Evaluate Weigh the pros and cons of technologies, products and projects you are considering.

IT business continuity, disaster recovery strategy guide for CIOs

IT business continuity planning and disaster recovery strategies remain big on enterprise CIO agendas this year. In this guide, learn about BC planning and DR technology solutions.

IT business continuity and disaster recovery planning were especially important in the enterprise this past year. The H1N1"swine flu" pandemic last year demonstrated to CIOs the necessity of having a BC plan in place for such circumstances. IT DR planning also gained prominence, as such high-profile snafus as last November's four-hour outage of the Federal Aviation Administration's telecommunications infrastructure led many CIOs to reexamine their DR strategy.

This year, business continuity and disaster recovery planning remain high on the CIO agenda. In SearchCIO's 2009 IT priorities survey, 38% of 92 CIOs and senior IT managers said that DR and BC would be a high priority in 2010, 51% called them a medium priority and only 11% considered them low priority. Moreover, 56% said that DR initiatives were not very vulnerable to budget cuts in this economic environment.

In this guide, learn how to communicate the value of an IT business continuity plan, why organizations have crafted a dedicated pandemic BC plan, and how IT disaster recovery planning and DR technologies can steer your organization's strategy away from disaster in 2010.

This guide is one of a series of SearchCIO.com CIO Briefings, which are designed to give IT leaders strategic-management and decision-making advice on timely topics. For a complete list of the topics already covered, visit the CIO Briefings section.

Value of an IT business continuity plan

It's the bane of CIOs: How do you get senior management to appreciate the value of business continuity plans before an incident occurs? Unless the company is in a regulated industry that requires contingency plans, or is in an industry, such as financial services, where downtime clearly translates into boatloads of lost money, business continuity plans remain a tough sell for many CIOs and their BC managers.

Now, risk experts at research consultancy Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. contend they have hit upon an approach that will help prove the value of business continuity: mapping the relationship between the company's key performance indicators and key risk indicators to gauge what Gartner refers to as "availability risk."

Learn more in Proving the value of a business continuity plan -- before disaster hits. Also:

  • Business continuity plan needs the right leader, metrics to succeed
    A successful BC plan requires leadership from the business, the role of which includes setting the metrics that will drive disaster recovery spending.
  • What business continuity plans? I have a business to run!
    How do you educate your upper management about the value of BC before disaster strikes?
  • WordPress problems: Temporary blog failure shows need for DR, BC plans
    WordPress ran into problems recently when a data center outage led to the failure of millions of users' blogs underscoring the importance of a disaster recovery and business continuity plan.
  • Gmail outage raises issue of control
    It wasn't so much the Google Gmail outage that bothered one IT director, but his sense that he wasn't in control of his cloud computing environment.

Pandemic business continuity planning

A few basic guidelines should help you customize your business continuity plan for a pandemic, an event in which key factors are absenteeism and uncertainty about its duration. For this advice, we conferred with Alan Berman, executive director at the Disaster Recovery Institute International and former CIO for a major financial institution, and two analysts specializing in BC and DR, Stephanie Balaouras at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., and Roberta Witty at Gartner.

For CIOs and other executives, a pandemic poses a serious risk/problem. "Senior IT officers have a fiducary obligation to their organizations to reduce the negative risk potential in advance or quickly instate mitigating actions if and when those examples of risk materialize," said Bruce Barnes, president of Bold Vision LLC, a Dublin, Ohio, consulting practice.

Learn more in Tips for business continuity and contingency planning for swine flu . IT business continuity plans for swine flu outbreaks focus on people and remote access issues. Here are experts' tips on what to include. ." Also:

  • Swine flu preparedness: Business continuity during an H1N1 outbreak
    Swine flu preparedness tops enterprise CIO agendas as offices create BC plans in case of widespread absenteeism. Learn more in this guide.
  • Tips from the CDC's CIO on H1N1 flu preparedness
    We check in with James Seligman, CIO at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about a CIO checklist for H1N1 and other business continuity nightmares.
  • Swine flu -- not hurricanes -- leads disaster recovery agenda
    A real virus -- swine flu -- took shape as a big storm cloud for disaster recovery specialists.
  • Talking swine flu and Conficker with the CIO of the CDC
    The CIO at the CDC discusses how preparations for H1N1 and other human viruses compare with the computer variety, and more.

Value of IT disaster recovery planning

Penny pinching and concessions were the operative modes for customers of the major disaster recovery service providers in 2009. Companies that had been eyeing expensive technologies to fill gaps in DR plans in 2008 focused instead on people and processes in 2009, according to Patrick Corcoran, global client solutions executives at IBM Corp. Bill Hughes, director of consulting services at SunGard Availability Services LP, also saw plenty of customers cutting corners by:

  • Using corporate buildings emptied by the the recession for secondary and tertiary recovery sites.
  • Recalibrating data tiers to save money on recovery services.
  • Using server virtualization to reduce the floor space and power consumption at leased recovery sites.

Here are three tips, taken from more than a dozen disaster recovery projects we profiled in 2009, aimed at helping you pay for your DR plans in 2010.

Learn more in CIOs: Planning, no frills make disaster recovery plans recessionproof. Also:

  • Disaster recovery is dead; long live continuous business operations
    IT disaster recovery is dead, according to the head of the Disaster Recovery Institute International. Here's how DR is becoming synonymous with business continuity.
  • Recession squeezing IT disaster recovery budgets
    The recession has forced CIOs to focus on risk assessments, processes and business resiliency to trim IT DR services. The result, say providers, is better decisions.

IT disaster recovery strategy for the CIO

As CIOs make their annual pitch for IT disaster recovery funding -- a hard sell in any economy -- Gene Ruth, who covers DR for Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group Inc., and other experts advised CIOs to keep the following point in mind: Equipment failure is the No. 1 reason for disaster recovery declarations.

Most IT disasters have nothing to do with the type of event that wipes out a facility, which is what many organizations consider when they plan for recovery from an IT disaster. "This is a message I drive home to clients, especially when they are trying to justify DR to senior management," said analyst John Morency, a certified information systems auditor and research director at Gartner.

A recently published study from SunGard Availability Services showed that of the 2,250 disaster events it handled in 2008, hardware failure accounted for 500. That was well ahead of the second-leading cause, hurricane and weather events (275); and the third, power outages (213).

Learn more in Four lessons in IT disaster recovery planning from an FAA outage. Also:

  • Disaster recovery strategy shift reduces data loss, recovery time
    Under pressure to reduce recovery time and minimize mainframe data loss, IT veterans at MetLife Inc. devised a strategy that put tape out to pasture.
  • A disaster recovery plan meets cloud computing
    There is a big difference between a DR plan and business continuity, even though many forget the distinction.
  • Avoid these architecture mistakes in your disaster recovery planning
    In building out a disaster recovery strategy, many IT executives make these common mistakes. Here's how to work around them.
  • Review these trends in IT disaster recovery planning and outsourcing
    IT disaster recovery outsourcing can help enterprises protect data centers more effectively than doing it themselves if catastrophe strikes. Take our quiz to learn more about outsourcing DR.
  • A disaster recovery plan for branch offices: Five layers of redundancy
    This CIO's disaster recovery plan for branch offices (hospitals) seems to have it all covered -- including the business mission.

IT disaster recovery solutions and technology

Most CIOs will say they have a disaster recovery strategy with policies and processes in place to govern how people and technologies will function in the event of an extended outage. But how sure are these same CIOs that their strategies would work in the event of a real disaster? IT organizations need to give their data recovery solutions a reality check by addressing some of the following questions and problems:

How do you plan to recover systems?

Whether virtualization thrives in your environment or you are still in the physical systems world, ensure that your alternate facility is available and able to handle the IT systems workload necessary to run a near-normal operation. Sizing systems, therefore, is critical. You cannot set up systems randomly and hope they will work. This is a sure recipe for disaster or a total waste of money. The real acid test is to simulate the workload on these systems to measure their performance.

Learn more in Data recovery solutions must address a range of concerns. Also:

  • Technology is changing IT disaster recovery outsourcing
    Technologies such as virtualization, disk backup and cloud can radically change IT DR services.
  • Desktop, server virtualization help CIO fix disaster recovery plans
    A combination of desktop and server virtualization is helping one bank CIO sync up disaster recovery between the backup data center and production site.
  • When an IT disaster recovery plan is put to the test, Voice over Internet Protocol becomes savior
    As floods test a utility's IT DR plan, a VoIP installation rescues business continuity efforts and shows the importance of DR planning for non-headquarters offices.
  • Virtualization aids in disaster recovery when budget is tight
    CIOs are tapping virtualization to shape their disaster recovery plans and save money.
  • Seeking affordable DR in Azerbaijan: IBM, SunGard, are you listening?
    The world may be getting flatter, but the playing field is far from level when it comes to DR.

More resources

Dig Deeper on Enterprise disaster recovery and business continuity planning