The ugly truth about disaster recovery

High availability, disaster recovery, and business continuity often fail due to poor design. Here's how to do them right -- even in the cloud

In my post last week, I dug into some of the perils of moving data to the cloud without having your own plan for bringing your services back online in the event that the provider fails. Judging by some of the email responses, a lot of folks out there are shocked that Amazon.com could consider the loss of its customers' data to be a relatively normal event.

Some of that surprise may stem from a lack of understanding about how Amazon.com has designed the various services that live under the Amazon Web Services (AWS) umbrella. But I think much of it may be due to a more persistent industry-wide problem: widespread confusion around what high availability (HA), disaster recovery (DR), and business continuity (BC) really mean. These terms are thrown around all over the place, but are frequently misused or misunderstood.

Why does this matter? Because these terms have three very important things in common: mission-critical business applications, large amounts of money, and setting expectations with high-placed and often very nontechnical business stakeholders. And let me tell you from firsthand experience, if improperly managed, these ingredients can be a recipe for disaster all by themselves.

Being very clear with yourself, management, and business stakeholders about how you're spending money on HA, DR, BC, and what that money is going to buy you is one of the keys to a happy life in IT.

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