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BCDR Strategy: Three Critical Questions

Jeremy Carter headshotBy Jeremy Carter, VMware Senior Consultant

Organizations in every industry are increasingly dependent on technology, making increased resiliency and decreased downtime a critical priority. In fact, Forrester cites resiliency as the number three overall infrastructure priority this year.

A business continuity solution that utilizes the virtual infrastructure, like the one VMware offers, can greatly simplify the process, though IT still needs to understand how all the pieces of their business continuity and disaster recover (BCDR) strategy fit together.

I often run up against the expectation of a one-size-fits-all BCDR solution. Instead it’s helpful to understand the three key facets of IT resilience—data protection, local application availability, and site application availability—and how different tools protect each one, for both planned and unplanned downtime (see the diagram below). If you’d like to learn more on that front, there is a free two-part webcast coming up that I recommend you sign up for here.

As important as it is to find the right tool, you only know a tool is “right” if it meets a set of clearly defined business objectives. That’s why I recommend that organizations start their BCDR planning with a few high-level questions to help them assess their business needs.

1. What is truly critical?

Almost everyone’s initial response is that they want to protect everything, but when you look at the trade-off in complexity, you’ll quickly recognize the need to prioritize.

An important (and sometimes overlooked) step in this decision-making process is to check in with the business users who will be affected. They might surprise you. For instance, I was working with a government organization where IT assumed everything was super critical. When we talked to the business users, it turned out they had all of their information on paper forms that would then be entered into the computer. If the computer went down, they would lose almost no data.

On the other hand, the organization’s 911 center’s data was extremely critical and any downtime or loss of data could have catastrophic consequences. Understanding what could be deprioritized allowed us to spend the time (and money) properly protecting the 911 center.

As we move further into cloud computing, another option is emerging: Let the application owners decide at deployment. With tools like vCloud Automation Center (vCAC), we can define resources with differing service levels. An oil company I recently worked with integrated SRM with vCAC so that any applications deployed into Gold or Silver tiers would be protected by SRM.

Planned Downtime Unplanned Downtime VMware Data Protection2. Which failures are you preventing?

Each level of the data center has its preferred method of protection, although all areas also need to work together. If you’re concerned about preventing failures within the data center, maybe you rely on HA and App HA; however, if you want to protect the entire datacenter, you’ll need SRM and vSphere Replication (again, see chart).

3. RTO, RPO, MTD?

Another helpful step in choosing the best BCDR strategy is to define a recovery time objective (RTO), recovery point objective (RPO) and maximum tolerable downtime (MTD) for both critical and non-critical systems.

These objectives are often dictated by a contract or legal regulations that require a certain percentage of uptime. When established internally, they should take many factors into account, including if data exists elsewhere and the repercussions of downtime, especially financial ones.

The final step in the implementation of any successful IT strategy is not a question, but rather an ongoing diligence. Remember that your BCDR strategy is a living entity—you can’t just set it and forget it. Every time you make a change to the infrastructure or add a new application, you’ll need to work it into the BCDR plans. But I hope that each update will be a little easier now that you know the right questions to ask.


VMware-WebcastWant to learn more about building out a holistic business continuity and disaster recovery strategy?
Join these two great (free) webcasts that are right around the corner.

Implementing a Holistic BC/DR Strategy with VMware – Part One
Tuesday, February 18 – 10 a.m. PST

Technical Deep Dive – Implementing a Holistic BC/DR Strategy with VMware – Part Two
Tuesday, February 25 – 10 a.m. PST


Jeremy Carter is a VMware Senior Consultant with special expertise in BCDR and cloud automation. Although he joined VMware just three months ago, he has worked in the IT industry for more than 14 years.