost of downtime or at least, they are hesitant to share it with a vendor. But the figure that customers do come up with is more likely under-estimating the total cost.

For example, if you look at things like brand reputation, it’s difficult to put a cost on that and the impact it will have on the future of a company. It’s very hard to determine accurately the cost and impact of downtime over the short and long term.

One thing we have been able to calculate with customers is if your staff can’t be productive at doing their job, you can pretty quickly add up the total cost of staff and determine the cost of that downtime.

As services move online and businesses become more global, customers have gotten used to systems being available at all hours – the expectation is that the business is always-on.

So the challenge for business is to address how to fill the availability gap. And what we are finding is that there’s a large gap between what the customer’s current solutions can deliver in terms of recovery time and what the business can afford.

For many years, it’s been possible to have fully-redundant systems that can recover in seconds but the cost has been prohibitive so the business has also been able to afford these systems for perhaps less than five per cent of their applications

On the other end of the scale, you have legacy backup products that are more affordable but their recovery times are within hours to days. So that availability gap is the gap between what the customer’s goal is to have this highly available environment that can be recovered quickly and what they can afford.

CIO: What are the benefits of automating backup and disaster recovery processes, particularly given that modern IT infrastructure is expected to be 'always-on.'

Williams: The best disaster is the one you have avoided and it’s about automating the reporting, capacity planning, and backup process so that you can avoid or minimise that.

The IT department needs to deliver reduced recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives – we [Veeam] call this RTPO (recovery time and point objectives) because these both need to work together. We’re able to provide RTPOs of less than 15 minutes for all virtualised applications and data.

We’ve had customers who have had to recover their entire email messaging environment and because it’s automated and has quick recovery capabilities, they have been able to bring their users back online within minutes.

Previously, these organisations would have taken hours if not the majority of a day to recover an email environment. The same goes for failover and failback process, which are also automated.

CIO: What role is the cloud playing in organisation's backup and recovery plans? Do you see many companies using commodity cloud services for offsite backup and recovery? Do others have concerns about doing DR in the cloud?

Williams: We view a modern data centre as one that has been built on virtualization, new storage technologies, and the cloud – and cloud is a key part. Australia is one of the most virtualized countries in the world and virtualization has been the launch pad for the cloud.

50 per cent of organisations [in Australia] have already adopted a cloud strategy or are in the process of adopting one today. It’s not a surprise.

We have a 3-2-1 rule for 100 per cent protection. This means you should have three copies of your data with one in production – two on different media and one of those should be stored offsite for zero data loss, and the cloud can be a compelling option for businesses to address this.

When you consider the cost to build a datac entre, it makes for a really compelling case to consider a commodity cloud service as an option.

CIO: Has the boost in IT knowledge among staff outside the IT group changed how CIOs regard their backup and DR strategies?

When it comes to backup and DR, I don’t feel that the business is interested in the products that are being implemented by IT for backup. But the boost in technology knowledge [among staff outside of IT] has put more pressure on IT to deliver faster RTPOs.

It’s driven the adoption of new technologies and created a mindset that things should adjust work and has driven the premise of what Veeam calls an ‘always-on’ business.

CIO: What technologies will be most suitable for backup and DR in the future? (Disk or tape and does tape still have life left in it?)

Williams: I still feel that tape has a lot of life left in it and will not be going away any time soon. I think with the growth of flash storage and the cost of it coming down, there’s many who believe that tape will outlast spinning disk.

But I think the cloud will play a major role in the future and provide natural dual-redundancy as well.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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