Four Essential Steps to Ensuring Data Protection and Rapid Recovery

We’ve been talking a lot about effective software deployment and management throughout this blog series. But there’s one critical element we have yet to discuss: data protection and data recovery.  

Today, everyone wants be connected 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That means when applications are down, it’s costing someone dearly. This is especially true with critical applications like Exchange, SharePoint, SQL Server, Active Directory and Oracle. It’s critical that you understand these four steps to squash downtime:

1. Define Recovery Objectives for Your Applications and Data

Realistically, everything in your enterprise can’t have near-zero RPOs and RTOs. The good news is, you can pick and choose. A critical e-commerce database may merit very aggressive recovery objectives because the business simply can’t afford to lose any transactions or be down for long. However, a legacy internal system may be assigned less stringent recovery objectives, since the data doesn’t change very often and it’s less critical to get back online.

The trick is knowing which is which. This does not require applying a different technique to every individual application or dataset you have. You should look for commonalities and group applications and data according to how critical they are to your business, how often they change and their retention policies. You will undoubtedly have to make some trade-offs to limit the number of data classes you have. For all of our medium-sized businesses out there, the ideal number of classes is between three and five.

2. Don’t Go It Alone

Involve your business line managers in the process from the beginning. This is the step where many IT professionals fall short. Setting recovery objectives without consulting them is the number one cause for misalignment between IT and other departments.

3. Determine the Right Tools and Techniques

Once you have identified all your IT assets, mapped their dependencies, and grouped them together based on their criticality and recovery objectives, it’s time to choose what tools and techniques to use. The good news is that a wide array of solutions is on the market today. Just make sure that what you choose offers the appropriate level of protection. Over-protection can really cost you, and it introduces unnecessary complexity. Under-protection can be equally bad since it will put important business functions at risk.

The best way to choose the right backup and recovery software is to think like a business leader. Choose a solution that offers the best value — one that doesn’t cost your firm needless money, introduce unnecessary complexity or put important business functions at risk.

4. Get Stakeholder Buy-In

Always involve key stakeholders from your business units. Work with application owners and business managers to reach agreement about the company’s priorities and the service-level agreements (SLAs) your team will provide. It’s also critical to enlist an executive-level sponsor who will get behind you and the project.

Here are Some Tips for Success:

  • Look for solutions that are easy to acquire and deploy. Purpose-built backup appliances (PBBAs) are gaining in popularity because they include all backup software, hardware and storage, making it very easy to get started.
  • Choose a licensing model that will accommodate growth. Buying backup by component is a good idea if you aren’t planning to add a lot of servers and applications. Buying backup by capacity may not make sense when you have a few NAS filers with petabytes of data to protect. Be on the lookout for any gotchas — I remain surprised that some vendors actually charge by the data you recover!
  • Deduplication appliances can help when you can’t afford to completely rip and replace your existing backup software. Some offer accelerator technology, which can greatly improve backup and restore performance as well as reduce the backup traffic over your network. Some also include data replication capabilities, so you can safely and efficiently send your backup data to your disaster recovery site.
  • Seek a balance between capabilities and manageability. Some solutions have more options for scheduling, tracking and data streaming than most organizations need. Even worse, some require admins to define every detail of the backup process, increasing the risk of human error. The right solution will meet your needs and provide an intuitive user experience.
  • Look for a vendor that has a proven track record of supporting the latest application and operating system releases.
  • Look beyond license fees to total cost of ownership. TCO includes maintenance renewal fees and professional service fees required for upgrades and tune-ups, as well as all of the hardware costs required to run the backup system. You’d be surprised at how quickly these add up.

To learn more about successful application and data management, be sure to check out the latest chapter in our e-book, “Technology Tunnel Vision, Part 3: Expanding control of your application environment.”