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Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery

26 March 2009 1,633 views No Comment

–By Elizabeth Millard–

Although companies of every size need to address business continuity and disaster recovery issues, small to midsized enterprises have unique needs, believes Stephen Pollack, vice president of business strategy for Novell’s Systems and Resource Management Division (www.novell.com).

“They need affordable recovery solutions that can be quickly and easily implemented and administered with limited IT staffing resources,” he says. That may seem like a tall order to fill, but here are some tips for putting it all together.

Consolidate Recovery

By now, virtualization is fairly widespread in the data center environment, and utilizing the strategy for recovery could create more simplicity and efficiency, particularly if an existing recovery system has a number of different components.

Using a single virtualization-equipped recovery server or purpose-built appliance will give SMEs the ability to consolidate multiple workloads, notes Pollack. This eliminates the need for investment in duplicate hardware and software for one-to-one redundancy.

Crucial for SMEs, it can save IT staff time and money, he believes, and enables organizations to protect a greater percentage of their workloads.

“Whole server workloads—both system and data volumes—can be protected within a single bootable recovery environment,” says Pollack. “A consolidated approach to workload protection and recovery offers significant cost advantages over one-to-one solutions, such as high-end replication or clustering.”

Use Web-Based Management

Many IT managers depend on Web-based tools for tasks such as temperature monitoring, network checkups, and software updates, but in data protection, they’re especially important, says Pollack.

Products with an intuitive, Web-based interface for managing, monitoring, and reporting on all aspects of workload protection and recovery are the best way to radically reduce the time, effort, and training required to implement a recovery strategy, he believes.

“An integrated ‘single pane of glass’ management solution enables users to view the status of their protection plan at all times and receive actionable alerts via a mobile device,” he notes.

Being Web-based also helps if there are significant problems with the network or if business operations really have ground to a halt. Being able to access information from another location could be the difference between getting the company running within a few hours and within a few days.

Create An Impact Assessment

Too often, disaster recovery and business continuity management are seen as interchangeable terms, notes Danny Shaw, global practice leader for technology risk management at technology services company Jefferson Wells (www.jefferson-wells.com).

“Each has its distinct function in ensuring a company’s overall business resiliency,” he says. Both recovery and continuity evolve from project-based efforts to ongoing programs, Shaw says, and when implemented together, they protect data as well as the security of the whole business.

To make sure these two parts are working properly, he recommends performing a business impact analysis to look at how business disruption may affect people, processes, and technology.

According to Shaw, an assessment begins with a comparison of current disaster recovery plans to best practices to determine gaps in the plans for the mainframe and distributed platforms. Next, there should be development of strategies to address the gaps, such as purchasing or training.

Also important in the assessment is the evaluation of all company locations, he adds: “Determine processing of mainframes and distributed systems at different locations and the priority for each location’s recovery objectives. Determine if redundancy eliminates servers used in processing for locations that back up each other or other processing at satellites or branches.”

Finally, he advises that SMEs set parameters that include recovery time objectives. Creating such a comprehensive plan that treats disaster recovery and business continuity as interlinked but separate components will result in faster recovery in the event of a disaster, Shaw notes.

Regularly Test The Disaster Recovery Plan

Putting a plan in place is vital, but also crucial is making sure it actually works if a disaster strikes.

“Companies tend to be pretty good at making backups, but they’re sometimes poor at testing them,” says Jim Reinert, vice president of data recovery and software products at technology services firm Kroll Ontrack (www.kroll­ontrack.com). “It’s a classic pitfall in the industry that you find out the weakness of your strategy at the worst possible time.”

Although it’s usually impossible to replicate a complete system shutdown without actually putting data in danger, a company can create a test environment with backup media. These fire drills are especially important if large-scale changes are about to be implemented, Reinert says, or if several administrators are working on projects concurrently.

“We’ve seen mistakes where two administrators try to make changes at the same time and end up with a large ‘oops factor’ when something goes wrong,” he says. “Regular testing helps to prevent those kind of bad situations.”

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