Priorities of Uninterrupted Data Access


Those of you who know me know that disaster recovery is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. For those of you whom I have not had the pleasure of meeting, I have spent most of my professional career working in Florida; I hope that offers a little insight into my special interest in disaster recovery.

I can remember a time before virtualization when I had regular opportunities to take a special trip to a Sungard recovery facility in Philadelphia to participate in that wonderful experience known as a recovery exercise <sarcasm off>. There was one year in particular that really stuck with me. You see, this specific exercise occurred  after Hurricane Katrina had decimated New Orleans. (As an interesting side note, I was living in South Florida in the path of Hurricane Katrina when it crossed over Florida before moving north towards New Orleans. It was only a category one storm when it passed over South Florida, however.)

When our team arrived at Sungard that year, we had a chance to talk with another team there. That team was from New Orleans. It had been running its infrastructure from that Sungard facility for three months already, and there was no sign of that reality changing any time soon for it. What did I take away from that experience? How important it is not only to have a disaster recovery plan, but to be able to execute that plan successfully. That is exactly what my peers on the other team sharing the Sungard facility was able to do.

Unfortunately, there were several companies in New Orleans that did not have a plan, were not able to execute that plan, or couldn’t sustain the costs to last out the recovery efforts, relocate to another data center, or both. It really seemed that the disaster recovery message was being heard by many after a couple of years of having multiple hurricanes make landfall in Florida during that time. However, the message may have been lost over time. It has been over ten years since a hurricane has made landfall in the continental US. Furthermore, virtualization has played a big role in the evolution of disaster recovery itself.

Bluelock’s white paper based on a new survey from IDG Research really caught my attention. According to the white paper:

“Seventy-one percent (71%) of top executives responding to the IDG survey rank the prevention of data loss or theft as a critical or high priority, but only half (50%) are worried about their organization’s ability to deliver continuous, uninterrupted access to data, regardless of where it resides. These execs, under constant pressure from internal and external constituents such as regulators and boards, tend to turn their attention to issues that have a direct impact on the business, such as e-commerce website downtime. In contrast, while 86% of IT directors and managers share executives’ concerns about data loss and theft, an even larger number (89%) cite continuous, uninterrupted data access as a higher priority. This finding appears to correlate with IT’s current mandate to maximize system uptime and performance and ensure employee productivity.”

Fifty percent of executives are worried about uninterrupted access to data, while almost 90% of IT directors believe that uninterrupted access to data is a higher priority. Why is there such a gap in their concerns? I cannot imagine that, when executives inquire into the state of their company’s readiness to provide uninterrupted data access, any the directors or mangers say “the company really has no plan, and I have no idea what would happen if we tried to execute a recovery.” That sounds like a resume-generating kind of answer. In most cases, directors and managers would present a message that the company is prepared. You would think that they would organize periodic tests to make sure—to prove that the company is ready and prepared to deliver. However, for one reason or another, it seems that those in the trenches are not quite so sure that they have a solid plan or the ability to deliver. Lack of planning, lack of budgetthere could be a number of any reasons, but the point is that, according to the report, the directors and managers clearly have different perceptions about the importance of delivering uninterrupted access to company data.

I would have thought that the level of concern would have been more closely aligned between the executives and the directors and managers. What is your stress level when it comes to the pressures of delivering uninterrupted data access? Where does your stress level align with those of others, and why? I am curious to hear where your priorities lie on this subject. Virtualization and cloud computing have helped considerably in making replication and recovery as easy as possible. Could it be that the level of ease with disaster recovery and uninterrupted data access has induced a false sense of security? Inquiring minds want to know. What say you?

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Steve Beaver
Stephen Beaver is the co-author of VMware ESX Essentials in the Virtual Data Center and Scripting VMware Power Tools: Automating Virtual Infrastructure Administration as well as being contributing author of Mastering VMware vSphere 4 and How to Cheat at Configuring VMware ESX Server. Stephen is an IT Veteran with over 15 years experience in the industry. Stephen is a moderator on the VMware Communities Forum and was elected vExpert for 2009 and 2010. Stephen can also be seen regularly presenting on different topics at national and international virtualization conferences.

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1 Comment on "Priorities of Uninterrupted Data Access"

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5 months 3 days ago

It really is interesting that there’s such a large gap between the amount of concern from executives and IT managers. One has to wonder why there aren’t more discussions taking place, especially considering how many businesses rely heavily on the data in their possession. Thanks for sharing.