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Expect the Unexpected: The Essential Checklist to Choosing the Right Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Partner

Posted by Graham Shimmin on Jun 25, 2015 9:22:00 AM

A business continuity partner could be your organisation’s guardian angel. But how do you find the right one?

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Disaster recovery and business continuity mean one thing: keeping your business running no matter what happens. You’re effectively picking a guardian angel for your entire business, and that means looking beyond the brochures to ensure you’ve got the right candidate for the role.

Before you do that, it’s important to understand what you want to achieve. That means identifying the crucial systems you want to protect, and the potential cost of downtime. For example, a 2013 survey by the Aberdeen Group found that the average cost of one hour’s downtime was $8,580.99 for smaller businesses (defined by Aberdeen as firms with annual revenues below $50m).

Think of disaster recovery and business continuity as a form of insurance: you need to know the value of what you’re insuring to know whether you should be paying the premiums. And like insurance, you shouldn’t wait until disaster strikes to think about it.

There’s a lot of jargon in this sector but the two acronyms that really matter are RTO and RPO. RTO stands for Recovery Time Objective and RPO stands for Recovery Point Objective, and they’re measures of time that you would agree with your Business Continuity team.

Strip away the jargon and what RTO and RPO specify is how long disaster recovery can take before your business starts suffering damage, and how up-to-date your data needs to be. That enables you to identify the best solutions, so for example if your RPO is measured in hours then a backup system involving daily tape backups sent off-site isn’t fast or up-to-date enough to get you up and running again in the event of a serious problem.

To identify the right partner for your business, it’s important to take three key criteria into consideration:

  • Track record
  • Innovation
  • Honesty

When it comes to track record, anybody can make an impressive brochure, website or PowerPoint pitch, but that doesn’t mean they can actually deliver if disaster strikes. A solid, verifiable track record of working with businesses like yours is essential. We can’t overstate the importance of doing your research here.

Innovation matters too, because technology is changing quickly. For example, firms that employ virtualisation - keeping virtual copies of servers that can be deployed on other machines quickly and effortlessly - can respond very quickly to events and offer great flexibility and cost-effectiveness. You want your partner to be on top of technology, not just in terms of what’s available now but what’s coming down the road.

Last but not least, there’s honesty. How many downtime events have they suffered in the last year? What level of availability can they guarantee? There’s a big difference between 99.5% and 99.9%: the former could mean more than 40 hours of annual downtime, while the latter means just eight and a half. Another question to ask is, can you speak to existing customers? If not, why not?

This isn’t a simple purchase: it’s about finding a supplier that can work with you and adapt as your business grows or your requirements change. Like any long-term relationship, it’s important to make sure you’ve found the perfect relationship before you commit.

Because if disaster does strike your company, there will be no time to find the business continuity partner with the right credentials for you.

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Risky Business: the 10 biggest threats to your business data