This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent industry perspective, “How the Cloud Powers Disaster Recovery for Government.” Download the full report here.
There’s a growing demand across government to manage massive amounts of data, whether it’s citizen data for processing benefits claims, workforce data to make hiring decisions, or intelligence information for sensitive missions. The bottom line is federal, state, and local agencies increasingly rely on the availability of this data to make decisions that have far-reaching impacts.
Take state and local law enforcement agencies, for example. They rely on federal databases, such as sex offender registries and criminal background check systems to accurately identify individuals who may have carried out serious offenses. But what if law enforcement officers weren’t able to properly identify a suspect because they couldn’t access centralized databases? When lives and safety are at stake, there is no room for error or incomplete information.
To ensure data is accessible when and where they need it, a growing number of agencies have invested in IT disaster recovery solutions. In the event of a natural or manmade disaster, agencies still need to quickly recover. That’s where disaster recovery planning and execution comes into play.
Think of DR as the documented processes and procedures for how your agency will recover from a disaster that impacts IT infrastructure. This includes networks, servers, desktops, laptops, wireless devices, data, and connectivity.
“Disaster recovery falls in line with the concept of business continuity planning, or the ability to continue to run, operate, and do business in the event your agency’s data center is no longer operational for a variety of reasons,” said Jerimiah Cox, a cloud solutions architect with NetApp. Think of DR as a subset of business continuity.
The two key drivers for any DR plan are recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). RTO is the time it takes after a disruption to restore a business process to its service level, as defined by the operational level agreement. RPO is the acceptable amount of data loss measured in time.
A thorough DR solution also enables agencies to maintain data compliance and protect against negative events that may result in data loss.
To better manage costs and move away from building and owning underutilized disaster recovery sites, agencies are exploring cloud computing as a viable option. With the cloud, agencies don’t have to worry about paying for infrastructure that they rarely use.
But from a cost standpoint, DR tends to be very expensive for agencies, said Lori Barber, a hybrid cloud business development manager at NetApp. Traditionally, the government’s approach to DR has involved maintaining a separate facility with infrastructure that mirrors what’s in an agency’s primary data center. The concern is that agencies are paying to maintain such facilities even though they sit idle most of the time.
Considering the critical nature of disaster recovery planning, it’s vital that agencies hash out the DR capabilities they need long before an incident occurs.