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Issue of December 2005 

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Designing a business continuity plan

Organisations must choose recovery software based on their requirements and the cost associated with recovery, says Anil Desai

The objectives of enterprise recovery are to protect the organisation’s data and to return systems (and users) to operational status as rapidly as possible.

Companies must select recovery solutions that support their business requirements and are well suited to restore systems from failures they are most likely to face. Many organisations make the mistake of focussing their recovery plans on the most severe situations (such as destruction from physical disaster), leaving themselves exposed to other availability problems that are far more likely to occur, such as OS failures and software corruption.

Understanding System Failures

Worthy of note is the fact that the most common cause of a disaster is neither physical destruction nor hardware failure but operating system (OS) failure. These and other software-induced failures can be triggered by faulty updates, application or OS errors, malware, or power failures. Preparing for these seemingly inevitable failures is a fundamental requirement for every IT team.

According to Gartner, a key cause of server downtime with Windows is the increasing frequency of required software patches, especially security-related patches.

In her recent report, the Vice-president of Gartner, Carolyn DiCenzo states, “Companies reported that they can no longer afford the time to thoroughly test each software patch and then deploy them across a growing number of servers, especially Windows and Linux servers, in a timely manner. The risk of waiting is often too great. Server administrators are increasingly turning to recovery tools that allow them to repair or roll back to the last working state without re-installing or going to system backup tapes.”

Cost Of Recovery

To evaluate the true cost of any particular recovery method, an organisation must factor in the following expenses:

  • Recovery solution implementation costs, which include acquisition costs (such as additional hardware and software), staff time required to install and support the solution, and the impact on system resources such as network bandwidth.
  • System downtime costs, which reflect lost revenue from e-commerce installations and other business-impacting applications.
  • Data loss cost, which can be incurred to re-capture or re-create data.
  • Lost user productivity cost, which includes non-productive time while systems or files are unavailable, or repeated efforts to recover lost work.

Advantages Of Repair And Recovery

  • Reduced downtime and rapid recovery

    As people in every size and type of environment rely more and more on their computing resources, downtime becomes ever more costly. One of the main purposes of data recovery tools is to quickly and efficiently resolve problems that might prevent systems from operating properly. When well-designed software tools are used to diagnose and repair problems, losses due to downtime can be dramatically reduced.

  • Reliable recovery

    When problems occur, it’s important for recovery operations to be reliable and accurate.

  • Cost savings

    Earlier in this paper we looked at factors that should be taken into account when determining the total costs of downtime. Data recovery tools can greatly reduce these costs in a number of ways:

    - Reduced IT personnel costs

    - Controlled backup expenses

    - Reduced reliance on documentation

    - Reduced downtime.

Recovery Tool Features

Organisations must select recovery solutions that support their business requirements and are well suited to restore systems from disasters they are most likely to face such as OS failure and software corruption

Now that we’ve looked at the various benefits of repair and recovery tools, let’s focus on how to pick the products that deliver the highest return. In this section we’ll look at some of the features that IT managers should consider when evaluating data recovery tools.

  • Functionality

    Functionality is the key to any product evaluation. The ability of a single product to address multiple aspects of system recovery can provide compounded benefits over time.

  • Flexible recovery options

    System recovery can often involve multiple aspects of troubleshooting and the need to combine different approaches to quickly solve a problem. Because of this, utilities that offer maximum flexibility have the potential to provide the greatest value whenever repairs are urgently needed. For example,

    - Multiple means of access to a dead or unbootable system.

    - Diagnostic capabilities which can aid troubleshooting and accelerate the repair process.

    - Recovery tools that provide network connectivity to deliver greater assurance and minimise data loss.

    - Utilities that can repair a virus- or worm-infected system while the operating system is in a safe, offline state.

    - Operating system compatibility within an organisation that has the potential to provide greater value.

Ideally, a recovery tool should combine multiple features like these to address the range of problems that IT personnel are likely to encounter.

Finally, though ease of use is an important consideration for any software product, it can be critical when it comes to recovery tools.

The author is a consultant based in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at

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