Improving Disaster Recovery Without Breaking the Bank

FleetBoston Financial recently took on its disaster recovery time. Our Datamation reporter takes a look at how the company improved its system without breaking the bank.


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When FleetBoston Financial evaluated its disaster recovery responsiveness, the company received a shock.

IT administrators there realized that it would take at least two full days to recover their data and systems from a collapse during a serious disaster. By applying EMC Symmetrix in conjunction with SunGard electronic vaulting services, FleetBoston's disaster recovery window shrank from 48 hours to less than an hour.

''We have achieved a recovery window of less than one hour on critical systems and four to eight hours for a complete recovery,'' says Lari Sue Taylor, senior vice president of technology at FirstBoston Financial.

FleetBoston Financial is a financial services company with assets of $196 billion, and over 18 million individual, corporate, and institutional customers. Products and services are available through a variety of channels, including 1,460 stores and more than 3,400 ATMs from Maine to Pennsylvania, its HomeLink online banking, and telephone banking. Fleet focuses mainly on small business and commercial banking in the Northeast U.S. market.

The bank now is in the process of merging with Bank of America.

A few years ago, when its ATM network had expanded significantly and online banking started to take off, management realized that disaster recovery needed a complete rethink. They used two key metrics in evaluating disaster recovery or business continuity planning:

  • Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is the maximum length of time that a business process can be unavailable. This is measured in terms of time elapsed from the beginning of a disaster until the systems are operating again.

  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO) is how much work in progress can be lost. If all work must be recovered, then the business must align its disaster recovery actions to achieving zero RPO. Some businesses, however, may elect to have an RPO of one day, for example, on the understanding that if they lost one day's transactions, they could recreate them by interviewing sales staff etc.

    FleetBoston chose what at that time was regarded as an aggressive RTO of 24 hours and an RPO of zero.

    ''We would suffer significant business impact from transaction loss,'' says Taylor. ''so we had no choice but to opt for the zero RPO.''

    In support of this, she cites a Gartner Group study which revealed that 93 percent of companies which experience a major data loss go out of business within five years.

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