IT disaster recovery outsourcing: A planning guide for enterprise CIOs

Planning for IT disaster recovery outsourcing requires CIOs to assess their DR needs, make the case for funding and select technologies. Learn more in this guide.

IT disaster recovery (DR) planning is one of those business tasks that enterprise CIOs wish they never had to consider, yet, in the event of an unexpected calamity, are usually relieved that they did. An IT disaster recovery plan outlines the precautions taken so the effects of a disaster can be minimized, especially as they relate to mission-critical functions; it may also include a significant focus on disaster prevention.

But drafting an in-house IT disaster recovery plan is often not enough. Many enterprises are now outsourcing their IT disaster recovery functions, both to further protect their data centers from total failure and, in some cases, to save money and increase efficiencies.

This CIO Briefing examines the importance of IT disaster recovery outsourcing planning, makes the case for DR funding, examines the effects of the recession on DR outsourcing and lays out the technologies available for DR outsourcing strategy.

The importance of IT DR outsourcing planning

Whether to create a disaster recovery site in-house or to outsource disaster recovery is a fundamental decision that needs to be made when creating a disaster recovery strategy. The in-house approach may be tempting, with the assumption that the work related to DR can be performed by existing staff. Unfortunately, experience shows that in-house disaster recovery is more likely to fail than outsourced DR services.

According to an IDC study, enterprises that didn't outsource lost on average $4 million per disaster incident across a variety of business functions (e.g., sales/marketing, financing, e-commerce). In contrast, enterprises that outsourced to a third party lost an average of $1.1 million per incident. The study adds that companies that leverage in-house models spend 32% more than those opting to outsource.

The study further shows that outsourcers can provide a shorter window of recovery, as measured by recovery time objective (RTO), over in-house operations by a reduced factor of 0.62. The study concludes that primary and DR data centers are more likely to get out of sync if disaster recovery services are performed in-house.

Learn more in "Outsourcing disaster recovery services vs. in-house disaster recovery." Also:

  • Disaster recovery services FAQ
    Dick Benton, a senior consultant at Glasshouse Technologies, answers frequently asked questions about outsourcing disaster recovery.

Making the case for IT DR outsourcing funding

In a tight economy, how do you make the case for your company to invest in disaster recovery? SearchCIO.com talked with leading providers of disaster recovery services and asked how they are advising clients who need to prove the value of their DR programs. Here are some of their dos and don'ts.

1. Sell a disaster recovery program by doing a risk assessment or a business impact analysis.

Such an analysis will focus the plan on the features that are most critical, thus saving money. "You can't focus on everything, given the economic constraints," said Bill Hughes, director of consulting services at SunGard Availability Services LP. Do you really need to have a clustered environment in your recovery environment? Or 10 Web servers? A risk assessment will help CIOs focus on what they absolutely need to mitigate the core risk and, if necessary, defer the rest. Hurricanes sound scary, Hughes said, but if you have certain preventive risk controls, what is the chance of a hurricane affecting you? Business resiliency is a preventive risk control.

"Maybe your biggest vulnerability is change control and the software release process. Focus more on those pains more often," Hughes said.

Find out more in "Seven tips to make the value case for disaster recovery." Also:

The effect of the recession on IT DR budgets

IT disaster recovery spending is never an easy sell, but a troubled economy has made the pitch even harder, forcing many companies to look for ways to trim DR services without adding undue risk, according to leading providers of DR services.

Eighteen months ago, CIOs and IT disaster recovery managers might have focused on often-expensive technologies to fill a gap in DR coverage. Now, they are more likely to focus on people and processes. Some are looking to wring more from existing assets by using distant corporate buildings for secondary or tertiary recovery sites. CIOs are also exploiting server virtualization to reduce floor space at their leased recovery sites, and they are boosting the resiliency of their internal IT infrastructures to minimize the impact of a disaster, these providers said.

"The economy has been a challenge for clients, no question," said Patrick Corcoran, global client solutions executive at IBM and a 32-year veteran in the disaster recovery/business continuity field. "Before it became an issue, there were a lot of discussions about lowering RTOs and RPOs, especially RPOs. Clients didn't want to lose data."

Now, these same IT departments are taking a second look at data tiers -- and recalibrating, in some cases -- to save money on disaster recovery services, said Corcoran and others.

Learn more in "Recession squeezing IT disaster recovery budgets." Also:

IT DR outsourcing technologies

Many enterprises have been insourcing IT disaster recovery in recent years through a combination of disk-based backup, server virtualization and, increasingly, cloud server capacity. DR providers are now doing many of the same things, changing the nature of what CIOs can and should expect from outsourcing DR.

One clear example is the shift from tape to disk backup. DR providers have long made a living picking up and storing tapes. Now, almost all the vendors interviewed for SearchCIO.com's DR trends story said they were advising clients to move from tape to electronic vaulting for backup, both to save money and improve recovery service levels.

While tape certainly is less expensive than a replication infrastructure, providers said CIOs need to factor in the "people and risk" costs associated with tape in a recovery scenario, including the time spent managing tapes, the risk of lost tapes and the possibility that they may be unable to recover tapes.

Consultant Jon Toigo, a DR expert and CEO of Toigo Partners International, argues that many of the problems with tape backup can be fixed by batching jobs according to volume of data and connecting interface speed to the network. "Set up the job as a string of sequential jobs," he said, by investing in a storage resource management tool.

Learn more in "Technology is changing IT disaster recovery outsourcing." Also:

IT disaster recovery outsourcing in action

A new cloud disaster recovery startup that uses a combination of Data Domain Inc. data deduplication appliances and VMware Inc. virtual servers to offer application and data recovery services has already turned a few heads in the cloud storage market.

Simply Continuous, based in San Francisco, came out of stealth last November and officially launched its services this summer.

It has two offerings: Data Recovery Vault and AppAlive. Both involve the use of Data Domain's DD series appliances at the customer site, which replicate to Data Domain appliances at the Simply Continuous data center. AppAlive adds bare-metal restore of servers from virtual hot standbys stored by Simply Continuous, which can also perform the conversion of physical servers to virtual servers using VMware's vCenter Converter tool.

Learn more in "Users go for Simply Continuous cloud disaster recovery service." Also:

More resources

This was first published in September 2009

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