A few years ago, a managed services provider[1] went bankrupt and announced to clients they had two weeks to remove all data and resources from its cloud. Most companies cannot move that quickly, so needless to say, customers were stressed. Why didn’t anyone anticipate what to do if the DR plan or provider failed?

History is littered with technology providers who have come and later disappeared from the industry landscape, failing to ensure the security and safety of their customers. With little or no recourse, those companies found themselves in precarious situations with business continuity and even their existence, threatened. As a stakeholder in your company’s longevity and success, how do you guard against selecting the wrong DR provider?

Let’s start first by identifying the most common issues contributing to the failure of DR solutions performing as expected. These not only threaten the reputation of the DR provider but more importantly the business continuity of their customers. Most DR failures can be linked to one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Falling short of service level agreements (SLAs) – If providers cannot meet basic SLA requirements, you cannot trust their ability to protect your assets
  • Failing to protect all the critical data – When the DR solution does not identify and include all critical data areas, and the backup solution is relied upon to do more than it is capable of, failure is inevitable
  • Lacking recovery point objectives (RPOs) – Without collaborating with you on which data sets need which level of protection, and understanding how your systems work, there is no way of consistently achieving the required RPOs to minimize critical data loss
  • Neglecting to perform sufficient testing – You will never know how the DR solution will perform unless your provider engages with you for regular testing, as well as conducts tests when changes occur to the infrastructure or when business requirements change

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Evaluating Potential DR Providers

To aid in evaluating and selecting an experienced and respected DR provider to join your team, you should sit down with your prospects and ask very specific questions. The investment up front is critical to limiting your risk and finding a partner you can work with and trust to achieve your objectives. Questions to include in your discussion with prospective DR providers follow:

Q: How do you measure your SLA performance and how is it tied to our mutual success?

A: DR providers should have a financial stake in the partnership where their compensation depends on your success. One way to define and measure success is to clearly spell out the objectives in the SLA. If they will not sign up for the SLAs you require, or have trouble meeting them, it’s time to look for a new partner.

Q: How will you ensure that all our critical data is protected?

A: Your environment and requirements are unique. DR providers should work with you to gain a deep understanding of your business and the systems that comprise your infrastructure so they can help identify which data areas are critical for protection, and make a plan that meets your needs.

Q: How will you meet our RPOs?

A: To meet your RPOs, the DR provider must know specific details about your systems and applications and use that knowledge to select the right mix of replication technologies and infrastructure. Once the provider has selected the technology for the job, it must then be combined with the best approach. It’s the responsibility of your provider to manage the technology so that it serves your RPO needs.

Q: How do you plan and coordinate your fail-over testing?

A: Testing needs to be conducted at least once a year, or more frequently if business continuity objectives call for it. Experienced providers will act as an extension of the customer’s IT team and take proactive measures, such as staying up to speed on changes in the environment, so they can make critical adjustments to the DR solution in a timely fashion. It’s important to pay close attention to the user experience during the test because it is likely a prelude to what will occur in a real disaster scenario.

Q: How do you allocate DR resources?

A: If a disaster occurs, you will need to operate seamlessly out of the DR data center, potentially for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, many providers do not have the backend infrastructure and resources to cover customer workloads. If this is the case with your provider, you’ll unfortunately discover too late that the solution doesn’t support your needs. An expert DR provider can modify resource allocation as a customer’s requirements change, and integrate new technologies into the DR environment as needed.

Q: Can you provide us with information about your company finances, history, and experience? Do you have references we can contact?

A: By gathering recent financial information you can gauge a provider’s business solvency. You also want a provider who has extensive experience in disaster recovery and years of successful engagements. Ask for referrals, testimonials, and case studies. You can also ask colleagues what they may know about a certain provider to determine its reputation in the industry.

The Simple Truth

Choosing a disaster recovery partner that will have your back during your toughest times, is essential to your business continuity. Because “the devil is in the details,” you need to ask your prospects the tough questions that will zero in on the fine print, so you know the truth about their skillsets, resources, ability, and determination to help you succeed. By being a part of your team, your provider will know your business inside and out, and you will have a partnership built on trust.

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[1] Nirvanix failure – a blow to the cloud storage model? ComputerWeekly.com