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Seeking DR in Azerbaijan: IBM, SunGard, are you listening?

CIOs looking for info on the how-tos of business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) have a wealth of literature at their Googling fingertips. On a mission yesterday to learn more about industry benchmarks for a recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO), the metrics that in principle help determine a company’s recovery strategy, I found business continuity guidebooks galore. The U.K.-based Business Continuity Institute and the U.S.-based DRI International peddle tomes on BC. The industry bible, Business Continuity Planning Methodology by brothers Akhtar and Afsar Syed, can be had for $145 with 1-Click ordering.

Benchmarks for state-of-the-art RTO and RPO are one thing if your enterprise is already up to date with business continuity and disaster recovery. But these metrics — and affordable DR — can seem awfully abstract in the real world, I am discovering from CIOs, especially if the real world is the globe.

I recently got an email from Jiten Patel, CIO of the Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA International), an amazing not-for-profit that provides microfinance services to the world’s lowest-income entrepreneurs. You’d think with its 25-year successful history of village banking, not to mention high-profile support from uber-connected celebrities like actress Natalie Portman, FINCA would not be at a loss for good DR. And, indeed, setting an RPO and RTO benchmark for FINCA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., “is an easy conversation.”

But there was Patel, on business in Baku, Azerbaijan, explaining the difficulty of providing affordable DR at its microfinance operations in 21 countries around the globe:

“DR options in the developing countries are fairly limited and expensive propositions, and not something we can afford to have in place in every country. And unlike in the US where we have the likes of Sungard and IBM who offer such services at a reasonable cost, this is not the case in countries where we operate — one has to buy a box, which may sit there ‘cobwebbed’ — which is not a viable option and it adds to the financial burden.

“In light of this my strategy has been to centralize our infrastructure on a region-by-region basis, to use 3rd-party hosting providers who can provide more robust redundancy options, and to try and negotiate more affordable DR pricing, which where we can makes it much more palatable for the likes of us.

“It would be a boon for all of us NGOs who operate globally, if someone like Sungard or IBM offered such services at very affordable rates around the globe: Offering it just in the US for far -lung global operations is not viable.”

The world may be getting flatter, but the playing field is far from level when it comes to DR. And it is just a hunch, but disasters that shred data must be common in countries where electricity on any given day is not a given.

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