The goals of data backup and recovery can be summarized with two metrics. The Recovery Point is the term that describes the point in time at which a system and its data is protected. The metric might be expressed as a time value in days or hours. If a system is backed up nightly, all data is recoverable to the previous night. Data altered between the backup and the crash represents data at risk. Some organizations will attempt to create a recovery point that approaches continuous backup. Therefore, data at risk is minimized.
The Recovery Time is concerned with restoration rather than backup. This metric represents the length of time it takes for data and systems to be made available after an interruption. Unfortunately, this particular element of storage management is often relegated to the back burner. The level of distress in a catastrophic failure is usually great enough that the relief associated with the final return of the data overshadows the interruption in availability. The fact that critical data was recovered becomes more important than the loss of productivity and business operational efficiency prior to its recovery. This kind of thinking, though, is short-sighted and based on reactionary management rather than proactive business management.
Data is important to a company for its use, not just for its existence. When the data is not available for company operations, there are hard costs as well as opportunity costs involved. Real costs are obvious. Employees sitting at a desk unable to work still generate payroll expenses. A building filled with computers not in use still has a lease cost per square foot. In short, company overhead continues but the revenue that overhead should generate is lacking. No business would survive willingly continuing to expend with no expectation of return. When critical data and systems are unavailable to assist in the conversion of company efforts into profits, this is exactly what occurs.
Opportunity costs are also generated during an interruption in system availability. Orders cannot be processed. Sales cannot be made. Customer interactions (and customer relationship management is one of the most critical aspects of ongoing profitability) are hampered, meaning continued monetization of the customer base is impossible. Sadly, these losses are hidden. They’ll never appear on a company’s financials and will likely never be noticed. Still, the losses are real, and companies fail because they ignore the vague by real impacts of opportunity loss.
Hard costs and opportunity costs mandate that companies examine their recovery time objectives with the same attention given to their recovery point objectives. Data is not an amorphous idea that needs protection. It is the very foundation by which most companies operate and continue as going concerns. Availability of that data is as critical to a company’s success as the existence of the data, and until both aspects of the company’s reliance on its systems are addressed, the company has no effective data protection strategy.