What is 'recovery time' in IT disaster recovery?

What is 'recovery time' in IT disaster recovery?

Warning: one man’s understanding of ‘recovery time’ is rarely the same as the next man’s.  Why is this dangerous? Because the longer your business is without IT systems and data, the worse the impact on your business. So you need to understand exactly when to expect what from your IT disaster recovery.

Business continuity and IT disaster recovery statistics

Gartner Research discovered this chilling statistic: two out of five companies that experience a disaster go out of business within five years. According to Contingency Planning and Management magazine, 40 percent of companies that shut down for three days fail within 36 months. Our own research shows that only a worrying *two out of five (43%) leaders of small-medium financial services companies know how long it would take to restore their IT to normal working order.

Business continuity plan – what’s your maximum IT downtime before breaking point?

The majority of companies that have a business continuity plan will have decided on a recovery time objective based on the maximum length of time the business can afford to be without IT systems and data.

When it comes to looking for a provider to meet those objectives, understanding what potential suppliers mean by their definition of recovery time is highly important.

What are your Minimum Business Continuity Objectives (MBCO)?

Some industry specialists describe recovery time as the time taken to achieve the minimum business continuity objectives (MBCOs). They define MBCO as the point at which these all happen:

  • IT systems operate at some level of capability
  • IT systems are returned to service regardless of status or quality
  • The business is able to continue without maximum productivity
  • IT turns a system over to quality assurance (QA)

With your MBCO now in place, your system is booted with software applications and data is loaded.  Your business is viable, but less than 100 percent productive at your appointed recovery time.  For some organisations, 30% productivity after two days is deemed an acceptable recovery time.

What is full return to service?

Once your MBCOs have been reached, you can focus on achieving full return to service. To achieve this, you’ll need to:

  1. Configure software packages so they integrate fully
  2. Configure users’ profiles with access rights on individual devices so they work as they did prior to the incident
  3. Address security protocols, DNS, drivers, kernel and HAL.
  4. Test that your system is fully functioning and robust

The challenge of testing your full return to service during IT disaster recovery

Unfortunately, it’s number four that’s the big one here. Testing takes hours of engineering time, which adds to the recovery time, which is why a lot of IT disaster recovery providers don’t include recovery time in their SLAs. Pretty crafty, eh? But not smart. Testing is the most challenging element of a disaster recovery service provider’s service. The stumbling block is that they’ll need – at short notice – to supply a large number of engineers. Logistically, this is difficult to get right.

So, when you are defining your recovery time objective (RTO) with a potential disaster recovery provider, make sure you:

  1. Define what level of productivity is acceptable
  2. Ask what their return to service time is
  3. Ask exactly what they can guarantee

How to avoid the testing nightmare during disaster recovery

Pre-recovery is the latest innovation in disaster recovery. It has the benefits of guaranteeing the fastest return to service time of all cloud DR services – returning you to 100% productivity sometimes within minutes – rather than hours or days - of an IT disaster.

To find out more, check out these “Disaster Recovery FAQs”.

*In September 2014, Cloud Direct surveyed 237 directors and managers of small-medium financial services companies across the UK.

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