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Disaster recovery is more than a backup of your data; it’s a complete plan to get your computer systems up and running again in an emergency. Between SAP HANA® and other enterprise software, business productivity applications, customer-facing websites and hardware, your IT infrastructure has a lot of moving parts, any of which could break in an emergency.

Unfortunately, a lot of companies skimp on disaster recovery to save money, not realizing how much that can cost them in an emergency. If you’re still throwing boxes of backup tapes in a warehouse and calling it good, it’s time to rethink your plan. You’ll need to understand two important concepts as it relates to DR: RTO and RPO.

Disaster Recovery Basics

Disaster recovery has grown up with the computer industry itself. In the 60’s and 70’s, companies and universities were already starting to depend on mainframe computers, and engineers quickly realized that failure could disrupt the business as a whole. At the time, however, computers were pricey, and not crucial to many businesses. There were special-purpose redundant systems, but for most companies the effect of downtime didn’t justify the extra hardware and operational costs.

Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) took off in 1990, when IBM joined the industry. DR providers started to offer cold sites, providing data storage, disaster planning and testing. This let organizations ensure business continuity, without the high costs of hot sites, or high availability onsite backups.

Over time, government regulators started imposing stricter continuity requirements in many industries, which drove disaster recovery. Disasters such as the September 11th attacks and Hurricane Sandy caused many financial institutions to grind to a halt, disrupting the economy and harming consumers. At the same time, the technology was developing, and more businesses began to see DR as a way to protect their investments, driving innovation.

Next generation cloud disaster recovery has given businesses a way to operate through hurricanes, earthquakes, and other major emergencies. It can provide almost any level of performance, from a cold backup that takes a few days to get running, to a hot site that can roll over with little or no disruption. Companies need to carefully assess their availability needs and budget, and create DR plans that ensure business continuity.

RTO: Recovery Time Objective

Recovery Time Objective, or RTO, is the amount of time it takes to get your IT infrastructure up and running again, should your primary systems become unusable. It can vary tremendously, based on the disaster recovery services you use.

Offsite cold DR, for example, keeps costs down at the expense of RTO. Typically, companies rent a remote site, setup some basic networking and infrastructure, and cross their fingers. In an emergency, they have to get their people and tapes to the site, buy or license servers, install and debug software, and backup the system. It can easily take a week or more — and that’s assuming that nothing goes wrong during the process.

On the other end is Symmetry’s cloud-based Hot DR. We’ll have a virtual copy of your system, already installed with up-to-date, patched software. In an emergency, all we have to do is failover to the new system, which takes about 10 minutes.

RTO is sometimes contrasted with Recovery Time Actual (RTA) — the amount of time it actually takes to transfer over your system, rather than the theoretical RTO. Failovers are complex, and it takes a lot of testing and optimization to hit your actual goals. Disaster mode operation (your plan for what to do in a disaster) and cloud hosting partner responsiveness can make a huge difference. If you can’t get ahold of your data center support in an emergency, or your employees aren’t trained and prepared, things probably won’t go smoothly.

Symmetry works with our partners to make sure their disaster recovery solutions are ready when they need it. Our managed services team can help plan out disaster mode operation, and continually test your system to make sure everything works as planned. Our U.S.-based, SAP®-certified experts provide 24-hour support, with outstanding customer service. In an emergency, we’ll take the pressure off you, executing a surprise-free failover to keep your business up and running.

RPO: Recovery Point Objective

RPO, or Recovery Point Objective is the amount of data you can afford to lose. When you backup data, you save everything up to that point. Any data you generate between then and your next backup, however, could theoretically be lost. For example, if your business had an RPO of two hours, changes would need to be backed up every two hours. It’s actually a little bit more complicated than that, since making the backup itself takes time, but that’s the core of it.

Backing up data takes resources, time and infrastructure. To have an RPO approaching zero seconds, for example, you’d need to continually send data to a cloud disaster recovery system, creating a copy of the original system. Your system would need to be designed to provide enough bandwidth and power to cope with the traffic and computing requirements, without slowing core business functions.

RPO requires a cost-benefit analysis. You’ll need to weigh the risks of losing data, against the expense of more frequent backups. The good news is that, with Symmetry cloud disaster recovery, you can get excellent RPO at low cost. While traditional cold sites have an RPO of a week or more, Symmetry’s cold cloud DR costs less, and cuts the time to under 24 hours.

Need better? Our cloud based hot DR cuts the RPO to 10 minutes — far under the 1-hour RPO of traditional hot DR. Need real-time mirroring? We can do that too, creating near-instantaneous RPO for core processes, or your entire enterprise cloud.

And, unlike onsite mirroring or backup, Symmetry’s cloud disaster recovery services can protect you from damage to your facilities. Whatever happens, your backup will be stored in our high security data centers, ready when you need it.

Making a Reliable, Affordable DR Plan

At Symmetry, Disaster Recovery as a Service is just one part of a complete cloud and IT infrastructuresolution. We work with our partners to allocate resources based on:

  • RTO and RPO Current computing needs
  • Future growth
  • Special projects

You’ll pay a low monthly rate for the resources you use, while benefitting from the scalability of our managed cloud. In the event of a disaster, you can scale up quickly, ensuring business continuity without the costs of investing in infrastructure ahead of time.

As part of our cold disaster recovery service, we’ll setup and test networking and a backup of your environment, and prepare detailed instructions to restore your system. Our hot disaster recovery solutions maintain a live disk image at a moderate price, for near-instantaneous failover.

Our IT consulting services can help you identify your needs and create a system that ensures high availability for core business operations such as transactional functions, while maintaining less-expensive cold DR for archiving, and other non-core systems.

Disaster Recovery Shouldn’t be an Afterthought

The days when a business could afford a couple days of downtime to fix a mainframe or lease new servers are long gone. To stay competitive, SMEs require near-perfect uptime and optimized RTO/RPO, especially when disaster strikes.

Cloud disaster recovery services from Symmetry prepares your IT infrastructure for anything the world can throw at it, without straining your budget. When everything else goes wrong, we’ll make sure your enterprise cloud is still working right. Download our Disaster Recovery as a Service whitepaper, or contact us to learn more.


Randy Downey, Senior Cloud Architect

Randy Downey, Senior Cloud Architect

As the Senior Cloud Architect at Symmetry, Randy brings over 14 years of experience in Information Technology with focus in Virtualization, Public, Private and Hybrid Clouds, System Design and Implementation, Data Center Operations, and Desktop/Server Engineering. He also has extensive experience with VMware solutions at the enterprise level across multiple industries including Managed Hosting, Cloud Service Providers, Global Utilities, and Healthcare.