Disaster Recovery 101: Ten Terms You Should Know

Disaster Recovery 101: Ten Terms You Should Know

By John DeWolf

Understanding disaster recovery can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s boil it down. 

Brand new to the world of disaster recovery? When it comes to your company’s data, disaster recovery serves as a facet in your overall business continuity strategy. It begets the answer to the “What if (insert worst case scenario here) happens?” question. Below we’ve listed and defined ten key terms to help our disaster recovery newbies get started.

1. Business Continuity 

A plan or process which outlines various tasks that must be implemented to ensure that you can stay in business when disaster strikes. Business continuity plans define mission-critical services that your business needs in order to function. From there, you can budget and plan for protection of these specific services. Disaster recovery falls under business continuity planning, and the two tend be coupled as BC/DR.

TL;DR: An overarching plan which outlines parts of your business that are essential to survival and how to protect them

2. Disaster Recovery

A plan and process for returning computing systems to full operational status after an unanticipated or unplanned system failure caused by a significant negative event. Significant negative events can include anything that puts an organization’s operations at risk: a cyberattack, equipment failure, or a natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane.

TL;DR: A plan for getting all of your business software and data online back after a disaster

3. Latency

Latency describes how long it takes for a packet of data to get from point A to point B. Travel time can depend on devices that emerge between points (i.e. modems and routers) and the medium of transmission (i.e. optical fiber, wireless, etc.). In relation to BC/DR, latency can describe the amount of time it will take to get systems up and running and back to normal function. Essentially, how long it will take to recover data that is defined under mission-critical services in your overall strategy.

TL;DR: How long it takes to recover your data. The lower the latency the better!

4. Downtime 

The connotation of downtime holds true in relation to technology. Basically, any time when your system, application, or network is not up and running is considered downtime. Keeping it minimal is both instrumental and a huge plus in a BC/DR plan.

TL;DR: The amount of time spent inoperable during or post disaster

5. Change control 

Change control manages any changes made to your network, application, or system. Change control management ensures that no unnecessary changes are made, changes are documented, and that resources are used efficiently to avoid disruptions in operations.

TL;DR: An approach where IT professionals manage any changes made to networks, systems, or apps

6. Recovery Point Objective (RPO) 

An RPO describes the age of the files that need to be recovered in the case of disaster. In BC/DR, a time point needs to be specified so that systems, networks, and applications can be restored back to function prior to the disaster. RPO is measured backward in a sense, as it can display the span of seconds, minutes, hours, or days of data storage to be restored from a specified point to point of crash.

TL;DR: How far back in time your system, network, or application restore needs to go

7. Recovery Time Objective (RTO) 

An RTO is the maximum amount of downtime that a system can handle after a disaster strikes. In other words, how long your system, network, or application can be down before your start losing serious revenue due to lack of productivity. RTOs can be measured in seconds, minutes, hours, or even days. It all depends on how much your time is valued at.

TL;DR: What is the longest period of downtime you can handle, or how much is your time worth?

8. Business Impact Analysis (BIA) 

A BIA is a piece of the BC/DR plan that identifies and measures the impact of disaster on mission-critical services. A BIA report identifies which services are mission critical and helps IT professionals decide how to allocate funds toward disaster recovery.

TL;DR: A predictive report that measures the impact of disaster on mission-critical services

9. Hot Site 

Hot sites are secured buildings equipped to support an entire operation in the case of disaster. Hot sites have all necessary equipment, mission-critical applications, and an up-to-date data backup. More advanced hot sites are big enough to host all staff (i.e. office space, conference rooms, kitchen, etc).

TL;DR: A building site equipped to support a BC/DR as outlined in the BIA

10. Cold Site 

Cold sites are empty buildings owned by businesses awaiting entry of staff and equipment post-disaster. Cold sites have access to power and sometimes have furniture in offices or conference rooms.

TL;DR: An empty building on standby to become a recovery site post-disaster

So there you have it, 10 helpful disaster recovery terms. As an extra bonus, check out Datto’s handy Disaster Recovery Checklist.

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