Organizations have traditionally performed data backup and recovery according to specific procedures. As IT departments mature, however, they must examine their existing approaches to address performance.
Your organization should identify a specific analytical metric -- the key performance indicator (KPI) -- whose inclusion in the data backup and recovery processes can improve overall results. More importantly, the use of a backup KPI can increase senior management's awareness and acceptance of data backup and recovery activities.
Key performance indicators
A key performance indicator measures how well something performs against a set of metrics. Its goal here is to help an IT department define and evaluate success in performing data backup and recovery activities. By establishing performance goals, it becomes easier to monitor the progress of specific activities.
Organizations often use KPIs to value difficult-to-measure activities such as the benefits of leadership development, customer engagement, customer service and customer satisfaction. In backup and recovery, KPIs measure the performance of an IT department's backup and recovery activities against specific and measurable goals.
You can identify this KPI by answering the question: "What is really important to the organization in terms of data backup and recovery performance?" An organization can monitor the backup KPI for compliance by examining statistical data generated by the backup systems, for example.
Elements including a performance benchmark, performance target and time frame all help create a measurable objective for a KPI. For example, "Reduce average data backup times by 15% in 2020" would be a relevant backup KPI. Your organization can then monitor performance data supplied by the data backup system and compare it to the KPI requirements.
Identifying the backup KPI
IT departments typically have performance goals for data backup and recovery. These can be transformed into KPIs. The key requirements for identifying KPIs, plus corresponding examples, are:
- Having a predefined technology process -- data backup
- Requirements for the technology processes -- all data backups completed
- Having a measurement of the results and comparison with set goals -- were actual results consistent with the data backup performance metrics?
- Investigating variances and modifying data backup processes or resources to achieve short-term goals -- what is needed to achieve the desired data backup performance?
Use SMART criteria when formulating a backup KPI. This means the metric has a Specific purpose for the business or IT department; is Measurable to obtain a value of the KPI; has defined performance goals that are Achievable; is Relevant to measure and to manage; and is Time-phased, which means the values and outcomes are shown for a predefined and relevant period.
Raw sets of data that an organization analyzes against performance metrics are called indicators. Candidates for KPIs fall into the following subcategories:
- quantitative indicators, which can be presented as a number;
- practical indicators that interface with existing company processes;
- directional indicators specifying whether an organization gets better;
- actionable indicators, which an organization can sufficiently control to bring about change; and
- financial indicators used to evaluate if the system provides value compared to its cost.
Achievement of KPIs for data backup and recovery activities demonstrate success in those activities. These metrics are important to CIOs and IT management and are also key controls used in the IT audit process.
Challenges of using KPIs
Managing the use of KPIs can become expensive or difficult for businesses. KPIs such as staff morale might be difficult -- or impossible -- to quantify. In addition, once an organization creates a KPI, it can become difficult to adjust to changing needs, as historical comparisons can be lost. Conversely, an organization might create a questionable KPI simply because history does not exist.
Organizations typically base KPIs developed for data backup and recovery on finite metrics. This makes it easier to use in data backup and recovery measurement. However, a backup KPI based only on in-house practices can create issues. It can make it difficult for an IT department to compare its performance with similar organizations. An organization might create KPIs and other benchmarks based on businesses with a similar background or business model to avoid this problem.
Faster availability of data is often a competitive issue -- and advantage -- for many organizations. Use KPIs and regular analyses of backup KPI data to ensure that your organization can maintain those important competitive advantages.