The case for outsourced electronic vaulting

Posted on April 01, 2001

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Business benefits include cost-effective disaster recovery and business continuation.

BY JERRY MURTAUGH

Like it or not, the truth is that systems fail, power outages occur, and disasters happen. And when they do, there is a very real risk of significant impact to your business. Statistics like these from the tell the tale.

  • Computer systems fail on an average of nine times per year, with an average of four hours downtime per failure.
  • Most business interruptions are caused by human error (34%), power problems (29%), and environmental incidents (10%).
  • Computer downtime costs U.S. businesses more than $4 billion per year, mostly through lost revenue.
  • The average company's hourly downtime cost per outage is $330,000.
  • After a disaster, 43% of U.S. businesses never re-open, and another 29% close within two years.

Respond, recover, restore

Today's global environment demands that data be available, secured, and shared at any time-both internal and external to the organization. These information-availability requirements dictate robust disaster-recovery and backup-recovery implementations through unified management and decentralized execution. In short, it makes sense to plan ahead.

From air conditioning failure to cut cables, earthquakes and lightning, smoke damage, and vandalism, disasters affect businesses every day. In fact, your board of directors, insurance policy, or ISO-9000 procedures may even require some sort of emergency response plan.

Having a comprehensive disaster-recovery and business-continuation plan will help you:

  • Shorten response time to disaster;
  • Decrease lost revenue;
  • Increase productivity during recovery;
  • Control recovery costs; and
  • Increase competitive advantage.

As data volumes increase and storage hardware prices decrease, emphasis will shift to storage area networks (SANs), storage software, and services-like electronic vaulting-to provide the disaster recovery and business continuation that today's organizations must have.

Your business is undoubtedly operating with an ever-increasing number of business-critical systems such as ERP, CRM, e-commerce, and e-mail. And the loss of these systems can have significant consequences. At the same time, you're struggling with how to implement a business-continuance architecture with limited in-house resources.

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If, like many companies, you protect your data with tape backups stored off-site, you know the process can be slow, labor-intensive, and an unreliable way to recover critical data when you need it most. With traditional physical tape backup and off-site storage, a gap between data creation and pickup delivery time creates a potential for significant data loss. Thus, while physical off-site storage may seem inexpensive, it can actually be very expensive compared to the cost of a recovery time measured in days rather than hours.

Electronic vaulting addresses the increasingly complex disaster-recovery requirements of your core systems. By electronically transmitting and creating backup tapes at a secure facility, you move business-critical data off-site faster and more frequently than traditional data backup processes permit, letting you:

  • Extend data protection;
  • Enable process improvements;
  • Improve data currency, integrity, and security;
  • Reduce data-recovery time; and
  • Minimize data loss.

It's not easy to recover from the missed opportunities, lost revenue, and customer dissatisfaction that often result from a system interruption. With outsourced electronic vaulting, you can ensure your valuable corporate information assets are offline, off-site, and out of reach, protected from all threats-natural and man-made-so you can concentrate on running your business. In addition, you can strengthen your disaster-recovery processes, without adding IT resources.

An electronic vaulting service should help you:

  • Improve tape-handling processes;
  • Reduce on-site labor costs;
  • Shorten the recovery window;
  • Lower the cost of downtime;
  • Improve data security and integrity;
  • Improve tape recall time;
  • Improve the disaster-recovery testing process; and
  • Scale with storage growth.

How it works

Typically, disaster-recovery plans include daily off-site backups that are picked up from your site and transported to a secure facility, a process known as physical off-site vaulting. With electronic vaulting, networking technology provides new opportunities to secure corporate information assets.

Electronic vaulting is the process of electronically transmitting and creating backup tapes directly at an off-site facility, eliminating the need to transport backup tapes via truck. For many organizations, a hybrid solution offers the most value by combining physical off-site vaulting with electronic journaling of transactions or changes that occur between regular backups.

With electronic vaulting, you can reduce your recovery point, streamline your backup-and-recovery process, and reduce the duration of an outage as well as your on-site workload.

In addition, you can significantly reduce bandwidth costs by vaulting to a local secure facility rather than to your distant hot site.

For example, consider a financial services company that has a 36-hour recovery-point exposure with traditional physical tape transfer to off-site storage. If the company implements electronic journaling of its log tapes, it could reduce the recovery-point exposure to one hour. While this electronic vaulting service may cost $30,000 per month, for example, the exposure for the 35 hours of data lost is about $14 million. Electronic vaulting is an inexpensive insurance premium.

With disaster-avoidance measures like disk mirroring or data replication, you get high availability of data. However, some disasters, like those caused by hackers or viruses, can destroy the mirrored or replicated copy. True disaster-recovery protection means that backups are off-site and out of reach, not just offline. For optimum data protection, you can combine disk mirroring, electronic vaulting, and electronic journaling.

Recovery point vs. recovery time

Traditionally, disaster recovery includes daily off-site backups, which means that in a worst-case disaster, the off-site backups would be between 24 and 48 hours old. And in today's competitive economy, losing even a day's worth of transactions could put you out of business.

The time between the last safe backup and the point of failure is called the recovery point. In contrast, recovery time includes the time elapsed from when the disaster occurred to resumption of normal business activities. Typically, recovery time is 72 hours. While electronic vaulting addresses the recovery-point objective, you can combine this service with other methods to improve recovery time as well. For example, to decrease recovery time, you could:

  • Store data at or near your hot site for fast physical transfer;
  • Store operating systems on hot-site spinning disks;
  • Send backup tapes to your hot site daily; and
  • Link electronically from the tape vaulting facility bunker to your hot site to expedite data transfer.

If your company is like most, you are more dependent than ever on your corporate information. And because no organization is immune from a disaster, it's important to have a disaster-recovery and business-continuation plan. In today's business environment, ignoring this re-quirement is not an option.

Jerry Murtaugh is senior director of marketing programs at Computer Network Technology (www.cnt.com) in Minneapolis, MN.


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