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Don’t let data recovery times keep profits down

From the experts | Posted on March 16, 2012 by Emily A. Davidson

You’re an IT decision maker, and business continuity (BC) is an important component of your IT infrastructure. You understand that accidental or malicious data loss, unplanned system outages, user error, hardware theft or failure, power failure, software failure, fire, flood, earthquakes, landslides, hurricanes, tidal waves and tornadoes can blow your company’s data into oblivion.

Have you considered refreshing your backup architecture and processes with short recovery windows being the primary objective?

Excuse #1: Recovery windows? I’m too busy expanding capacity.

You’re already challenged with finding ways to streamline IT cost structures and virtualization and data growth is stretching your IT environment. There are a few ways to backup large volumes of data and below you can review how the method you use affects your ability to recover lost data:


Type of backup Description Recovery window
Unstructured Files are saved on a stack of USBs, CD-R/DVD-Rs, external hard drives with minimal information to catalog what was backed up and when. Low, these are sketchy storage methods best left for music, photos and movies.
Full backup/system imaging A copy of the entire state of each computer is backed up in a repository. You can save snapshots of your system from different times or instances. Your system can be restored exactly in the same state, but only from the date of the last full backup.
Copy backups/reverse delta After full backup, the system performs a comparison of the full backup with the current data and store the differences (this is how Time Machine works). Good for large, evolving data sets since files are synchronized.
Incremental/Differential backups After full backup. The system only backs up the files that have changed since the last full backup. This method can dive deeper, backing up different levels of data between full backups. All increments must be restored so recovery can be slow.
Daily backups The most secure data storage method. Each file change is logged on your host system using block-level differences instead of file differences. Using the modification date on the file, if a file has been modified on the same day as the backup, the file will be backed up. Data can be recovered by simply rolling back.


As unstructured data continues to increase, backup windows and data loss become larger issues for businesses and every year it’s necessary to assess how vulnerable you are.

Excuse #2: My backup window is fine, we back up data every night.

But your IT admins may be frustrated with the lack of automation, complex tasks and integration of backups into a virtualized management approach.

In early 2011, a Forrester study found only 15% of companies surveyed knew the cost of system downtime – a cool $145,000 per hour. The same study finds that 86% of companies did not know the total cost of their most recent disaster; the 14% remaining declared approximately $1.4 million in losses. To calculate your potential losses, calculate how much revenue you generate per hour, and multiply by ten – that’s the average number of IT downtime hours suffered North American companies each year.

At $145,000 an hour, losing one day’s worth of data is not only frustrating, but adds up to over $1M. You could take the loss on a day’s work, or you could consider more frequent backups. In any case, your backup architecture may protect your data, but does it also support a quick recovery?

Excuse #3: I can’t justify the costs of backing up data more frequently.

Touché. Your team are all over your data and it’s backed up daily, but have you considered how data recovery times affect your brand image, customer trust and overall reputation? For example, an online reservation company could take 15-20,000 reservations per day across a few hundred partner restaurants. This type of critical data changes several times per hour. Due to a short power outage, the company loses 1-2 days’ worth of reservations and the recovery time is 12 hours.

Customers who submitted a reservation 2 days ago arrive at the bustling restaurant on a Saturday night. The hostess says, “You didn’t make a reservation, the wait time is 90 minutes.” As more reservations hustle in the door expecting a table, the hostess tries to soothe extremely annoyed patrons. This situation will repeat several times in one restaurant, across several hundred restaurants, impacting thousands of customers and accumulating millions of dollars in lost revenue for restaurant partners.

Additionally, any businesses seriously affected by your data loss may have the option of taking legal action to try and recover lost revenue and other damages. Don’t forget to tack on additional fines for non-compliance. In the case of data recovery, time equals money.

Don’t panic if you haven’t thought of the real effects of recovering your data. Use it as an opportunity to start the conversation to assess how you can decrease your exposure to data loss with frequent backups.

Related post: 15 Minute Backup Windows; Need I say more?

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