Active Directory Forest Recovery Needs Urgent Attention
March 13, 2024

Damon Tepe

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In the intricate landscape of IT infrastructure, one critical component often relegated to the back burner is Active Directory (AD) forest recovery — an oversight with costly consequences.

Recent findings from a comprehensive survey conducted by Cayosoft in collaboration with Petri, the IT Knowledgebase, shed light on the concerning state of AD forest recovery across organizations. The responses uncovered a critical disconnect between the perceived consequences of forest-wide AD outages and the costly reality of its recovery.

With over 1,000 respondents from various organizational sizes, the survey's overwhelming response within a short period underscores the urgency and relevance of the topic. Let's delve into the key highlights:

1. AD Forest outages are on the rise

Organizations have seen a 172% increase in Active Directory outages over the past two years. In 2021, Cayosoft conducted a similar survey where only 29% of participants reported that they had experienced an Active Directory outage. But since then, that number has jumped to a staggering 79%.

Even more alarming is that 90% of enterprises report experiencing an AD outage, meaning that larger organizations are feeling the brunt of this pain (compared to mid-sized companies and SMBs, which have experienced outages at rates of 79% and 65%, respectively). According to 97% of responses, the increase is a result of 3 common denominators — cyberattacks, faulty hardware or environment, and human error.

2. Dangerous lack of AD recovery testing

Despite the criticality of AD recovery testing, a staggering 73% of respondents admitted to testing less than once per month, with 23% testing only once per year. Yet even when they do test, many fail to test in full by reestablishing AD domain controllers. To ensure AD recovery will work, it needs to be tested frequently and fully, otherwise, organizations will fail to comprehensively understand the scenarios and potential pitfalls of an actual outage. This lack of thorough testing not only prolongs recovery times but also breeds false confidence in backup systems, leaving organizations vulnerable to failure.

3. Cumbersome recovery solutions cause unnecessary delays

The survey revealed that 90% of enterprises must rebuild and/or maintain clean servers in order to recover their AD forest. Given that cyberattacks are the primary cause of AD outages — and malware the predominant tool used in those attacks — many organizations may find themselves without a clean server available for recovery. This means purchasing and configuring a new server (deploy OS, config network, update drivers, and so on.), installing Windows Server (including authoritative restore, metadata & DNS cleanup, more), and only then beginning the actual recovery process, which adds significant delays to the process.

With each added step,critical time is lost, and organizations face heightened risks of prolonged downtime and escalating financial consequences. All in all, this process could add six hours, or more, to the recovery process. When organizations have so much at stake, minutes matter.

4. Organizations drastically underestimate the cost of AD downtime

Despite the potential financial ramifications, 70% of respondents underestimated the cost of AD downtime, expecting losses of at least $100k per day in labor expenses alone. But, assuming an average salary of $75k per year, an enterprise with 15,000 employees risks losing over $4.5M per day just in lost labor expenses during AD downtime. This doesn’t even account for additional losses from disrupted operations and communications with suppliers, partners, and customers. This reality paints a stark picture of the actual financial toll of AD outages — organizations are miscalculating the true cost of Active Directory outages.

Active Directory serves as the authentication and authorization backbone for numerous directory-enabled applications. In fact, 18% of enterprises state that "all or most" of their core systems are reliant on Active Directory. This can include marketing, sales, accounting, and development systems which are crucial to an organization's success. As a result, an AD outage and subsequent recovery delays causes a ripple effect, affecting the entire business.


These findings are a wake-up call for organizations worldwide. With AD outages becoming increasingly prevalent and the costs far surpassing expectations, proactive measures are imperative to mitigate risks and ensure business continuity.

The convergence of rising cyber threats and technological complexities underscores the urgency for robust AD recovery strategies. It's time for organizations to reassess their AD recovery preparedness, prioritize regular testing, and invest in modern solutions capable of automating recovery. Only through proactive measures and a thorough understanding of the true cost of downtime can organizations safeguard their operations and minimize the impact of AD outages on their bottom line.

Damon Tepe is VP of Marketing at Cayosoft
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