The economics of disaster recovery

Disaster Recovery Plan - DRPCompanies increasingly need constant access to data and the cost of losing this access – downtime – can be catastrophic. Large organizations can quickly find themselves in the eye of a storm when software glitches strike. It can result in lost revenue, shaken customer loyalty and significant reputational damage.

In August 2013, the NASDAQ electronic exchange went down for 3 hours 11 minutes, causing the shutdown of trading in stocks like Apple, Facebook, Google and 3,200 other companies. It resulted in the loss of millions of dollars, paralyzing trading in stocks with a combined value of more than $5.9 trillion. The Royal Bank of Scotland has now had five outages in three years including on the most popular shopping day of the year. Bloomberg also experienced a global outage in April 2015 resulting in the unavailability of its terminals worldwide. Disaster recovery for these firms is not a luxury but an absolute necessity.

Yet whilst the costs of downtime are significant, it is becoming more and more expensive for companies to manage disaster recovery as they have more and more data to manage: by 2020 the average business will have to manage fifty times more information than it does today. Downtime costs companies on average $5600 per minute and yet the costs of disaster recovery systems can be crippling as companies build redundant storage systems that rarely get used. As a result, disaster recovery has traditionally been a luxury only deep-pocketed organizations could afford given the investment in equipment, effort and expertise to formulate a comprehensive disaster recovery plan.

Cloud computing is now making disaster recovery available to all by removing the need for a dedicated remote location and hardware altogether. The fast retrieval of files in the cloud allows companies to avoid fines for missing compliance deadlines. Furthermore, the cloud’s pay for use model means organizations need only pay for protection when they need it and still have backup and recovery assets standing by. It also means firms can add any amount of data quickly as well as easily expire and delete data. Compare this to traditional back up methods where it is easy to miss files, data is only current to the last back up (which is increasingly insufficient as more data is captured via web transactions) and recovery times are longer.

Netflix has now shifted to Amazon Web Services for its streaming service after experiencing an outage in its DVD operation in 2008 when it couldn’t ship to customers for three days because of a major database corruption. Netflix says the cloud allows it to meet increasing demand at a lower price than it would have paid if it still operated its own data centres. It has tested Amazon’s systems robustly with disaster recovery plans “Chaos Monkey”, “Simian Army” and “Chaos Kong” which simulated an outage affecting an entire Amazon region.

Traditionally it has been difficult for organizations like Netflix to migrate to the cloud for disaster recovery as they have grappled with how to move petabytes of data that is transactional and hence continually in use. With technology such as WANdisco’s Fusion active replication making it easy to move large volumes of data to the cloud whilst continuing with transactions, companies can now move critical applications and processes seamlessly enabling disaster recovery migration. In certain circumstances a move to the cloud even offers a chance to upgrade security with industry recognized audits making it much more secure than on site servers.

Society’s growing reliance on crucial computer systems mean that even short periods of downtime can result in significant financial loss or in some cases even put human lives at risk. In spite of this, many companies have been reluctant to allocate funding for Disaster Recovery as management often does not fully understand the risks. Time and time again network computing infrastructure has proven inadequate. Cloud computing offers an opportunity to step up to a higher level of recovery capability at a cost that is palatable to nearly any sized business. The economics of disaster recovery in the cloud are such that businesses today cannot afford not to use it.

Written by David Richards, Co-Founder, President and Chief Executive of WANdisco.