Disaster Recovery

Few feds prepared to recover from data loss

Meritalk

A new study on agencies' need for data resilience and disaster recovery systems suggests the above elements are critical. (Image courtesy of MeriTalk)

Few federal agencies are prepared to recover potentially vital data in the event of a natural disaster or man-made incident, according to a Meritalk report released June 3.

The report, titled "Disaster Unpreparedness," shows that only 8 percent of the 150 federal IT professionals surveyed -- 75 from civilian agencies, 75 from the Department of Defense -- felt completely confident their agencies could recover 100 percent of data subject to service level agreements (SLAs) in the event of a disaster.

For federal agencies, some of which are dealing with terabytes and petabytes or more of data vital to citizens, the loss of even a small percentage of the data could prove costly – both in dollars and in public confidence, according to Jean-Paul Bergeaux, chief technology officer at SwishData.

Bergeaux recommended that agencies strengthen their data resilience and disaster recovery solutions by increasing the frequency with which their systems are tested. In the survey, federal IT professionals reported their respective agencies test such solutions only half as much as they should due to a combination of tight budgets, lack of mission-owner support and incomplete recovery solutions.

Of those surveyed, just 25 percent believe their data resilience and disaster recovery solution will get them through the next year as data continues to grow at unprecedented rates.

Despite such remarks, the federal IT professionals gave themselves high marks in data resilience and disaster recovery, with 70 percent giving their agencies an A or a B.

"Often, it comes down to whether or not agencies actually have a fully-running disaster recovery offsite with all the [important] data," Bergeaux said. "People do backups, or system restores, or they have a copy of the data, but they don't have it in a separate location that is easily accessible. You end up with some agencies not having [disaster resilience and recovery] at all."

Bergeaux recommends agencies inventory their data, keying in on important operational data that isn't reproducible.

At a minimum, that data should be contained at a secondary site they can activate quickly if necessary to avoid a loss in customer service, vital records and the like, but Bergeaux said only about half of agencies are there. Increased virtualization and efforts to move some systems to the cloud have helped some agencies save money on data storage and improve their disaster recovery efforts, but many of the problems inherent in proper data backup are people- and not tech-related.

"You need everybody on board – you have to have management, users, everybody in the room and people of those agencies involved," Bergeaux said.

The study outlines steps agencies uncertain of their data backup plans can take to bolster their data resilience and disaster recovery solutions. They are:

1. Develop an honest, clear assessment of what your data resilience and disaster recovery environment really is. Trusted agency experts, integrators or consultants are options here.

2. Share that assessment with leadership to increase its priority.

3. Leverage data resilience and disaster recovery experts to design and implement a complete plan that involves technology, people, and processes.

4. Test, test test. Then test some more.

5. Re-assess, as your data is constantly growing.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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