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CIO Sets New Disaster Recovery Strategy: No More Backyard Backups

John O'Brien saw a disaster waiting to happen. When he arrived last year as director of information services at David Evans and Associates Inc. (DEA), employees at the Portland, Ore.-based architectural firm stored backup tapes wherever they could -- including their backyard garages. Today O'Brien plans to convert the $130-million company to a disk storage system. In the meantime, he has implemented a $350,000, three-point disaster recovery (DR) plan that's been in place since February and has already delivered cost savings. It also delivered O'Brien from the pain of a haphazard DR strategy.

"Disaster recovery is not strictly file recovery," says O'Brien. He defines DR as surviving an earthquake registering 7.2 on the Richter scale, as he did in Olympia, Wash., four years ago. "You have zero access to your building," says O'Brien. "How do you get your 200-plus engineers working with the correct information in the shortest amount of time?"

At DEA, O'Brien started by contracting records storage company Iron Mountain Inc. Then came the concept of a SAN (storage area network). Calculating his future storage needs, O'Brien decided to make a larger up-front purchase that would save money in the long run. He spent $300,000 on 8 terabytes' worth of EMC Corp. SAN equipment. He predicted an annual ROI of $148,000. O'Brien also spent $50,000 on a Dell Inc. server and Double-Take replication software from NSI Software Inc. for daily backups. "For midlevel markets, you know it's not cheap," O'Brien admits. "You are talking about $50,000 just to replicate." For O'Brien, who will remind you that Oregon is volcano territory, the best DR advice is simple: "Think about your worst-case scenario and plan around it." Problem solved.

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