Business unprepared for disaster recovery

Around 72% of companies worldwide are at risk because they fail to prepare adequately for disaster recovery, says expert.

Read time 3min 30sec

Businesses globally are overwhelmingly ill prepared when it comes to disaster recovery, says Riaan Hamman, spokesman for the South African chapter of the international Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council.

The council, which established its local chapter earlier this year, is conducting a study on global disaster recovery. "The preliminary results are cause for concern," Hamman says. "Around 72% of companies worldwide are at risk because they fail to prepare adequately for disaster recovery."

Nearly three out of four companies are at risk of failing to recover from a disaster or outage; 36% of respondents said they had lost critical apps, virtual machines and critical data files for hours; and 11% of the companies had lost these for days.

Hamman believes the situation in SA is probably worse than the global average.

"In SA, many companies - particularly smaller entities - have the perception that backup and recovery and associated disaster recovery testing is expensive. Too many IT managers have taken the stance that they will take a chance and hope that nothing goes wrong with their systems."

In many cases, they are basing this gamble on the hope that, because there are relatively few natural disasters in SA, disasters are not likely to occur. "What they do not realise is that most systems disasters are the result of hardware, software and network failure and pure human error," says Hamman. "In fact, human error is behind around 41% of systems disasters. Something as simple as a techie running the wrong script could have serious implications," he says. Another 54% of outages and systems failures were due to software or network failure; 28% were due to power outages; and 15% were due to weather.

Hamman adds that many companies have a false sense of security about the integrity of their systems because they are running high-availability systems that replicate applications and data. "High-availability and disaster recovery systems do complement one another, but they are not the same thing. It is important to have both. The problem with high-availability systems is that they typically depend on storage system replication or they are geographically bound. Therefore, corruption on the one system will impact the other. Only a complete disaster recovery system allows for effective recovery," he says.

The survey has indicated that few companies carry out thorough and regular disaster recovery testing. Sixty percent of those who took the survey said they do not have a fully documented disaster recovery plan, and 40% said their disaster recovery plans had not proven useful in their worst disaster recovery events.

"In SA, we find that many of those who do carry out disaster recovery testing do not go back to ensure that any corrective measures solve problems identified during testing. They should be testing regularly - monthly, weekly or even daily," he says.

Hamman believes virtualisation has changed the game for disaster recovery. Not only has it lowered the costs of disaster recovery, but it has also simplified testing. "Now it is feasible to test daily," he says.

Because SA has been slower than much of the world to adopt virtualisation, particularly for mission-critical systems, few can move their entire disaster recovery plans to a virtual environment at this stage, he conceded. However, he notes that a hybrid disaster recovery solution offers significant improvements over traditional methods.

Hamman will present the survey findings, benchmark them against South African findings, and introduce the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council to delegates at the upcoming ITWeb Business Continuity Summit, on 1 October. For more information about this event, click here.

To participate in the survey, click here.

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