PaperTiger
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Please feel free to contact me at chinabee<at>yahoo<dot>com

My "expertise" is mostly focused on business continuity which includes high availability, disaster recovery and backup & restore. I am a long time player (>12 years) in system administration, virtualization implementation and project management. My experience is mostly centered around Microsoft and VMware systems and IBM and Dell servers.

The following is a short article I wrote to answer a question I have been asked often.

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The Starting Point of Backup and Disaster Recovery

I have often been asked about how to set up backup and disaster recovery (DR), mostly by small and medium business owners.

Obviously disaster recovery is a much bigger topic, but both come down to a simple process of understanding three business requirements: RTO, RPO and cost. Please note: this is a business decisions, not an IT decision.

RTO, recovery time objective, is basically how long a business can afford to be down while RPO, recovery point objective, is how much data the business can afford to lose because of a disaster.

Both RTO and RPO are typically measured in hours but more importantly, different IT system may have different RTO and RPO requirements because some systems or data are obviously more critical than others.

For example, given most business’ reliance on email system, hardly can any business accept a RTO and RPO being longer than a few hours for their email server; losing a file server, however, may not be so disastrous so long as it can be recovered from a day or two old backup.

Cost is simple but the cost to achieve certain RTO and RPO can vary significantly. In general, the lower the RTO & RPO, the substantially higher the cost is. A highly redundant system (very low or near zero RTO and RPO) not only takes money and expertise to build but also takes time and effort to maintain. More importantly, it may not even fit the business need - why implementing an expensive solution while the business is willing to tolerate more downtime or more data loss? It would be very unwise for IT to introduce a system without any business mandate and such decision must be made by the business, not IT.

A good and simple approach is to ask the IT department or the company's IT consultant to make a list of all the IT systems that need protection and provide an estimated cost for achieving certain RTO and RPO for each system. For example:

RTO Table:
System      Near Zero      2-4 hours      24 hours      48 hours
Email      $      $      $      $
File server      $      $      $      $
Printer server      $      $      $      $

RPO Table:
System      Near Zero      2-4 hours      24 hours      48 hours
Email      $      $      $      $
File server      $      $      $      $
Printer server      $      $      $      $

All of the business heads should then sit down and review this list to decide the acceptable RTO and RPO for each system in relevant to their implementation cost and cost to the business. Then the IT folks can work out an much more accurate cost, and if approved, go about implementing them.

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