The value of negotiating SLAs before establishing backup policies

Colm Keegan

Should IT negotiate service level agreements with business stakeholders prior to establishing backup policies?

In order to set the right expectations, it is important to negotiate service-level agreements (SLAs) with the appropriate business stakeholders up front, prior to establishing data backup policies.

In a recent end user forum, one of the respondents put it very succinctly: "No one cares about backup; everyone cares about recovery." In fact, it was this individual's experience that when people were asked about how IT could best enable data recovery, rather than data backup, of their most critical business systems through well-defined backup policies, stakeholder engagement and collaboration was much higher.

This is a clear illustration that properly positioning the business benefit of a reliable data backup and recovery infrastructure is critical for gaining business buy-in on the importance of data protection.

A top-down approach for building recovery SLAs is the best way to start. Identify the most business critical systems first, and define their required recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO). RTO refers to how quickly data can be restored, and RPO refers to how current the data needs to be. Once this is established, backup policies can be combined with other data protection technologies, like point-in-time snapshots and data replication to build a comprehensive data protection strategy that closely aligns with business SLAs.

Establishing effective backup policies goes far beyond defining the operational mechanics of moving and copying data between primary storage data resources and backup infrastructure. When tightly aligned with clearly defined business objectives in the form of documented SLAs, backup policies directly reflect the required operational protocols for fulfilling an essential business service. In addition to helping to ensure the protection of business data, actively engaging business stakeholders early in the process is a great way to reinforce IT's strategic role in the organization.

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